Oakfield Building Chartered Surveyors

When do I need a Party Wall Agreement?

A Party Wall Agreement is needed when certain types of work are being undertaken which could impact a party wall or building fabric. It is commonly required for projects such as loft conversions, extensions, the fitting of a new damp proof course, and digging of foundations. If you are planning to carry out major works such as these and you live in a detached, semi-detached or terraced house, or in an apartment, you should check whether your work is notifiable under the Party Wall Act. A surveyor with party wall expertise will be able to advise you on this if you are not certain. Contact Oakfield Chartered Surveyors for details of services available.

What is a party wall agreement
Party Wall act

What is a party wall?

A party wall is a shared wall which separates buildings or land belonging to two different owners. It can sit astride the boundary between two properties – a Type A party wall, or it can sit entirely on the property of one owner, but be used by both to separate their buildings – a Type B party wall. An example of a Type A wall could be a wall between two semi-detached houses. An example of a Type B wall could be where a second house was constructed adjacent to an existing house and an existing wall was used rather than a new wall being constructed to separate the two dwellings.

Where a party wall does not form part of a building and separates only land, it is referred to as a Party Fence Wall. The term Party Fence Wall is only used to describe masonry walls, not other types of boundaries such as fences or hedges – these are not covered by the Party Wall Act, and are dealt with through separate legislation.

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Party Wall agreement

What is a Party Wall Agreement?

A Party Wall Agreement is a document which records the agreement reached between the owners of the properties which have shared use of the party wall. The owner of the property where the proposed works are to be carried out is referred to as the building owner. The owners of adjacent properties are referred to as adjoining owners. If an agreement is reached between the building owner and the adjoining owner as soon as the Party Wall Notice is served, the notice could be used as a form of Party Wall Agreement, signed by the adjoining owner to show consent.

Often a Party Wall Agreement refers to an Award document drafted by an impartial or “agreed” party wall surveyor. When the adjoining owner has objections to the works proposed by the building owner, the agreed party wall surveyor will draft and serve a Party Notice Award. Unless the adjoining owner lodges an appeal against the Party Notice Award, this then becomes the Party Wall Agreement, acting as a record of consent by the adjoining owner to the works.

Is a Party Wall Agreement a legal requirement?

A Party Wall Agreement or party wall award is required by law for specific types of works, as laid out in the Party Wall etc. Act 1996. The Party Wall Act covers work which will be carried out to an existing party wall. It may be applicable in any property with a party wall, depending on the nature of the works.

The Act is designed to facilitate development, by providing a framework for resolving disputes and enabling works to proceed. It also serves to provide a fair

There are no enforcements in the Party Wall Act, but if you fail to follow the procedures set out in the Act you may find your adjoining neighbour resorts to legal action, for example seeking an injunction against you. This could bring your work to a halt and could lead to additional costs being incurred.

What are my rights to carry out work under the Party Wall Act?

The Party Wall Act provides a list of works which can be carried out to a party wall, provided that the correct procedures are followed. Works which may be carried out include:

  • Making repairs to a party wall
  • Fitting a damp proof course
  • Underpinning the wall
  • Cutting into the party wall, for example to insert a beam
  • Extending the party wall downwards, for example to build a basement
  • Extending the party wall upwards, for example to add another storey
  • Demolishing and replacing a defective party wall
  • Cutting off projections from a party wall, for example removing a chimney breast
Party Wall notice

What are the options for reaching a Party Wall Agreement?

The right to carry out these works is conditional on the correct notification process being followed to secure an agreement. The simplest form of agreement is where the adjoining owner is notified by the building owner of the proposed works and immediately agrees to them. Another form of Party Wall Agreement is reached via the Party Wall Award process outlined later.

When is a Party Wall Agreement not needed?

Minor works, such as plastering, electrical work and fitting of fixtures such as shelves, do not usually require a Party Wall Agreement. As a rule of thumb, if the works will not cause any damage to the structure or strength of the party wall, and will not result in damage to the adjoining owner’s side of the wall, you should not need to serve notice under the Party Wall Act. However, if you are in any doubt about whether the work you have planned requires an agreement, we would recommend that you seek advice from a professional surveyor. Our party wall experts at Oakfield Chartered Surveyors would be happy to advise you on this and other aspects of your building works.

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Duties under the Party Wall Act

The building owner must

• Not cause unnecessary inconvenience to the adjoining owner
• Ensure that temporary protection is provided for adjacent buildings, where needed

The adjoining owner may request that funds be set aside to cover costs in the event of damage to the adjoining property arising from the works. The Act also provides for fair payment to be made to the adjoining owner where use is being made of a party wall which was originally paid for by the adjoining owner.

What happens if you do not have a Party Wall Agreement?

If you start works on a party wall without having a Party Wall Agreement in place you run the risk of having work on your project stopped if your adjoining neighbour chooses to seek an injunction. Failing to serve notice and get an agreement in place is not a criminal offence, but it does mean you could have civil action taken against you. It also means that you could incur additional costs if you need to compensate builders for loss of income while the project is on hold.

Can I sell my house without a Party Wall Agreement?

If the works have already been carried out, you cannot obtain a retrospective Party Wall Agreement. When you come to sell your property, this may be identified in a search by your buyer’s solicitor.

How to serve a Party Wall Notice to adjoining owners in the party wall building

The best way to start the process of notifying the adjoining owners is to call round in person to speak to them. Talking through your plans first and giving your neighbours a chance to ask questions is generally the best way to ensure a smooth process for your project. If you are fortunate enough to have neighbours who agree straightaway to your proposed works, you should still serve a Party Wall Notice and ask that they provide written consent so that you have a record in case confirmation is needed at any stage. The Party Wall Notice should provide full details of the planned works, including the following information:

• A detailed description of the planned works and how they will be carried out
• Drawings of the plans
• Planned dates for the work to be undertaken
• Hours when work will done
• Rights of access information
• Your name and address
• The name of your surveyor, if you have one

The Party Wall Notice must include the date when it was served. This is important because the adjoining owner needs to know how long remains for providing a response. The adjoining owner is entitled to issue a counter-notice. If they choose to do this the counter-notice needs to be served within one month of the original Party Wall Notice’s being served.

Including the date of serving the Party Wall Notice is also important because the notice is valid for a period of 12 months. If the works have not been started within this timeframe, the notice is treated as expired and the party wall notification process will have to be restarted.

Party Wall Notice

How does the Party Wall Award process work?

If you don’t obtain consent from the adjoining owners when you contact them and serve a Party Wall Notice, you will need to agree the appointment of an impartial party wall surveyor. If both parties have their own surveyors, the surveyors may be asked to select a third, impartial surveyor, referred to as the Party Wall Surveyor. The party wall surveyor’s remit is to remain independent, working within the terms of the Party Wall Act, to authorise the work which is permitted to proceed and how this must be done. This is done by making a Party Wall Award. The Party Wall Award acts as your Party Wall Agreement, and it sets out the authorisation for works to be carried out, including details of when it may be done. The award document should also include a Schedule of Condition, which provides a record of the condition of the adjoining owner’s property prior to works being started. The award is final unless it is rescinded by a court through an appeals process.

Expert advice for your Party Wall Agreement

At Oakfield Chartered Surveyors we have a team of experts in party wall matters. Our practice is RICS-regulated, assuring you of the highest standards of service. Call us to speak to one of our surveyors for advice on moving forward with your party wall project.
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