The Party Wall etc Act 1996: your rights and obligations

The Party Wall etc Act by name might not sound like the most exciting piece of law on the statute books, and possibly of interest only to Lawyers, Surveyors and people who don't get invited to many actual parties.

However, it is pretty important if you're about to carry out work on a shared wall or structure whether at home or the workplace, and you ignore it at your peril.

Following it can save you time, money, and extensive damage to neighbourly relations which can prove harder to repair than the wall you're knocking down.

A party wall is a structure which separates one person's property from another. The wall can either sit on the centre of a boundary line; or the wall can be entirely on one person's land but be situated tightly up against a neighbour boundary line. A party wall can include a free standing wall; or a wall of a building, for example if a wall of your house touches the boundary line of your neighbour garden.

The Party Wall Act (the Act) applies when certain works are planned as follows:

A) Works to an existing wall or structure;

B) Building a new structure across a boundary line; or

C) Excavations (e.g. digging new foundations for a new building) within a certain distance from neighbouring property.

Obviously, not all works concerning party walls are governed by the Act, for example if you plan to drill into a party wall for the purpose of putting up shelving. However, the following are included:

  • Substantially cutting into the wall
  • Raising the height of the wall or increasing its thickness
  • Demolishing and / or rebuilding the wall
  • Underpinning the entire thickness of the wall
  • Protecting the wall with flashing

If you plan to carry out any of these works, your neighbour who shares it is entitled to two months written notice as to your plans. This notice must contain certain information required by the Act and it is important that this is correct.

If your neighbour does not respond to you or disagrees with your plans, the Act provides for a means of resolving the dispute through the appointment of surveyors who will determine what work should be carried out, how and who will pay for it. Generally, the surveyor's decision is legally binding.

Even if your neighbour agrees to your planned works, they can still insist that you put safeguards in place, such as:

  • Ensuring you protect their property at your cost
  • Ensuring you cause no unnecessary nuisance
  • That you compensate your neighbour for any damage you cause

It is important that you comply with the very specific requirements of the Act. Failure to do so could result in your neighbour applying to the Court for an Injunction, which could require you to pay them compensation and / or stop whatever work you have carried out and restore the party wall to its original state. This could be particularly costly, depending on what work you have already carried out.

The Emsleys Property Team are experienced in dealing with all manner of party wall queries and disputes. If you are in any doubt as to your obligations if you are planning to work on a party wall; or your rights if a neighbour has started working on a party wall without consulting you or has deviated from what you agreed, please contact a member of the team on 0113 260 3115.

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