What is a Party Wall?

What is a Party Wall?

The main types of party walls are:

  • A wall that stands on the boundary between a building owner and an adjoining owner's land. The wall may be part of one building (such as a house wall that is also the boundary wall) or part of two separate buildings (such as the shared wall in a semi-detached house or a terraced row of houses).
  • A wall on the building owner's land, where the adjoining owner has a building that is enclosed by that same wall (for example, the adjoining owner's garage).

A party fence wall is a wall that stands on the boundary, but has no buildings attached to it. The classic example is a garden wall. Wooden fences are not party fence walls.

What is the Party Wall Act 1996?

The Party Wall Act 1996 provides a statutory framework to enable neighbours who share a boundary to carry out building works that involve:

  • Building or demolishing a party wall or structure.
  • Carrying out repairs to party structures.
  • Excavating a site within six metres of neighbouring buildings.

The Act was introduced because a building owner's building works can cause damage to an adjoining owner's buildings and interrupt the adjoining owner's own use and enjoyment of the party wall or structure. It provides a dispute resolution procedure to protect the interests of the adjoining owner, while giving the building owner the rights it needs to carry out its works. This is usually achieved by an expert surveyor (usually a party wall surveyor) making a binding party wall award, which will:

  • Govern the extent of the building owner's works.
  • Set out the manner in which the works are carried out.
  • Document the original condition of the adjoining owner's land in case the works cause damage.

What are the building owner's rights and obligations?

If you are the building owner, you must ensure that the following rights and obligations are complied with:

  • You must give an appropriate notice to the adjoining owner(s).
  • You must carry out the works on your notice and start those works within 12 months of the notice.
  • You must exercise reasonable care when carrying out works and avoid unnecessary inconvenience to an adjoining owner during the works.
  • You must compensate an adjoining owner for damage to property caused by the works, including paying all expenses relating to the works.

The legal consequences

If you fail to comply with the PWA 1996 Act, you will be deprived of Act's protection, therefore any damage or loss sustained by an adjoining owner would be actionable in private nuisance and trespass. You may also be found in breach of statutory duty if you do not serve a notice under the act.

What are the adjoining owner's rights and obligations?

If you are the adjoining owner, you must ensure that the following rights and obligations are complied with:

  • You have the right to raise a dispute in response to the building owner's notice, which would trigger a requirement for a party wall surveyor to make a party wall award.
  • In some circumstances you may serve a counter notice requiring the building owner to incorporate additional works into their works.
  • You cannot prevent the building owner from carrying out works that they are entitled to undertake.
  • After receiving sufficient notice you must allow the building owner and its workmen access to your land to carry out work.
  • If you require additional works to be carried out you may have to contribute to the cost of the works.

Should you need to take further action in respect of a breach, private nuisance, trespass or boundary dispute then please do not hesitate to contact a member of our Litigation or Property Departments at an office of your choice.