THE PARTY WALL etc. ACT 1996
Alex French is a member of the Faculty of Party Wall Surveyors.
Click here to download a free explanatory booklet that helps to clarify the Party Wall etc. Act 1996.
What does the Party Wall Act do?
- The Act came into force on 1 July 1997 and applies throughout
England and Wales.
- It provides a framework for preventing and resolving
disputes in relation to party walls, boundary walls and excavations
near neighbouring buildings.
- Anyone in England and Wales who intends to carry out
the kind of work described in the Act must give Adjoining Owners
notice of their intentions.
- The Adjoining Owner (the person who receives notification
under the Act of proposed adjacent work) can agree with the Building
Owner's (the person who wishes to carry out the work) proposals
or reach agreement on changes in the way the works are to be carried
out, and in their timing. Where there is no written consent or
agreement, the Act provides for the resolution of 'disputes'.
What does it cover?
How do I inform the
Adjoining Owner or owners?
Whilst there is no official form for giving notice under the
Act, your notice must include the following details:
- Your own name and address (joint owners must all be named,
e.g. Mr A & Mrs B Owner)
- The address of the building to be worked on (this may
be different from your main or current address)
- A full description of what you propose to do (it may
be helpful to include plans but you must still describe the works)
- When you propose to start (which must not be before the
relevant notice period has elapsed).
The notice should be dated and it is advisable
to include a clear statement that it is a notice under the provisions
of the Act. You do not need to tell the local authority about
How long in advance
do I have to serve the notice?
At least two months before the planned starting date for work
to the party wall. The Adjoining Owner may agree to allow works
to start earlier but is not obliged to even when agreement on
the works is reached. The notice is only valid for a year, so
do not serve it too long before you wish to start.
What happens after I serve notice?
- If, after a period of 14 days from the service of your
notice, the person receiving the notice has done nothing, a dispute
is regarded as having arisen.
- A person who receives notice about intended work may,
within one month, give a counter-notice setting out what additional
or modified work he would like to be carried out for his own benefit.
A person who receives a notice, and intends to give a counter-notice,
should let the Building Owner know within 14 days.
- If you cannot reach agreement with the Adjoining Owners,
the next best thing is to agree with them on appointing what the
Act calls an "Agreed Surveyor" to draw up an "Award".
- The Agreed Surveyor should not be the same person that
you intend to employ or have already engaged to supervise your
- Alternatively, each owner can appoint a surveyor to draw
up the award together. The two appointed surveyors will select
a third surveyor (who would be called in only if the two appointed
surveyors cannot agree).
- In all cases, surveyors appointed under the dispute resolution
procedure of the Act must consider the interests and rights of
both owners and draw up an award impartially.
What does the surveyor
The surveyor(s) will prepare a party wall award. This is a document
Who pays the surveyor's fees?
The surveyor (or surveyors) will decide who pays the fees for
drawing up the award and for checking that the work has been carried
out in accordance with the award. Usually the Building Owner will
pay all costs associated with drawing up the award if the works
are solely for his benefit.
Is the surveyors
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 an owner believes that the surveyors determination
is fundamentally wrong.
Who pays for the building
The general principle in the Act is that the Building Owner
who initiated the work pays for it if the works are solely for
his benefit. However, there are cases where the Adjoining Owner
may pay part of the cost, e.g.
- Where work to a party wall is needed because of defects
or lack of repair for which the Adjoining Owner may be responsible
(in full or in part).
- Where an Adjoining Owner requests that additional work
should be done for his benefit.
Does the Act change
who owns the party wall?
No. The Act does not change the ownership of any wall, nor does
it change the position of any boundary. Boundaries can still
run through the centre of a wall, so that each owner may technically
own half of a wall. However, it may help in understanding the
principles of the Act if owners consider themselves joint owners
of the whole of a party wall rather than the sole owner of half
or part of it.
The Act sets out what rights an owner has
in relation to works to a party wall and what he is obliged
to do before he can exercise those rights.
Can the Act be used
to resolve a boundary dispute?
No. The Act does not contain any provision that could be used
to settle a boundary line dispute. Such disputes can be resolved
through the courts or through alternative dispute resolution
procedures (which may be simpler, quicker and cheaper), for
example mediation, decision by an independent expert or arbitration.
Does the Act supersede
common law rights?
Yes, but only in relation to works covered by the Act, and only
when the correct notices have been given and the procedures
Does the Building Owner
have to wait for the full one or two months after serving a
notice before starting work?
No, so long as the Adjoining Owner agrees, in writing, to the
work starting earlier than as stated in the notice.
The main thing you need to consider is whether
your planned work might have consequences for the structural
strength and support functions of the party wall as a whole,
or cause damage to the Adjoining Owners side of the wall.
If you are in doubt about whether your planned work requires
a notice, please call AFA and we will be happy to provide you
with professional and confidential advice.