Party Wall FAQs

Party Wall issues are commonplace in cities around the UK, and we are often asked about aspects of the Party Wall Act and how it affects building owners and adjoining owners.

We have collated a selection these questions into our Party Wall FAQs.

If you have any further queries about the Party Wall Act that we haven’t covered please submit them using our Contact Us form. We will be in touch to help answer them, and will also update our FAQs regularly.

Party Wall FAQs

  • Do I need to serve a party wall notice?

    You must tell your neighbour if you want to :

    • Build on or at the boundary of your two properties
    • Work on an existing party wall or party structure
    • Excavate below and near to the foundation level of their building or structure

    Where work falls under the provisions of the Act you must inform all Adjoining Owners by giving written notice, normally at least two months before the planned start on site. The notice is only valid for a year, so it is also important that it is not be served too early.

    We always advise building owners to speak to their neighbours before serving a formal notice. Neighbours that feel they are being consulted and kept informed are far less likely to immediately appoint a surveyor when a notice is served. This can avoid running up a large bill for surveyor’s fees.

    For more information on the types of Party Wall Notices and when to issue them, see our article.

  • How much notice do you have to give before starting work under the party wall act?

    Normally at least two months before the planned start of work to the party wall. The notice is only valid for a year, so it should not be served too early.

    For more information on Party Wall Notices, see our article.

  • Who pays a Party Wall surveyor’s fees?

    Usually the Building Owner will pay all costs associated with drawing up the award including the adjoining owner’s surveyors’ fees, if the works are solely for the Building Owner’s benefit. It is therefore important that the whole process is managed efficiently to keep to keep adjoining owner’s surveyors fees to a minimum.

    Adjoining owners’ surveyors are not required to quote in advance so their fees are calculated by reference to an hourly rate with the final figure being agreed with the building owner’s surveyor. Should the two surveyors fail to agree upon a reasonable amount the matter can be referred to the Third Surveyor who has the final say.

  • Can you reach a party wall agreement without a surveyor?

    Surveyors are only appointed where a dispute occurs, either because an adjoining owner does not respond, or where they respond and indicate there is a dispute.

    Adjoining owners may instead consent to a notice and this consent can be conditional, for instance provided a record of the condition of their premises is undertaken before the works begin.

    Having consented to a notice, any subsequent dispute can be referred to surveyors if needed, for instance if damage is caused and cannot be agreed between the owners.

  • Does a party wall award transfer to a new adjoining owner?

    An Award transfers to any subsequent adjoining owners provided it remains valid.

    However, if the owners proposing the work change, then the Award is void and the process must begin again

     

  • What is an Adjoining Owner under the party wall act?

    The adjoining owner is the owner of a property adjacent to where work is proposed

    The owner of the property where the work is proposed is referred to as the building owner

  • Does the party wall act allow access to a neighbours’ property?

    There are rights to access your neighbour’s land to carry out works authorised by the Party Wall Act but only where the proposed access is reasonably necessary to carry out that work. Notice must be given, which is normally 14 days, unless access is required urgently to deal with an emergency. Access should only be allowed if ‘necessary’ so if there is another way to undertake work without requiring access, even if it costs more to do so, that’s what you should do.

  • Can a neighbour refuse a party wall agreement?

    No, provided the correct procedures are followed your neighbour cannot stop you undertaking works which you are authorised to undertake by the Party Wall Act.

  • What is the definition of a party wall?

    A party wall is a wall which either separates buildings, or is built astride the boundary and forms part of a building.

  • Undertaking excavation near neighbouring buildings?

    Excavation within three metres of and below the level of a neighbour’s foundations is work falling under the Party Wall Act.

    Deep excavation within 6 metres of a neighbour’s foundations may also fall under the Party Wall Act.

  • What is a party fence wall?

    A wall built astride the boundary which does not form part of a building.

  • Can I build against a party wall?

    Yes, this work may fall under the Party Wall Act if it involves cutting into or away from the party wall, or excavating below the foundations of the party wall.

  • How long does a party wall agreement last?

    Generally one year from the date of the Award.

  • Does the Party Wall act apply in Scotland?

    The Party Wall etc Act applies in England & Wales only.

  • Is a wooden fence a party wall?

    No, although references are sometimes made to shared or ‘party fences’.  These do not fall under the Party Wall Act.

  • Can I build an extension on a party wall?

    Party walls may be raised to form extensions, but not lengthened without your neighbour’s consent.  Party fence walls can also be raised or used to form extensions.

  • Who is responsible for repairing a party wall?

