Our Partywall Surveyors at Allcott Associates LLP are experienced in the issues that can arise with party walls, and we provide a concise party wall service. If you, or your neighbours, are planning on undergoing work which falls under the Party Wall Act 1996, a party wall surveyor needs to be contacted.
The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 (“the Act”) came into force on 1st July 1997.
In its overall drive, the Act is designed to assist Adjoining Owners to develop by giving them certain rights. Its provisions are not intended to restrict and hinder them.
In return for these rights, before implementing them, the Adjoining Owner must communicate formally their intentions to their neighbours. This formal communication is achieved via a system of Notices served on you and other various neighbours holding legal interests in the surrounding properties.
The Party Wall etc Act 1996 states that it is the responsibility of the Building Owner to serve the necessary Notices on you with an interest in the relevant walls, structures or land before carrying out any works.
Notices can be served on you by delivering them personally or sending them by the conventional postal service. Physically fixing a notice to the subject premises is also deemed sufficient service, in some instances, by the Act.
Notices will be invalid if they are served on the wrong person or by the wrong person. Correct service is very important if the Building Owner wishes to claim rights under the Act. Without claiming correctly such rights, a risk of trespass will arise if work is then executed. You could then seek an injunction to halt the work until proper Notices have been served.
Section 1 Notices (line of junction)
If the Building Owner wishes to build a wall immediately alongside the line of junction of your property, then at least one month before doing so a notice must be served on you. The notice must describe the intended wall and is usually done by attaching drawings.
Section 3 Notices (party structure)
Generally speaking these are alterations to the party wall itself and include common jobs such as cutting holes to insert beams and padstones, cutting in flashings and removing chimney breasts.
Section 6 Notice (three metre/six metre)
The notice should indicate whether or not the Building Owner proposes to underpin, or otherwise strengthen or safeguard the foundations of your building or structure. The notice must be accompanied by plans and sections showing the site and depth of the proposed excavation and also the site of any building that the Building Owner proposes to erect. If you contest the need for underpinning then a dispute arises. A Section 6 Notice should be served if:
Excavating within 3 metres of your neighbour’s building and to a depth lower than the bottom of their foundations.
Excavating within 6 metres of your neighbour’s building, if any part of that excavation intersects with a plane drawn downwards at an angle of 45 degrees from the bottom of their foundations, taken at a line level with the face of their external wall (this will normally mean that you neighbour is using piled foundations)
Prior to works commencing on site the Party Wall etc Act 1996 states that it is necessary to take a Schedule of Condition of adjoining buildings prior to commencement of works. The party wall surveyors are able then to re-inspect the property on completion of the works and ascertain whether or not any damage was done, and also direct what repairs should be carried out.
The Act contains no enforcement procedures for failure to serve a notice. However, if your neighbour starts work without having first given notice in the proper way, you may seek to stop the work through a court injunction or seek other legal redress. You may wish to take professional legal advice before commencing such action.
If a dispute arises and the Building Owner refuses to appoint a surveyor under the dispute resolution procedure, you can appoint a second surveyor on his behalf, so that the procedure can go ahead.
The Award is final and binding unless it is amended by the Court. Each owner has 14 days to appeal to the County Court against an award. An appeal should only be made to the County Court if you believe that the surveyors’ determination is fundamentally wrong. An appeal should not be undertaken lightly and if you intend considering an appeal, you may wish to seek legal advice.
You should note that the primary purpose of the Act is to facilitate development. In return for rights to carry out certain works, the Building Owner who is having the work done must notify you in advance. The Building Owner is legally responsible for putting right any damage caused by carrying out the works, even if the damage is caused by their contractor.
You cannot stop someone from exercising the rights given to them by the Act, but you may be able to influence how and at what times the work is done.
If you refuse to respond to a notice from a Building Owner, he will be able to appoint a second surveyor on your behalf so that the dispute resolution procedure can proceed without your cooperation.