Some typical questions are outlined below to help you better understand the process.

What is the Party Wall etc Act 1996?

The Party Wall etc Act 1996 is a piece of legislation which establishes a range of rights and obligations on owners of property wishing to undertake certain works to their property.  This statute particularly affects those properties where there is a commonly owned wall dividing houses or gardens, commonly known as party walls or party fence walls.  

What works are affected by the Act?

The Act requires a building owner proposing to alter the party wall or party fence wall to to serve notice on their immediate neighbours.  Works which require a notice to be served include underpinning the wall to form a basement; raising the wall to create an extension; removing chimneybreasts or internal walls from the party wall; or cutting into the party wall or party fence wall for any purpose.  The replacement of existing boundary fences with new walls will also require a notice to be served on your neighbour.

A building owner is also required to serve a notice if they are excavating within three metres of any neighbouring structure, but only if the excavation will extend below the underside of the foundations of those structures.  For very deep excavations or if piles are to be installed, it may also be necessary to serve notices on any owners of buildings or structures within six metres of the excavation.

How do I serve a notice on my neighbour?

If your proposed extension or alterations include works which are notifiable under the Act, the correct notice(s) must be served on all persons with a title interest in the adjacent properties.  The notice must describe the notifiable works and must be properly served to ensure they are valid.  It is therefore highly recommended that you engage the services of an experienced party wall surveyor to serve the notice(s) on your behalf.

What happens when notices are served?

Once notices have been served, the various parties will appoint surveyors who will then agree the time and manner in which the works will be undertaken.  This will help ensure that the risk of damage and necessary inconvenience to the neighbours is minimised.  A condition survey of the neighbour's property will also be prepared and agreed by the surveyors and referred to in the event of a claim of damage.

The role of a party wall surveyor is to act as an independent tribunal and as such there is no client relationship unlike most other types of professional work.  As the role is independent it is possible for the same surveyor to act for both parties.  Whether a single "Agreed" surveyor or two separate surveyors are appointed, the building owner will, in normal circumstances, remain solely responsible for the fees of any appointed surveyor.  

When should I consult a party wall surveyor for my project?

The implications of the Act can be quite far reaching and we recommend you consult with a party wall surveyor at the design stage of your project so they can advise on the implications of the proposals.  This early discussion can avoid costly design revisions later in the project as many proposals need to be altered to comply with the limitations and requirements of the Act. Your party wall surveyor can also advise on additional information that will be required during the party wall negotiations so this can be prepared in good time.  This information will typically include, as a minimum, method statements for undertaking the notifiable works, structural details and temporary works designs.

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