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Traditional Buildings suitable for Renovation. Party Wall Act Image

We frequently receive enquiries from new clients whose neighbour is undertaking works alongside their boundary. We also receive enquiries from new clients who have commenced work, but their neighbour has objected and asked them to stop. This brief explainer describes what the Party Wall Act is and the steps that can be taken should you find yourself facing a dispute of this nature.

The Party Wall Act, What rights do I have?

The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 is a piece of legislation which enables a building owner to serve notice where they intend to undertake works on or adjacent to their neighbour’s boundary. Where used properly, it can allow the building owner to undertake works which they otherwise would not be entitled to do. The Act is therefore designed to be an enabling piece of legislation.

On the other hand, the Act is designed to protect adjoining owners so that works are not undertaken which could damage their property.

The Act therefore involves a building owner serving a party wall notice to the adjoining owner setting out the nature of the works which they propose to undertake. The adjoining owner can then provide their consent to the works or object to the same.

The Act contains a dispute resolution mechanism whereby the parties’ party wall surveyors negotiate with each other, and an award is made setting out the nature of the works which can be undertaken. If the parties cannot agree, then a third surveyor can be appointed to make an award.

What does the terminology mean?

The building owner is the person or company who wishes to carry out the works.

The adjoining owner is the person adjoining or within a prescribed distance of where the works will be carried out.

What works are notifiable under the Party Wall Act?

Works which are notifiable by the building owner to the adjoining owner may include:

  • Building or demolishing a party wall.
  • Building within three or six metres of the adjoining owner’s walls or buildings.
  • Excavating a site up to six metres from neighbouring buildings.
  • Digging beneath foundations.
  • Changing structural support.
  • Building a basement.
  • Building a loft conversion.
  • Carrying out works or repairs to a party structure.

What if my neighbour starts work without serving a party wall notice?

If the building owner commences work without serving a party wall notice then the mantra of “no notice, no Act” will apply. This means that the building owner has decided that they do not wish to invoke the Act (and the benefits that it offers them) and therefore its dispute resolution mechanism (e.g. the appointment of surveyors) will not apply.

Where the building owner has commenced works which may cause damage to the adjoining owner’s property, then the adjoining owner may wish to apply to court for an injunction. An injunction is a court order to prevent a party from doing something. Alternatively, an injunction may be ordered requiring a party to do something (e.g. to reinstate support to their neighbour’s wall).

Do I need to instruct a surveyor or a solicitor?

In the first instance, you most likely need to instruct a specialist party wall surveyor to advise you on whether the works are notifiable under the Act.

Whether you are an adjoining owner seeking to protect your property from damage or a building owner whose neighbour has objected to your work, and surveyors are not able to resolve the matter, then you likely need to instruct solicitors. Such instructions may include advising you on trespass, nuisance (i.e. the prevention of you using your property) or an injunction.

Speak to a Property Litigation Specialist

James Holton, Senior Associate at DTM Legal, is a leading specialist in Property Litigation and party wall legal services and should you require legal services will provide advice tailored to your specific circumstances.

If you believe that a party wall injunction might be necessary, consider reading James’ Can I Obtain a Party Wall Injunction guide.

To speak to a member of the DTM Legal team call 01244 354800/0151 3210000. 

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