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A Guide To: Party Walls

Thursday, November 16, 2017

We talk you through party walls (the walls you share with your neighbours), offering help and advice to homeowners and landlords who are unsure of their rights and responsibilities.

What is a party wall?

If you live in a semi-detached or terrace house you share a wall (or walls) with your neighbour – that wall is known as a party wall.

Party walls usually separate buildings belonging to different owners but could include garden walls built astride a boundary – known as party fence walls.

Where a wall separates two different size buildings often only the part that is used by both properties is a party wall, the rest belongs to the person or persons on whose land it stands.

The Party Wall etc Act

Since the Party Wall etc Act 1996 came into force, homeowners in England and Wales have had a procedure to follow when building work involves a party wall or party fence wall, some excavations close to neighbouring buildings, and new walls at boundaries.

The Act permits owners to carry out certain specific works, including work to the full thickness of a party wall, whilst at the same time protecting the interests of anyone else who might be affected by that work.

The Act is designed to avoid or minimise disputes by making sure property owners notify their neighbours in advance of certain proposed works. The Act requires that where the adjoining owner does not ‘agree’ in writing to the works a surveyor or surveyors will determine the time and way in which those works are carried out.

What is covered by the Act?

There are some things that you can only do to a party wall after notifying your neighbour and either with the written agreement of the neighbour or with a Party Wall Award prepared by a surveyor/s.

Such works include:

  • cutting into a wall to take the bearing of a beam, for example for a loft conversion
  • inserting a damp proof course, even if only to your own side of a party wall
  • raising a party wall and, if necessary, cutting off any objects preventing this from happening
  • demolishing and rebuilding a party wall
  • underpinning a party wall or part of a party wall
  • weathering the junction of adjoining walls or buildings by cutting a flashing into an adjoining building
  • excavating foundations within three metres of a neighbour’s structure and lower than its foundations
  • excavating foundations within six metres of a neighbour’s structure and below a line drawn down at 45° from the bottom of its foundations.

You must also notify your neighbour if you propose to build a new wall on the line of junction (boundary) between two properties.

What is not covered by the Act?

The Act relates only to certain specific types of work and is permissive in nature. It is not just another way to object to or try to prevent your neighbour’s works nor is it intended to be applied to everyday minor jobs that do not affect the structural integrity or loading of a party wall, such as:

  • fixing plug sockets
  • screwing in wall units or shelving
  • adding or replacing electrical wiring or sockets
  • replastering your walls.