Posted in: Property Services
In a recent series of blogs, we endeavoured to demystify Dilapidations, looking at the reporting and definitions involved, as well as how dilapidations affect both landlords and tenants.
In the same way, we thought we’d break down some of the common concerns and misconceptions around the Party Wall Act, when it applies and what it allows.
In Part 1, we offer some party wall and boundary advice by looking at the basics.
The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 is an Act of Government that came into force on 1st July 1997 in England and Wales. It does not apply in Scotland or Northern Ireland.
It’s fair to say that despite being in place for more than 20 years the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 is still as relevant now as it ever was – even though many people won’t have heard of it. In fact, the first that anyone is likely to hear of it is when a notice comes through the letterbox stating that a neighbour intends to undertake works that fall under the terms of the Act.
That said it is a piece of legislation that does need to be taken into consideration if you or a client are looking to develop or build on or near to a neighbour’s boundary. However, there’s no need to worry as the Act can actually be of benefit to a home or landowner looking to build, extend or adapt on their land.
The Party Wall Act is permissive in nature i.e. it is a vehicle to enable the landowner to do something, e.g. build an extension or develop a plot of land, rather than be an obstacle that prevents the owner from carrying out the works that they would like to do.
If the Act applies, it does mean that the Owner of the land or building will need to notify their neighbour in writing of their intentions to undertake certain works that fall under the Act.
The important point to remember at the outset is that the Act may apply and should be considered when looking to build or develop a plot of land, or redevelop an existing building.
A bit of a tricky one this, but a wall is a party wall if it stands astride the boundary of land belonging to two (or more) different owners.
The most obvious example of which is the wall that separates the occupied area of two terraced properties.
It could also be a wall that stands wholly on one owner’s land but is used by two (or more) owner’s to separate their buildings, such as the external wall of a house or garage.
Alternatively, it could be a party fence wall if it is a garden wall separating the land of two different owners. However, it needs to be a physical structure and not just a timber fence as seen in the photo below. If it is a timber fence then it is not a party wall.
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.
This means that if the adjoining owner dissents to the works then they are still able to proceed, although only if the two surveyors can agree on a suitable way of undertaking the works.
These might include:
Building Owner’s Surveyor –Appointed by the Building Owner in relation to a Party Wall Matter.
Adjoining Owner’s Surveyor – Appointed by the Adjoining Owner in relation to a Party Wall Matter where the Adjoining Owner has appointed their own surveyor after a dispute has been deemed to have arisen.
Agreed Surveyor – Appointed by the Building Owner and subsequently the Adjoining Owner once a dispute is deemed to have arisen.
Third Surveyor – Appointed by the Building Owner and Adjoining Owner if the two appointed surveyors cannot agree on an Award.
The Act can apply to any works on or around the boundary, be it large or small.
Notice may only need to be served on a single adjoining owner on a straightforward scheme or minor project. However, depending on the size, location and surroundings, you might be required to serve notice on a considerably higher number.
Each project would be reviewed and assessed on its particular merits.
Despite commonly being referred to as the Party Wall Act it does cover other matters, an equally important aspect of the Act is the 3 letter abbreviation of the Latin term et cetera.
This is because the Act does not just cover works intended on or to existing party walls. There are other aspects of the Act that require as much, if not more, consideration when it comes to developing a site or building an extension.
There are three main sections that relate to an owner wishing to undertake works which might fall under the Act;
Here are a few specific examples:
Whether works to an existing party wall require notice depends on the extent of the works required. Generally when there is a possibility that the proposed works could cause damage or inconvenience to the neighbour then notice would be required to be served.
Examples would include;
More minor works, such as securing bookshelves, inserting plug sockets or re-plastering wouldn’t require notice to be given.
A party structure relates to vertical and horizontal structures such as floors, walls or ceilings that are ‘party’ to the land or building directly above, below or adjacent to where works are proposed.
This would include the redevelopment of the upper parts of communal flats where separate floors are under different ownership. That said, the works would fall under the same section of the Act, which generally applies when works are proposed to an existing wall or structure.
If a new wall or party fence wall is intended to be constructed on or astride a boundary line, this would fall under the Act.
In these cases, the Act permits the owner to build a new wall astride the boundary, as long as the Adjoining Owner consents to this.
Often it is to the benefit of both parties to do this as it maximises the available space available for any development as well as forming a clear and defined boundary between the two properties.
However, this would require the express written consent of the neighbouring owner. Should this not be forthcoming, the owner of the building would only be able to build a new wall if it was wholly on their land.
Anyone intending to undertake works that require new foundations to be installed at or near to a boundary should serve notice.
A standard 3m rule applies for any excavation within 3m of any part of a neighbours building or structure where the excavation is proposed to be lower than the foundations of the existing structure.
On occasion, this can be extended to 6m if ‘special’ foundations such as piled foundations are proposed and even then only under certain circumstances.
If a line drawn downward at a 45-degree angle from the base of the neighbour’s foundations in the direction of the proposed excavation intersects the proposed new foundation then notice would be required.
Party Wall matters can get quite complicated. Determining whether the Act is applicable to any building or development works does require in-depth knowledge of the Act and how it applies.
If you are in any doubt, contact us at TPG and we can we can advise you on whether notice is necessary.
In Part 2, we’ll take a look at serving a notice, appointing surveyors, the timescales involved, and the Party Wall Award document.
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