Office: 0208 412 7967
Mobile: 07340 447 904

Frequently asked questions about party walls

Our expert team at Richmond Futures, a leading firm of surveyors in the London area, specialises in party walls. It is an area of surveying where experience really counts – the process of negotiating party wall agreements with neighbours can be delicate, as they can often be nervous about how your building works might affect their property.

In this article, we share answers to the questions we are most commonly asked about party walls.

What is a party wall? 

A ‘party wall’ is a wall that stands astride a boundary wall that is owned by at least two different owners. 

It could be a wall that is part of one building, or that separates two buildings, or it could be a ‘party wall fence’ which is not technically part of the building itself but does stand astride the boundary line shared between two different owners to separate their land.

A party wall may stand wholly on one owner’s land, but be used by adjoining neighbours to separate their buildings, for example when a wall already exists that a neighbour builds up against in the future without building their own wall.

Party structures are also covered in the Party Wall Act. This is a wider definition that covers floors, walls or other types of partition that separate buildings or areas of buildings that are accessed by separate staircases or entrances; most commonly in blocks of flats. 


What is the Party Wall Act? 

The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 is a piece of UK legislation applicable in England and Wales, designed to help to prevent and resolve disputes relating to party walls, boundary walls and any excavations near neighbouring buildings.


Do I need to consider the Party Wall Act and notify my neighbours if I’m planning building works on my house? 

If you are planning to carry out building works described in the Party Wall Act, you must give adjoining owners advance notice and get their permission before you start. 

You do this by issuing Party Wall Notices, that are best prepared by a professional surveyor to make sure they are correct. 

People sometimes try to save money by finding online templates they can download and fill out themselves, but if they don’t complete them correctly (and we have seen many that aren’t) it can cause complications and delays further on in the process. 


What kind of works need to go through the party wall process?

You must follow the correct party wall procedures if you are undertaking building works on an existing party wall or a shared structure like a chimney, or if you will be building on or close to the boundary wall.

You may also need to serve Party Wall Notices if you are excavating within three metres of a neighbouring building, depending on the depth of the foundations or, in some cases, if you are excavating further away. A qualified chartered surveyor specialising in party walls, like the team at Richmond Futures, will be able to advise you on this.


What is the 3-metre rule for a party wall? 

If you need to excavate near your neighbour’s (‘adjoining owner’s) building or land, you are required by the Party Wall Act to serve them with a party wall notice.

The ‘within 3 metres’ rule applies where you need to dig deeper than your neighbour’s foundations.

There is also a 6-metre rule that applies where any part of your building work will meet a line drawn downwards at 45 degrees in the direction of your excavation, from the bottom of your neighbour’s foundations.


Are party wall agreements compulsory? 

Yes, they are. Failing to serve Party Wall Notices correctly, at the right time, and not getting your neighbour’s agreement before you start works, can lead to legal disputes. Your neighbour may choose to take you to court to stop your works and/or ask for compensation for any damage caused to their property.

Legal action could prove very costly for you, and have a significant impact on the timings of your project.


When do I need to appoint a party wall surveyor? 

We strongly advise that you appoint a surveyor as early as possible in the process, ideally three months in advance of the scheduled building start date. 

The sooner they can prepare your notices and help you to engage your neighbour and hopefully get their consent, the less chance there is of your building works getting stalled by delays as you wait to get your Party Wall Notices agreed, especially if your neighbour dissents and you have to appoint a third party wall surveyor to agree an award. 


When should I serve the Party Wall Notices to my neighbour? 

It depends on what you are getting their consent for. The Party Wall Act says that Section 1 – Line of Junction notices and Section 6 – Adjacent Excavation notices require one month’s notice before your building work is scheduled to start. For Section 2 – Party Structure notices you need to give two months’ notice.

You must serve the notices in writing, by person or by post. If your neighbour agrees, you can send them electronically.


What does a party wall surveyor do? 

Your party wall surveyor will advise you whether your works are notifiable by the Party Wall Act, and make sure you understand the process, your role, your responsibilities and your obligations. 

When we are appointed as a wall party surveyor, we will go over all the details of your proposed works, which may include inspecting the site. 

Then, we will prepare all required Party Wall Notices, in line with the guidelines stipulated in the Party Wall Act. 

We can serve the notices for you, if you would like. Note: it can increase the chances of a quick and favourable outcome if you have a good relationship with your neighbours and can serve the notices in person, giving you a chance to talk through your plans and answer any questions they may have.

When there is agreement for you to go ahead, we will conduct a site visit and prepare a Photographic Schedule of Condition, which will visually record in meticulous detail the condition of the neighbouring property before work starts. This can be reassuring for your neighbour, to demonstrate and prove any damage caused by the works, and it also protects you from any spurious claim of damage during or after the works have been completed.

We can liaise with your neighbour and their surveyor throughout the process where necessary, acting as a go between in any dispute.


