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A guide to Party Wall Notices

Did you know that anyone carrying out any building work near or on a shared wall, known as a Party Wall, must first get written permission from their neighbours?

The formal process for getting this permission from your neighbour – the ‘Adjoining Owner’ involves serving them with a Party Wall Notice.

In this article, Richmond Futures, a leading and experienced firm of building surveyors based in London and Surrey, details what building works need Party Wall Notices served, and what this process entails.

Highlights

What is a Party Wall:

  • A wall part of a building across a boundary, or solely on one owner’s land.
  • Separates buildings belonging to different owners.
  • Defined by its extent compared to foundations.

 

Need Party Wall Notices for:

  • Digging for foundations within three meters of neighbor’s building.
  • Digging a trial pit to determine neighbor’s foundation depth.
  • Excavating within six meters for piled foundations.
  • Alteration work needing steel support, loft conversion, chimney removal, raising wall height, damp course or flashing insertion.
  • Adding storeys to apartment blocks.

 

Importance of Party Wall Notices:

  • Breaching statutory duty by not serving notices.
  • Risk of paying for damage due to no proof of condition before work.
  • Courts view non-serving negatively and may order repairs, leading to costs.

 

After Serving Party Wall Notices:

  • Adjoining Owner has 14 days to respond.
  • Consent leads to a Party Wall Agreement.
  • No response means dissent.
  • Further notice, then appointment of third-party surveyor if no response.

What is a Party Wall?

Any wall that is part of a building and sits across a boundary to a greater extent than its foundations, or stands wholly on one owner’s land separating buildings belonging to different owners, is defined as a Party Wall. 

 

What building works are notifiable under the Party Wall etc. Act 1996

You will need to serve Party Wall Notices if your building works include digging, for foundations or other purposes, to a depth greater than the depth of your neighbour’s foundations and within three metres of their building. You will also need to serve notice if you need to dig a trial pit so that you can find out the depth of your neighbour’s foundations.

Excavating to a greater depth, within six metres of a neighbour’s property, to lay piled foundations for example, will in some circumstances instigate the serving of a Party Wall Notice. 

Most commonly, Party Wall Notices are required for alteration works that need steelwork to be supported by a Party Wall, or if a loft is being converted, a chimney is being removed, the height of a Party Wall is being raised or a new damp course or flashing is being inserted.

As The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 covers work to party structures (i.e. walls and floors between flats), a developer adding storeys to an existing apartment block is likely to have to serve Party Wall Notices before carrying out that work.


What building works are NOT notifiable under the Party Wall etc. Act 1996

Any minor work that is unlikely to affect the Party Wall’s structural integrity will not require you to serve Party Wall Notices. So, you are free to put up shelves, rewire, replaster and redecorate an existing internal Party Wall without needing your neighbour’s permission.


The types of Party Wall Notices

There are three specific types of Party Wall Notices:

  • Section 1 – Line of Junction (one month’s notice)
  • Section 2 – Party Structure Notice (two months’ notice)
  • Section 6 – Adjacent Excavation (one month’s notice)

Which of these you will need will depend on the type of building work you are planning. In some cases, all three notices will need to be served. The Party Wall Notice/s detail your planned works and include your building plans.


Why Party Wall Notices are important

Although failing to serve Party Wall Notices and get a Party Wall Agreement is not illegal, by not serving Party Wall Notices you will be breaching a statutory duty and you will be risking paying for damage that wasn’t your fault.

This is because the Party Wall process gives detail and proof of the condition of the property before your building work starts. Without that, there is not much you can do if your neighbour claims that your building work has damaged your property. 

The courts usually take a poor view of people not serving Party Wall Notices and are likely to order you to pay for repairs. This could turn out to be very costly for you. 


What happens after you serve the Party Wall Notices?

The Adjoining Owner has 14 days to respond to your Party Wall Notice. The best case scenario is that they consent and you draw up a Party Wall Agreement. This, importantly, includes proof of the condition of the Adjoining Owner’s property before building work starts, usually in the form of a Photographic Schedule of Condition. This document could prove invaluable if there are any disputes about possible damage your neighbour claims to have been caused by your building works.

If they haven’t responded by then, it counts as not agreeing or ‘dissenting’ to your works. 

At this point, you serve a further notice, which they are asked to respond to within 10 days. 

If you still get no response, your surveyor will be able to appoint an independent third party surveyor to represent your neighbour’s interests in the Party Wall. 


Who is responsible for the Party Wall surveyors’ fees?

As it is their building works that are being carried out, it is typically the Building Owner’s responsibility to pay for their own and for the Adjoining Owner’s fees. 

The Building Owner has the right to challenge the Adjoining Owner’s surveyor fees if they feel that they are unreasonable. They can do this by referring the matter to the third surveyor or by appealing the fees in the County Court. You have to take action quickly, though, as any appeal process must be started within 14 days of the invoice being presented.

It doesn’t happen often, but the Adjoining Owner could be liable for fees if they ask the Building Owner to carry out work over and above the Building Owner’s initial intention. This could include asking for the Party Wall to be built higher than the original plans, or for a different specification of building materials.


How Richmond Futures can help you 

If you are planning to carry out building works, we suggest you start the ball rolling on your Party Wall Notices up to a year ahead of your planned start time, to avoid any delays down the line.

You can serve Party Wall Notices before you’ve been granted planning permission for your works, and getting your Notices organised early will be one less thing on your mind, and one less task on your to do list. 

Using an expert surveyor to draw up your Party Wall Notices will ensure the detail is accurate and will give you the best chance of the process going smoothly with your neighbour.

For our fee as your Party Wall surveyor, we will prepare and serve the Notices, carry out the Photographic Schedule of Condition, make or obtain a Party Wall Award and deal with any other matters arising from a dispute.


Contact Richmond Futures today

If you have building works you would like to discuss with our experienced and qualified team of Party Wall surveyors, we would be delighted to help you.

As members of the Faculty of Party Wall Surveyors, we give you a free, no obligation, 15-minute consultation advising you on the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 and talking you through the Party Wall process.

You can call us on 0208 412 7967, or email us at info@richmondfutures.co.uk

We look forward to hearing from you!