Our Bristol- and Cardiff-based Party Wall surveyors are RICS chartered and members of the Faculty of Party Wall Surveyors.
This means that they practice at the highest standards in Party Wall matters, and benefit from the support of their professional institutions.
Our surveyors can act as the building owner’s surveyor or as the adjoining owner’s surveyor.
We can also support you if you need an un-notified works agreement. We can provide advice if the work takes you outside the Act, offer support with getting consents, and carry out inspections to assess the impact of works following completion.
Party Wall regulations are enshrined in law (The Party Wall etc. Act 1996) and apply to properties in England and Wales.
The law applies to any homeowners who are:
Minor alterations like re-plastering, re-wiring, or putting up shelves or units, do not come under the Party Wall Act. In contrast, cutting into a party wall to put up a supporting beam or insert a damp-proof course, does come under the Act.
The Party Wall Act etc. Act 1996 was not designed to hinder or restrict building works. Instead, it was designed to help people to develop properties by giving them certain rights regarding repairing and maintaining party walls. In return for these rights, before implementing them, the building owner must formally communicate their intentions to their neighbours. This formal communication is achieved via a system of notices that are served to neighbours holding legal interests in the adjoining properties.
Because any failure to serve appropriate notice can result in legal action against you, the RICS recommends that property owners take advice from a qualified surveyor when considering any party wall works. RICS advises that only chartered surveyors (i.e. those who are ‘MRICS’ or ‘FRICS’) are instructed as surveyors under the Party Wall Act. Choosing an RICS regulated firm provides further protection.
If your neighbours are planning party wall works, the Act protects you by making sure that you are kept fully informed. If you are confident that the works will be done properly, you can provide written agreement once you have been served a party wall notice. This should be done within 14 days, and means that your neighbour has the right to proceed with the works detailed in the notice without any further legal obligations to you under the Act.
If you do have any concerns, you can dissent to the works. This means that you do not provide written agreement, and surveyors will be instructed to draw up a party wall award. All reasonable costs for the surveyors and production of the award fall to the people carrying out the works, as an adjoining owner you should not need to pay anything.
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.
Party Walls walls that are built on the boundary of land belonging to two or more owners, or that are built wholly within one owner’s land, but are used by multiple owners to separate their buildings. They are most commonly found in semi-detached and terraced houses. It should be noted, however, that they do not need to be part of the house itself – garden walls are included.
Party Wall etc. Act 1996
A law in England and Wales that provides a framework for avoiding or resolving disputes regarding works to party walls or structures, or excavations near neighbouring buildings.
These are building works that the building owner wishes to carry out that fall under sctions 1, 2 or 6 of the Party Wall etc. Act 1996
Party Wall Award
A legal document that sets out the parties to the dispute, the appointed surveyors, a description of the works to be undertaken, rights and obligations of the building and adoining owner, and conclusions with signatures and dates. A separate award is needed for every adjoining owner who disputes the works.
If you want to carry out works to a party wall, you must give a party wall notice. This is a written document that is given to all adjoining owners and must be given between 2 months and one year before works begin.
Before issuing a written document, we would always advise meeting with your neighbours in person to discuss your plans. This gives you an opportunity to overcome any obstacles in advance. You will still need to provide a written notice, but such discussions increase the likelihood that your neighbours will consent to the works and provide a written agreement in response.
While anyone can serve a party wall notice, many people prefer to instruct a surveyor for this, because it is vital that it is done correctly. The notice must include the right sections of the Act and works must be described accurately. Any errors can invalidate both the notice and any agreement or party wall awards that are made afterwards. This leaves you open to legal action.
If written agreement to the works is provided
If the adjoining owners all consent to the party wall notice in writing, the building owner can go ahead with the specified works without having to carry out any further Party Wall Act procedures.
If the adjoining owners dissent to the works
If the adjoining owners do not provide written agreement (they dissent), or they do not response within 14 days, the Party Wall Act comes into force.
The Act requires that both sides appoint a surveyor to draw up a party wall award. The surveyors will act impartially, and will consider whether the works are reasonable and legally permitted. The party wall award will contain details of the works that will be undertaken, and how and when they will be done. A schedule of condition is normally produced – this is a report containing comprehensive photographs and written descriptions of the state of the adjoining owner’s property before work starts. It makes it easier to determine whether or not the works have caused any damage to the adjoining property. The award is binding unless appealed within 14 days.
The most cost-effective process is to appoint one surveyor who will act for both parties; usually, this person would be chosen by the adjoining owners. Otherwise, each party instructs their own surveyor. It is worth noting that the building owner carrying out the works must bear the reasonable costs of both surveyors. However, adjoining owners will have to pay costs if they make unreasonable demands or insist on unnecessary time being used on the case by their surveyor.
Agreement to the proposed works from the adjoining owners.
Disagreement from the adjoining owner regarding the proprosed works.
A letter from the building owner telling the adjoining owner about the propesed works. It must include specific information and be submitted at least 1–2 months before works start, depending on the section of the Act that the works fall under.
Schedule of condition
This is a record of the condition of the adjoining owner’s property. It is a snapshot from a moment in time before the works start. It will describe each element of the parts of the building that might be affected by the works, and will often include photographs.