Party Wall Act

The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 is an enabling Act, insofar as it grants the owner of a property the legal right to undertake certain works that might otherwise constitute trespass or nuisance.

However, it also seeks to protect the interests of adjoining owners from any potentially adverse effects that such works might have by imposing a requirement that all adjoining owners be given prior notice of them.

In addition, the Act provides for a mandatory dispute resolution procedure mediated by a statutorily appointed surveyor or surveyors if neighbouring owners have concerns about the implementation of any proposal so notified.

Specifically, such notice must be served where the owner of a property (known as ‘the building owner’) intends to undertake any construction work described in Sections 1, 2 and 6 of the Act. Note that it is only those works that are covered by the Act and the scope is limited to the following:

  • – Section 1 applies where it is proposed to erect a new wall at a boundary that is not already built on.
  • – Section 2 concerns existing party structures, which include party walls, floors and partitions(that separate buildings or parts of buildings), party fence walls (essentially a boundary wall between lands in separate ownership which is built astride a boundary) and, in some instances, a neighbour’s independent property.
  • – Section 6 can apply to excavations up to 6 m away from a building or structure on neighbouring land, subject to depth criteria which the Act sets out.

The information that Notices must provide in respect of works covered the above sections is different in each case. The requirements of Section 1 and Section 6 Notices are set out in those sections but the requirements of a Notice relating to Section 2 works is set out in Section3 of the Act. It is important to note that the validity of any notice not providing all the relevant information or served in the incorrect manner, could be open to challenge in Court.

Depending on the circumstances of any given project there may be more than one adjoining owner on whom notice needs to be served in respect of the same work and, in the case of deep excavations, an Adjoining Owner may be other than an immediate neighbour. It is always preferable to discuss the intended works with adjoining owners before serving them with formal written notice – a proposal well explained may alleviate concerns sufficient to prevent a disputearising and avoid the necessity to appoint surveyors.