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Valid Service of Notices & Documents

Updated: Mar 20

In our previous article, we discussed the different types of notices served under the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 and their content requirements. However, it's crucial to understand the concept of "service" when it comes to delivering these documents.


What does valid service of notices & documents entail, how can it be done, and why is it important? In this blog post, we will explore the meaning of service, the permissible methods of delivery, and the significance of proper service to avoid disputes later on.


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Understanding Service of Notices and Documents

The term "service" is not unique to the Party Wall etc. Act 1996. It is a widely used concept in the wider legal arena, referring to the provision of documents to other parties within specified timeframes. In the context of the Act, proper service is crucial as the legislation imposes various procedures that require owners to act or respond within set timescales. Establishing a provable means of delivery/receipt and a clear commencement date for these timescales is vital to prevent future disputes.


Permissible Methods of Service

Section 15 of the Act outlines several methods by which notices or documents "may" be served:

  1. Delivery in person: The document is handed over directly to the recipient.

  2. Sending by post: The document is sent by first-class post to the recipient's usual or last-known residence or place of business in the UK.

  3. Corporate body delivery: In the case of a corporate body, the document is delivered to the secretary or clerk of the corporate body at its registered or principal office, or sent by post to the secretary or clerk at that office.


In practice, serving notices by first-class post is the preferred method among most surveyors initially. This approach eliminates the need for potentially lengthy personal deliveries and allows for proof of postage through a "Certificate of Posting" obtained from the Post Office.


Serving in person may be a suitable option for amicable neighbours. However, complications can arise if the recipient refuses to accept the document or later claims that service was not made. Without photographic evidence or proof of receipt, this method of service may be challenging, and one of the other options may be more appropriate.


It's important to note that simply posting documents through the letterbox is not considered effective service. Section 15(2) does mention an alternative means of service by affixing the document to a conspicuous part of the recipient's premises. However, this method should only be used as a last resort when other options are unavailable.


Electronic Communication as a Service Option

Fortunately, the Act was amended in 2016 to allow for service via electronic communication, typically through email. However, there are specific conditions outlined in Section 15(1A):


  1. The recipient has expressed willingness to receive notices or documents electronically.

  2. The recipient's statement of willingness has not been withdrawn.

  3. The notice or document is transmitted to the recipient's specified electronic address.


Importantly, permission to serve documents electronically must be obtained from the other party. In practice, a simple email or text message asking for confirmation of their willingness to receive documents at their specified email address is sufficient. Electronic service offers a faster means of delivery, eliminating the delays associated with traditional postage.


Deemed Service Dates and Calculation

It's crucial to understand that notice and appeal periods under the Act are calculated from the date of service, not the date of postage. The Civil Procedure Rules (CPR Part 6 Service of Documents r.6.26) specify the time allowed to determine the deemed service date:


  • For first-class postage, the deemed date of service is "the second day after it was posted... provided that day is a business day." For example, if a notice is posted first class on a Monday, the service date should be set for Wednesday.

  • For electronic service (email), if the email is sent before 4:30 pm on a business day, it is deemed to be served on that day. If sent after 4:30 pm, it is deemed to be served on the next business day. The same timeframes apply for personal service as well.


Understanding and adhering to these procedures may appear intricate, but as the Act is invoked through the service of a written notice, the entire process hinges on correct execution. Failure to comply with proper service requirements can render notices and other documents invalid, leading to significant issues and delays.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):


What does "service" mean in relation to the Party Wall Act?

- "Service" refers to the provision of notices and documents to other parties within specified timeframes, as required by the Act.


What are the permissible methods of serving notices and documents?

- Notices and documents can be served by delivery in person, sending by post, or delivering to the registered office or secretary of a corporate body. Electronic communication, with prior permission, is also an acceptable method.


Is sending documents through the Royal Mail's "Signed For" service an effective method of service?

- No, a document that requires a recipient's signature for confirmation of receipt may be rejected and considered ineffective service. First-class post with a Certificate of Posting is generally recommended.


Can notices be served by posting them through the recipient's letterbox?

- No, posting through the letterbox alone is not considered effective service. An alternative means of service, such as affixing the document to a conspicuous part of the premises, should only be used when other options are unavailable.


Can notices and documents be served electronically?

- Yes, electronic communication is allowed under the Act, provided the recipient has expressed willingness to receive documents electronically and the specified email address is used. Permission for electronic service must be obtained from the other party.


Conclusion

Proper service of notices and documents is a critical aspect of the Party Wall Act. By understanding the permissible methods of delivery and adhering to the correct procedures, you can ensure effective communication and avoid potential disputes. If you require advice on party wall matters, including the service of notices, please feel free to contact us at 020 8306 0680 or via email or our contact page.

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