Notices Under The Act – What Are They, What Should They Contain?
Updated: Aug 3, 2022
In our previous article, we briefly outlined the purpose of the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 (the Act) and the legal obligation it places on property owners wishing to carry out certain works that the Act deems to be ‘notifiable’. These notifiable works are considered to carry some risk to the premises of Adjoining Owners and the Act gives these owners the right to influence how this work is carried out.
For the process to be started, for the Act to be invoked, a notice has to be served by the Building Owner before the works are due to commence. In general, there are three types of notice that are routinely served in a domestic setting. These are;
Line of Junction Notice (Section 1) – where the Building Owner proposes to construct a new wall on, or astride, the ‘line of junction’ (boundary).
Party Structure Notice (Section 3) – where the Building Owner proposes to demolish, repair, expose, or otherwise alter a Party Wall or shared Party Structure.
Excavation Notice (Section 6) – where the Building Owner proposes to excavate within 3 or 6 metres of a structure on the Adjoining Owners land, to a depth that is lower than the bottom of those foundations.
The above notices all have a notice period associated with them. That is, the Building Owner is stating that they propose to carry out the notifiable works after a time period set by the Act. For Section 1 & 6 notices this period is one month, for a Section 3 notice it is two months. Additionally, if surveyors are appointed, bringing the process to a conclusion can take several months. Therefore, it is important to ensure that sufficient time is allocated for this process to run its course before any construction work is planned to commence.
What should be included in a notice? Generally speaking, notices can be quite simple in format, but they must be in writing, either on paper or electronic format. Often we are asked if a brief chat with the Adjoining Owner is sufficient. Sadly this is not recognised by the Act as a valid means of service of notices.
For a Party Structure Notice the Act states that the notice should include;
The Building Owner’s name and address,
The nature and particulars of the proposed works,
The date on which the proposed works will begin.
Technically, a dated signature is not mentioned in the Act but it can help avoid any issues over when the notice was served.
Fortunately, there are free templates that can be downloaded from the official GOV.UK website that can help ensure the notice is presented in the correct way. However, in our experience, the vast majority of notices that are served by homeowners using the free template are incorrect, often making them invalid. Therefore, we would recommend that you consider discussing the notices with a surveyor before you serve, just to be sure. Alternatively, most surveyors offer to serve at a very reasonable rate to avoid the hassle and delay caused by invalid notices.
Lastly, it’s important to remember that these types of notices are only valid for 12 months from the date of service. If the works that they relate do not commence and, are thereafter prosecuted with due diligence, the notice will cease to have effect. So whilst serving notice early is important, the timing of the works does need to be considered to ensure any agreements that are made don’t elapse and the process having to be started over.
Throughout this article, you may have noticed that the term ‘service’ of notice has been frequently repeated. What is service, how does the Act state it must be done and why is it important? We will consider this in our next article.
In the meantime, if you need any advice on a party wall matter please feel free to contact us on 020 8306 0680 or via our email or contact page.