Property Dispute Resolution expert, Mike Hansom, explains when you will need to serve a Party Wall Agreement and the procedure to be followed afterwards.
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The legal term for a party wall agreement is an ‘Award’. It is needed if you plan to carry out any work to or near a party wall. You must tell your neighbours by serving them with a Party Wall Notice under the Party Wall Act 1996, and if they do not confirm their agreement, have surveyors produce a Party Wall Award in writing.
Occasionally, the proposed work may be so minor that service of a notice is not necessary. For example, replastering the wall or cutting into it to replace recessed electric wiring is unlikely to require a Notice. However, you should always advise your neighbour of your intentions in advance.
Types of Party Wall Notice
There are three types of party wall notice.
A party structure notice is required where the proposed work will directly affect the party wall structure. Typical examples are cutting holes in the wall to insert beams and pad stones, removing a chimney breast, cutting in flashings, or increasing the strength or height of the wall, e.g. to house an extension, or to repair or rebuild the wall.
A notice of adjacent excavation must be served where you intend:
- to excavate within 3 metres of your neighbour’s building and to a depth lower than the bottom of their foundations;
- to excavate within 6 metres of your neighbour’s building, if any part of the excavation will intersect with a plane drawn downwards at an angle of 45 degrees from the bottom of their foundations, taken at a line level with the face of their external wall. This will generally mean that your neighbour has piled foundations.
A line of junction notice is necessary if you propose constructing a new wall adjacent to or astride a boundary.
When do you need to serve a Party Wall Notice?
If your proposed works fall into any of the above categories, you must serve a party wall notice on every neighbouring property affected at least two months before commencing work. Once notice has been served, you must begin work within a year.
If work commences without proper notice being given, your neighbour(s) can seek an injunction from the court to force you to stop.
What happens after you serve a Party Wall Notice?
Once you have served notice, your neighbour(s) may either:
- give their consent to the works in writing;
- object to the works in writing;
- do nothing.
If 14 days pass from service of your notice and your neighbour(s) has done nothing, a ‘dispute’ is deemed to have arisen. This does not mean you are in a dispute with your neighbour, only that you must comply with the next steps of drawing up the Award.
If a dispute arises, either expressly or as a result of your neighbour’s silence, you must appoint a surveyor. You can agree to instruct a surveyor jointly, or each appoint your own. If your neighbour fails or refuses to appoint a surveyor, you can appoint one on their behalf. The surveyors will agree on a ‘party wall award’.
A Party Wall Award is a legal document that says:
- what work is permitted;
- how and when it is to be carried out;
- who will pay for which part and how much will be paid (including the surveyor’s fees).
The Award authorises you to work on the wall. If the work is necessitated by your proposed changes, you can expect the Award to make you liable to pay the costs. If the wall is in need of repair, the Award is likely to apportion the costs so they are shared between the two owners.
If your plans change along the way meaning you wish to undertake different or extra work, you will need to serve a new party wall notice and draw up a different or supplemental Award.
If you or your neighbour(s) do not agree with the Party Wall Award, within 14 days of receiving it, the award can be appealed to the County Court. To do so, you will need to file an appellant’s notice, but this can result in significant legal costs being incurred.