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  • Paul, Compliance Manager

Do I Need a Party Wall Agreement?

Do I Need a Party Wall Agreement

Do you or your neighbour want to do some work on or near to the party wall between your houses? Then, unless the work is minor and risk-free, “Yes, you do need a Party Wall Agreement.” is the short answer. Do you have a larger project or does someone else wants to do work affecting your party wall? Then, if your boundary is a party wall, both you and they need a Party Wall Agreement.

What is a Party Wall? 

Not all shared boundaries are party walls as defined in the Party Wall Act, which would not apply in cases where the boundary wall did not meet the Act’s definition. Under the Act, a party wall is a wall that divides areas of land belonging to two or more different owners. Where the wall is part of a building, the boundary may run along the centre line of the wall or along its face – but the Act doesn’t apply to wooden garden fences, hedges or boundary walls that are completely built along one side of the boundary.

Also, land or a building may have joint owners, (e.g. husband and wife) or more than one owner, e.g. a freehold owner and a long-term leaseholder. Both have Party Wall Act rights.

Why not Reach a Neighbourly Verbal Understanding?

A good friendly relationship with your neighbour is great, it helps with any number of things – so don’t risk throwing it away. Start by working out whether or not your boundary is a party wall. If it’s not, a friendly informal agreement with your neighbour is fine, but it’s best to write down the details to avoid failures of memory or interpretation later. Doing this is a good way to maintain a neighbourly relationship but is nothing to do with the Party Wall Act. If your boundary is a party wall, start by agreeing with your neighbour in just the same way but explain to them that the Party Wall Act applies and so you need to issue a Party Wall Notice. That way, you’ll have behaved in a friendly agreeable manner and both parties will be able to carry on in compliance with the Act, thus preserving their rights and understanding their duties.

What is the Party Wall Act?

The Party Wall Act states the rights and duties of neighbouring property owners when work is to be done or changes made that could affect any party wall between them. It provides working procedures for such situations and exists to prevent and resolve party wall disputes.

Is a Party Wall Agreement Necessary for Minor Works in Domestic Properties?


Well, even the government guidance concedes that issuing a Party Wall Notice because you want to screw some bookshelves to the party wall with your neighbour is a bit excessive. That could be dealt with in a little chat – but do think of the worst-case scenario. If there’s any risk that things could end in a serious issue, a Party Wall Agreement would be a bit of time and trouble well spent.

What about Larger Party Wall Issues?

Party wall issues can be large, complex and expensive (though not usually in domestic cases). If matters might get legalistic or otherwise beyond your competence, then find a suitable construction professional, e.g. a chartered surveyor. The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors’ website’s “Find a Surveyor” lists party wall specialists. The Faculty of Party Wall Surveyors can direct you to their members and other institutions of construction professionals may also have members competent in party wall issues.

Understanding the Party Wall Act

The vast majority of party wall issues don’t need specialists or legal action. This blog is concerned with helping you to understand what the Party Wall Act says and to do the right thing at the right time to comply. If you do that, it should normally be all that’s necessary. Your main legal rights and obligations under the Party Wall Act are set out below.

What Rights Do You Have?

You have the right to:

  • Repair the wall.

  • Install a damp proof course.

  • Underpin the whole thickness of the wall (i.e. including the neighbour’s side)

  • Cut into the wall, e.g. to support the end of a beam bearing on it.

  • Raise the height of the wall.

  • Extend the wall downwards (this may be considered a theoretical right only)

  • Cut off projections from the wall.


What Duties Do You Have?

You must:

  • Inform all adjoining owners of the details of your intended work and the planned start date, giving them at least two months’ notice, i.e. issue a Party Wall Notice.

  • Must not cause any unnecessary inconvenience.

  • repair or pay for repairs to any damage you have caused to your neighbour’s side of the wall,

  • Provide temporary protection against damage to the wall during works or pay for any damage caused by your works.

  • Share the cost of joint work needed on defects or repairs that are nobody’s fault.


How Do You Inform People and Give Notice?

Discuss what you want to do with your neighbour first, then give written notice of the planned work in detail, making sure everyone concerned receives it. The notice must give:

  • Your name and address, including any joint owners of your property, e.g. your spouse or the landlord if you’re a leaseholder.

  • The full address of the building to be worked on (this may not be your own address)

  • A full description of the proposed works, including drawings if they’re helpful. Where excavations are involved, you must include drawings detailing them. Deep excavations may affect foundations of walls several metres away, not just right beside them. (This is not just a party wall issue. You must always ensure that your excavations don’t affect foundations of your neighbour’s buildings or structures).

  • The intended start date (at least two months’ notice needed)

  • The date of issue and a statement that it is a notice issued under the Party Wall Act

What Happens if You Receive a Party Wall Notice?

Firstly, reply within fourteen days, otherwise it will be classified as a dispute.

You may agree to the works, or if you disagree, you and your neighbour will need to appoint an “Agreed Surveyor”, who will listen to both parties’ cases and make a “Party Wall Award” detailing what he considers a fair settlement. If you can’t agree to it, you will be beyond the scope of this blog, because if he’s unable to draw up an agreeable award, then both parties must appoint their own surveyors, who agree on a Third Surveyor to draw up a Party Wall Award agreed by them. Once an award is made, it takes county court action to set it aside. Ask yourself, do you want to pay for three surveyors to all work on your dispute? Far better to find a way to agree with your neighbour.

What Happens Next?

We hope everything has been amicably settled because once the work starts, you really do need to cooperate. Your rights and obligations are as stated above and it is far better if everyone works together willingly. The Agreed Surveyor will interpret the Party Wall Award if necessary but remember, he’ll charge for his time. Cooperation between the parties is best.

Conclusion

Our advice is always that the best outcomes will nearly always come from friendly cooperation. Have a good chat with your neighbour and agree, but do put your agreement into a Party Wall Notice at least two months before you want work to start so that all parties know exactly what’s going to be done and that everyone’s rights will be respected.

If you have any questions or if there's something you'd like to know that we’ve not covered here, then please do not hesitate to get in touch with our friendly team. Reach us at mail@saundersbrothers.co.uk or give us a call at 01844 273783.



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