What is a Party Wall Agreement?
The Party Wall Act 1996 came into force in 1997, so it is now law and gives you rights and responsibilities whichever the side of the 'wall' you are on i.e. whether you are planning/doing work on a relevant structure or if your neighbour is.
The Party Wall Act does not affect any requirement for Planning Permission or Building Regulation Approval for any work undertaken. Likewise, having Planning Permission and/or Building Regulation Approval does not negate the requirements under the Party Wall Act.
The Party Wall Act comes into effect if someone is planning to do work on a relevant structure, for the purposes of the Act 'party wall' does not just mean the wall between two semi-detached properties, it covers:
• A wall forming part of only one building but which is on the boundary line between two (or more) properties.
• A wall which is common to two (or more) properties, this includes where someone built a wall and a neighbour subsequent built something butting up to it.
• A garden wall, where the wall is astride the boundary line (or butts up against it) and is used to separate the properties but is not part of any building.
• Floors and ceilings of flats etc.
• Excavation near to a neighbouring property.
As with all work affecting neighbours, it is always better to reach a friendly agreement rather than resort to any law. Even where the work requires a notice to be served, it is better to informally discuss the intended work, consider the neighbours comments, and amend your plans (if appropriate) before serving the notice.
Work that can be done without notice or permission.
• Putting up shelves and wall units.
• Electrical rewiring.
Work that needs a notice and permission.
The general principle of the Party Wall Act is that all work which might have an effect upon the structural strength or support function of the party wall or might cause damage to the neighbouring side of the wall must be notified. If in doubt, advice should be sought from a local Building Control Office or professional surveyor/architect.
Work covered by the Party Wall Act includes:
• To demolish and/or rebuild a party wall.
• To increase the height or thickness of a party wall.
• Insertion of a damp proof course (either chemical or a physical dpc).
• Cutting into the party wall to take load bearing beams.
• Underpinning a party wall.
• Excavations within 3 metres of a neighbouring building where the excavation will go below the bottom of the foundations of the neighbouring building.
• Excavations within 6 metres of a neighbouring building where the excavation will go below a line drawn 45° downwards from the bottom of the foundations of the neighbouring building.
If the planned work is an excavation within the distance/depth covered by the Party Wall Act, the notice needs to be served at least one month before the planned start day of the work. Neighbouring parties must give written agreement within 14 days or a dispute is deemed to have occurred.
Once you have agreement
Once you have agreement, all work must comply with the notice. All the agreements should be retained to ensure that a record of the granted permission is kept; a subsequent purchaser of the property may wish to establish that the work was carried out in accordance with the Party Wall Act requirements.
It is a good idea to check your property insurance policy and notify your insurers that you are having work done to your property before starting renovation or alteration works. Make sure you are adequately covered by an ‘All Risks’ renovation insurance to cover the property being worked upon.