Dealing Wih Party Walls

Disputes between neighbouring property owners often arise when one property owner does something to the boundary between the two properties which the adjoining owner objects to. The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 (the "Act") tries to limit these disputes by clearly setting out the rights and responsibilities of both parties, together with a dispute resolution mechanism to help resolve arguments quickly and easily.


The Act applies to neighbours who share a boundary: the "building owner" is the person who wants to exercise the rights (and may be a freeholder, a leaseholder or a prospective purchaser or tenant with a purchase contract/agreement for lease in place). The "adjoining owner" is the owner or occupier of the neighbouring property. There may be multiple building and adjoining owners in respect of one party wall.

Whenever you're working on a dividing wall or building a new wall near a boundary there is a good chance that the Act will apply. It applies whenever someone is planning to do work on a relevant party wall or structure or carry out excavation work close to a neighbouring property. Party walls and structures include the following:

A wall which is common to and separates the buildings on two neighbouring properties. A wall which forms part of only one building but which is on the boundary line between two properties. A free-standing wall which sits astride the boundary line or butts up against it (note that this does not catch wooden fences). The floors and ceilings horizontally separating flats. WHEN IS A PARTY WALL AGREEMENT REQUIRED?

The combination of the building owner giving notice and receiving permission from the adjoining owner is known as a "party wall agreement". The underlying principle of the Act is that a party wall agreement is needed for all work which could affect the structural strength or support function of the party wall or structure, or which could cause damage to the neighbouring side of the wall or structure. If you are unsure as to whether this is the case you should seek advice from a surveyor, builder, architect or your local Building Control Office.

The following types of work will all be caught:

Carrying out works to an existing party structure, including demolishing or rebuilding it, cutting into it, increasing or decreasing the height or thickness, adding a damp proof course or underpinning beneath it. Building a new wall astride or adjacent to a boundary. Excavations within a specified distance of a neighbouring building, which will go below the bottom of the foundations of the neighbouring building (between 3 and 6 metres depending on the...

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