Party Walls are walls used by more than one ‘owner’. The dividing wall between two houses is the most obvious example. Floors between flats are known as Party Structures and boundary walls are known as Party Fence Walls.
The Government introduced a law for England and Wales in 1997 – the Party Wall etc. Act 1996, designed to regulate building works to these special types of wall, as well as neighbouring excavation works. The Act imposes rights and obligations on land owners wishing to conduct works, but equally imposes rights and obligations on those land owners and occupiers who will be affected by the works.
All types of buildings are covered including residential, commercial and industrial. If you share a party wall, party structure or a party fence wall with another person, you may be governed by the provisions of this Act if you or your neighbour carry out works to that structure.
A Party Structure Notice is the most common of the three Party Wall Notice types. It is where your intended building work is to an existing party wall. A notice must be given even where the work will not extend beyond the centre line of a party wall.
To make sense of this, think of yourself as a joint owner of the whole thickness of the wall rather than the sole owner of half or part of it. So if you are planning any significant work covered under the act, you must, by law, serve a Section 3 Party Structure Notice on the adjoining owner at least two months before you plan to start.
You must serve a Line of Junction Notice at least one month before you plan to build on or astride the boundary line between two properties. There is no right to build astride the boundary i.e. with any part of the wall on your neighbour’s side of the line, but you may do this with the adjoining owner’s written consent.
Without that consent you must build the wall wholly on your own land but you can build up against the boundary land in which case you have a right to place necessary footings for the new wall under the adjoining owner’s land. You are required under the Act to compensate the adjoining owner for any damage caused by building the wall or laying the foundations. There is no right to place reinforced foundations under the adjoining owners land without their express written consent.
If you are planning to excavate within 3m of a neighbouring building or structure to a depth greater than the neighbouring building’s foundations or where the excavation will cut a line drawn downwards at 45 degrees from the bottom of the neighbouring building foundations you must serve a Section 6 Notice of Adjacent Excavation.
Before commencing any building work e.g. a loft conversion or an extension, contact us to check if the Party Wall Act applies.