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The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 - What Is It?

Updated: 3 days ago

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Are you planning to carry out building works that involve shared walls, excavations or boundaries near to your neighbours? Do you want to ensure a smooth process and maintain good relations with those living next to you? The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 provides a legal framework to address these situations and protect the interests of both the owner carrying out the work (the Building Owner) and their neighbour, the Adjoining Owner.

In this article, we will delve into the details of the Act, its purpose, and how it can help resolve potential conflicts. Whether you're a Building Owner or an Adjoining Owner, understanding this legislation and how it affects you is important if you or your neighbour are planning some building work.

The Purpose and Importance of The Party Wall etc. Act 1996

The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 (The Act) was introduced to address the potential damage and disputes that can arise when certain building works affect neighbouring properties. The Act imposes a legal obligation on Building Owners to provide notice to Adjoining Owners about proposed notifiable works in advance. This notice allows the Adjoining Owner to have a say in how the works are carried out, ensuring their interests are protected.

The Act applies to three main types of building works:

  1. Building, demolishing, repairing, exposing, or altering a party wall or shared party structure.

  2. Building a new wall along or directly astride the boundary.

  3. Excavating within 3 or 6 meters from a neighbour's building or structure.

By establishing a legal framework, the Act aims to create a fair and balanced process that considers the rights and concerns of both parties involved. It provides a dispute resolution mechanism through the appointment of party wall surveyors, who play a vital role in facilitating communication and resolving disputes.

Understanding the Role of Party Wall Surveyors

When a dispute arises under the Act, party wall surveyors are appointed to act on behalf of the building owner and the adjoining owner(s). The surveyors' objective is to implement the provisions of the Act and protect the interests of the adjoining owner while ensuring the Building Owner's rights to carry out the notifiable works.

There are two options for appointing party wall surveyors:

Agreed Surveyor: The parties involved may appoint a single surveyor, referred to as the ‘Agreed Surveyor’, who acts impartially and represents both the Building Owner and the Adjoining Owners.

Individual Surveyors: Each party may appoint their own party wall surveyor. The Building Owner appoints a ‘Building Owner's Surveyor’, and the Adjoining Owner appoints an ‘Adjoining Owner's Surveyor’.

No matter whether one or two surveyors are appointed, their role is to facilitate discussions, mediate between the parties, and ultimately reach an agreement that is documented in a binding Party Wall Award. This award outlines the rights and obligations of all parties involved and is served to both the Building Owner and the Adjoining Owner by the surveyor(s).

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are notifiable works under the Party Wall etc. Act 1996?

- Notifiable works include building, demolishing, repairing, exposing, or altering a party wall or shared party structure, building a new wall along or astride the boundary, and excavating near a neighbour's property.

Why is it important to give notice to the Adjoining Owner(s)?

- Notice is crucial as it allows the Adjoining Owner to have input on the proposed works and helps protect their interests. It provides an opportunity to address any concerns or potential issues before construction begins.

What happens if there is a dispute between the Building Owner and the Adjoining Owner?

- If a dispute arises, party wall surveyors are appointed. They act as impartial mediators to facilitate communication and resolve the dispute in a fair and balanced manner.

Can the Building Owner and the Adjoining Owner choose the same surveyor?

- Yes, the parties can appoint a single ‘Agreed Surveyor’ who acts impartially. This option can be cost-effective and streamline the process.

What is a Party Wall Award?

- A Party Wall Award is a binding agreement documenting the resolution of the dispute. It outlines the rights and obligations of the Building Owner and the Adjoining Owner regarding the proposed works.

What happens if a Building Owner does not serve notice for works that are classed as notifiable under the Act, and proceeds to commence work?

- If a Building Owner neglects to provide notice for notifiable works, they would be considered 'unlawful,' putting themselves in a legally precarious situation. In the event that the Adjoining Owner perceives a potential risk to their property resulting from the works, they have the option to seek an injunction from the courts. This injunction would prevent the building owner from proceeding with the works until proper notice has been served and the established process has been followed. Furthermore, the Building Owner may encounter significant challenges if the adjoining owner alleges that the works have caused damage to their property. This is due to the fact that the building owner did not afford them the opportunity to have a Schedule of Condition conducted on their premises.

The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 serves as an essential legal framework for managing building works that may affect neighbouring properties. By understanding the Act's provisions and following the proper procedures, both Building Owners and Adjoining Owners can ensure a smooth process and maintain positive relationships.

Whether you're planning construction or have concerns about proposed works, it's important to understand the process, what your legal obligations are. We would also recommend seeking professional advice to navigate the complexities of the Act effectively.

If you require a party wall surveyor, or simply some free impartial advice on a party wall matter, please feel free to contact us at 020 8306 0680 or reach out via email or our contact page.

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