Can a neighbour refuse to agree to my party wall building works? 

The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 is an enabling Act, which means that it is there to help facilitate building works, rather than block them, at the same time as protecting all parties’ interests.

So, if your neighbour dissents (refuses to agree) from your Party Wall Notice, it doesn’t mean that you will not be able to go ahead, as they don’t have the legal right to prevent you from using your rights under the Party Wall Act.

However, you do need to follow the correct process and their dissent is likely to cause you extra costs and delays to your project. 

Your negotiation with them is likely to include putting reasonable measures in place to ensure that their building is protected from foreseeable damage, and to be considerate to them during the building works, i.e. not unnecessarily inconveniencing them with restricted access, or by working during anti-social hours.


How do you solve a party wall dispute? 

If your surveyor and your neighbour’s surveyor reach a stalemate, a third surveyor can be appointed to resolve a party wall dispute.

They will act impartially and make sure that the provisions within the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 are carefully followed.

Their involvement should help to break a deadlock if you and the adjoining owner can’t agree on a particular point.


Who pays the fees of a party wall surveyor? 

Because the party initiating the building works is the one benefiting from the works, they are responsible for all parties’ party wall process costs, not just their own. If their neighbour decides to appoint their own surveyor to protect their interests, the building owner (the one carrying out the works) will have to pay those costs and, if a third surveyor needs to be appointed because the first two surveyors can’t agree, the building owner will have to pay their costs too. 

In certain circumstances, for example if the work on the party wall is necessary because of required repairs or because of a defect, the surveyor/s may decide that the costs should be shared between the building owner and the adjoining owner. 


Is a wooden fence a party wall?

No, although they can be shared – separating two properties’ boundaries, hedges and wooden fences with wooden or concrete posts are not classed as party fence walls. Party fence walls have no buildings attached to them, and they are usually built out of bricks.


Contact Richmond Futures today

If you have any other questions about party walls, or you have a party wall project that you need support with now, our experienced and qualified team of surveyors are here to help you, and ready to respond quickly.

You can call us on 0208 412 7967, or email us at

We look forward to hearing from you!

All our surveyors at Richmond Futures are members of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), the industry’s regulatory authority. Their strict regulations mean that we have to follow rules of conduct and keep up to date with the latest developments in the industry, ensuring that we are committed to providing you with expert advice that is clear, concise, accurate and in your best interests.

Schedule of Condition

Avoid any construction-related disputes with your neighbour – safeguard yourself by having a surveyor conduct an inspection of their property and record its condition in the form of a Schedule of Condition, including clear photographs. This key step could help to prevent costly arguments later down the line when it comes time for building work.

Consulting with a surveyor before proposing any structural changes can ensure the surrounding properties are properly protected. A detailed report is created to show neighbouring property owners how their current condition and any existing damage, if applicable, will be documented at the start of construction – a useful point of reference for comparison later down the line.

Before any building works begin, a Schedule of Condition should be completed to determine who is liable in the event that damage arises. This will provide an unbiased point of reference for both you and your neighbour to clarify responsibility; moreover it gives everyone involved peace-of-mind knowing all potential issues are addressed from the outset.

Your neighbour has the right to dissent to the works you are proposing in your Party Wall Notice. If this happens, you are then deemed to be ‘in dispute’ under the Act. This dispute then needs to be resolved, either by an ‘Agreed Surveyor’ – a surveyor who, as the name suggests, has been agreed on by both the homeowner and the Adjoining Owner or, alternatively, by two separate surveyors, who will put in place a Party Wall Award.

Party Wall Award

When a Party Wall Notice is not agreed to, the official resolution that follows is termed a “Party Wall Award”. This document contains three critical components: an award detailing how works should progress, drawings exhibiting details of these proposed activities and photos accompanied by a Schedule of Condition for the adjoining property.

This document will provide a comprehensive look at the properties in question, including detailed information about their owners and surveyors.

Unless otherwise stated, the one who stands to gain from building works is responsible for covering associated Party Wall costs. This includes compensating surveyors representing both property owners involved in this process.

What happens upon the completion of the works

To ensure the utmost satisfaction of both parties, we highly recommend performing a Schedule of Condition to compare the pre-work state against post-completion. Doing so will help confirm that your Party Wall works have been completed in line with expectations and leave you neighbours feeling contented.

How Westville Associates can help you

We are proud to have achieved a distinguished status of accreditation from the Faculty of Party Wall Surveyors. This recognition highlights our expertise in this specialised field and reflects our commitment towards upholding the requirements set by The Party Wall etc Act 1996.

Our experienced team of accredited Party Wall professionals are here to help. If you have queries or want more information about the process, book a free 15 minute consultation with us at no obligation!

We would be delighted to discuss any questions or concerns you may have regarding properties and surveys.

Email us at or give us a call on 02084 127 967 and one of our experienced surveyors will be happy to help you.