Party wall matters

If you're a property owner who has agreed minor repair works with a neighbour of a shared boundary, you'll need a party wall agreement for repairs. For more extensive works, you'll need to serve a party wall notice.

What is the legal background to party walls?

The Party Wall Act applies to most work carried out to party walls. If it applies, it means that you will have to serve notice of the proposed works on your neighbour(s) and, if they do not consent to the work, you'll have to appoint a surveyor to prepare a Party Wall Award.

However, if works to the party wall are so minor, that service of notice under the Act is not necessary (eg straightforward repairs, such as replastering, or cutting into the party wall to add or replace recessed electric wiring and sockets) you can use a simple Party Wall Agreement to record the work to be undertaken.

What is a party wall?

The term "party wall" includes the following:

  • a wall that stands on the land of two (or more) owners and forms part of a building - this wall can be part of one building only or separate buildings belonging to different owners
  • a wall that stands on the land of two owners but does not form part of a building, such as garden wall (but not including timber fences)
  • a wall that is on one person's land but is used by two (or more) owners of separate properties.

What works are covered by the Party Wall Act?

  • Building a new wall or building on or at the boundary of two properties
  • Cutting into or carrying out work to a party wall or structure
  • Making a party wall taller, shorter or deeper
  • Removing chimney breasts from a party wall
  • Knocking down and rebuilding a party wall
  • Digging below the foundation level of a neighbour's property

Types of notice

  • Party structure notice, for alterations that directly affect the party wall and include common jobs, such as cutting holes to insert beams and padstones, cutting in flashings and removing chimney breasts.
  • Notice of adjacent excavation, for when you are excavating within 3 or 6 metres of your neighbour’s building.
  • Line of junction notice, for the construction of a new wall adjacent to a boundary, or the construction of a new wall astride a boundary.

When do you need to serve notice?

  • If your works are governed by the Party Wall Act, you’ll need to serve aparty wall noticeon every neighbouring property affected at least two months before the works begin. Once notice has been served, you can take up to a year to start work.
If you start work without having first given notice in the proper way, your neighbours may seek to stop your work through a court injunction or seek other legal redress.

What happens after you serve notice?

  • Once notice about intended work is served, your neighbour may either:
  • Give their consent in writing, or
  • Disagree with the works proposed in writing, or
  • Do nothing.
  • 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. Any disputes will be dealt with by a surveyor.

When do you need a party wall agreement or award?

You'll need a party wall agreement if you’re going to carry out construction or alterations which involve: Work carried out on a wall, floor or ceiling shared with another property.  Building on the boundary with another property. Excavating within six meters of an adjoining building.Repairing a party wall or spouts, fall pipes, sewers, drains, wire conduits, flues, chimney stacks, eaves or troughs used in common with neighbours.

For more information, see the Department for Communities and Local Government (Guidance for carrying out building work under the Party Wall Act 1996).