The Party Wall
A piece of legislation that most building project owners hate - but it can save you
a lot of problems later on.
THE PARTY WALL ACT 1996 - A CLIENTS GUIDE
Legislation is now in place for building owners and adjoining neighbours to observe
and discharge certain responsibilities when construction takes place on or near a Party or boundary
This is a very short overview of the general process required and should only be taken as a
guide. The client is advised to read the D.O.E. guide booklet on the subject before any further action is
taken. It must be remembered that ANY works on or near a 'Party Wall' including internal alterations will
likely require a written neighbour agreement under the Act.
The Acts purpose is to encourage building owners to discuss and agree the
intended building works with the neighbour to reduce the amount of disputes taken to court. This Party Wall
legislation is not part of the Councils responsibility and does not have any link to the Planning and Building
Regulations processes. This is Civil Legislation where Court action against infringements etc. is normally taken by
the neighbour or the building owner if access is denied for example.
For the owner intending to carry out the building works it is a requirement that
you obtain written approval from the affected neighbour(s). This normally involves a simple letter to them
referenced 'Party Wall Notice' explaining your intended works, how it will affect them together with a copy of the
drawings requesting their written approval within 14 days.
If you are on good terms with your neighbours then their written consent will
normally be forthcoming provided the works are not anti-social. If they are concerned they may add reasonable
conditions like placing a limit on working hours, reasonable access and making good other items etc.
If the neighbours feel that they are unable to agree to the works without the
benefit of professional advice then they will most probably wish to engage their own 'Party Wall Surveyor' and this
is where it can get really complicated and costly as there are set procedures and timings that must be maintained.
The building owner implementing the works will also have to pay for the neighbours surveyors fees.
If this situation arises then you have a couple of options for the next
1. You employ your own 'Party Wall survey' to agree terms and conditions
etc. with the neighbours Party Wall Surveyor and an 'Award' is eventually issued. (This is a term for an
agreement). If the two surveyors cannot agree to terms then a third surveyor is nominated to make a final 'Award'.
You will also have to pay for the third Surveyors fees.
2. You let the neighbours surveyor act as 'The Agreed Party Wall
Surveyor' where he alone makes an 'Award' as he/she interprets the provisions within the Party Wall Act. This is
usually the cheapest option as there is only one set of surveyors fees to pay for and in effect, the surveyors
duties are to look after the party wall and is not biased by either side.
If you already have disputes with your neighbour or you are not on good terms
then it is likely that you will be forced down the route employing a 'Party Wall Surveyor(s)' especially if the
neighbour becomes aware that you are responsible for paying the surveyors fees. You should, however, try the simple
exchange of approval letters first.
If your neighbour is totally uncooperative then you will have to employ a second
'Party Wall Surveyor on his behalf so that procedures can go ahead. All of the procedures within the Party Wall act
have specified time limits so it is vital that you start to obtain written approval from your neighbour at least
two months before you intend to start.
You are advised NOT to engage your builder until written consent or an 'Award'
has been granted.
Although this may seem like another piece of 'anti-build red tape' legislation,
the principals behind it are very sound which also give certain duties to the neighbour regarding access for your
builders workmen etc. A neighbour can no longer prevent you having reasonable access onto their land to build the
The spirit of the Act is to encourage neighbours to discuss and agree the
building works or alterations well before implementing the works on site to avoid future disputes. The Act has
machinery in place to override uncooperative neighbours so that you can still build but this will likely delay the
start of the works so preparing with a good lead in time is vital.
Although the Act tries to make it as simple as possible for the lay person to
implement, it can become fairly complex if you are unable to obtain written approval from your neighbour and you
are forced down the 'Party Wall Surveyor' route. The term 'surveyor' is defined in the Act as any person not being
a party to the matter. That means that you can appoint almost anyone you like to act in this capacity although some
people are obviously more suitable than others. You should ideally look for a qualified professional with a
knowledge of Party Wall matters. It is recommended that if you and your neighbour wish to have one 'Agreed
Surveyor' to make the party wall award then it should NOT be the Building Designer.
For more precise information on what exactly your duties are and what works
require Party Wall Agreements etc. under the Act then you must read the D.O.E. explanatory guide booklet - product
code 97 PBD 008 available from H.M. Stationery Office or you may borrow a copy from CHP.