    Maintenance of party walls is shared according to the responsibility for any defect or want of repair and the use to which the owners make of the wall.  For instance, a party wall could form part of one person’s building but be only a boundary wall for another owner.

  • What is a party fence?

    Generally, a fence shared by two owners.  These do not fall under the Party Wall Act.

  • What is the difference between a party wall and a boundary wall?

    A party wall either separates buildings, or is built astride the boundary and forms part of a building.

    A party fence wall stands astride the boundary but does not form part of a building. A garden wall is described as a Party Fence Wall if sits on the boundary and separates two owners’ land. If a Building Owner wishes to undertake work to a Party Fence Wall then notice should be served in the same way as if works were to a Party Wall.

    A boundary wall does not form part of a building, and does not stand astride the boundary but on one person’s land or the others.

  • Can I raise a party wall?

    Raising a party wall is authorised by the Party Wall Act provided the correct procedures are followed.

  • How close to a party wall can I build?

    Excavation within three metres of and below the level of a neighbour’s foundations is work falling under the Party Wall Act.

    Deep excavation within 6 metres of a neighbour’s foundations may also fall under the Party Wall Act.

    If you are not excavating below the level of a party wall, the Party Wall Act does not define how close you can build, but if the work involves cutting into or away from the Party Wall it will fall under the Party Wall Act and the correct procedures must be followed.

  • The Party Wall Act 1996 isn’t just best practice guidance.

    It’s a legal requirement for you to fulfil your obligation to Adjoining Owners if the work you wish to undertake is covered by the Act. It’s worth double-checking with an experienced party wall surveyor whether this applies to the work your planning before you start.

    If the work you wish to carry out isn’t covered under the Act, you have peace of mind and assurance you can continue without breaching any rules.

  • Can the Party Wall Act be applied retrospectively?

    When talking about ‘applying’ the Party Wall Act, Owners often mean whether they can have works agreed on by Adjoining Owners after the work has been carried out.

    While there is no reference to this in the Party Wall Act, it’s a big risk to take. If the Adjoining Owners dissent (disagree with the work) matters can end up in court with the associated costly legal fees this will incur. The Courts take a very dim view in instances where the Party Wall process has not been followed.

    It’s better to be safe than sorry. Check with an experienced party wall surveyor before starting works. Most surveyors will happily provide some initial advice for little or no fee.

    If the work you’re planning is covered by the Party Wall Act, appoint a surveyor and follow the Party Wall process. If your neighbour consents to the work you will be free to carry on, with all parties assured that matters have been properly dealt with from a legal perspective, having incurred modest fees in the process.

    If your neighbour dissents, then you need a Party Wall surveyor to properly move forward with the works.

  • Who enforces the Party Wall Act?

    The Party Wall Act isn’t ‘enforceable’ as such but any works that go ahead without consent risk an injunction being awarded by the Courts stopping all works. The usually substantial cost of any legal action to enforce the Party Wall process will in almost all instances be awarded against the owner carrying out the works.

    Adjoining Owners can take homeowners to court over unapproved works, especially if the works cause damage to the adjoining structure/s. A local council won’t be interested if somebody informs them Owners have undertaken work without consulting relevant parties, but parties can, and often do, litigate.

  • What work does the Party Wall Act cover?

    The Party Wall Act covers three types of work: building along a property boundary, excavating within given distances of a shared or adjoining structure, and altering a party structure. 

    We always advise that if you are at all unsure if your works fall into these categories please give us a call on 020 3744 2374 so we can give you peace of mind.

  • My neighbour has agreed to works on a Party Wall without being served notice. Can I go ahead?

    People often think a verbal consent from Adjoining Owners is all they need but unfortunately this is not the case.

    If an Adjoining Owner has said they agree to works without being served a party wall notice and officially consenting in writing, this won’t hold up.

    The Adjoining Owner/s must issue a written consent within 14 days of being given a party wall notice. 

  • What happens to a party wall notice when 14 days are up?

    If Adjoining Owners have given their agreement within 14 days, you can order a schedule of condition (if needed) and commence building works once the notices period expire.

    If Adjoining Owners have dissented, the process of reaching an amicable agreement via the production of an ‘Award’ begins.

    If after giving them a further 10 days, the Adjoining Owner hasn’t confirmed either way, they are deemed as dissented and a surveyor can be appointed on their behalf to produce the Award.

  • Can building work start before a Party Wall agreement is reached?

    The Party Wall Act is very clear that either written consent to the work or a ‘Party Wall Award’ must be in place to allow works to go ahead.

    This means not a single piece of work, even preparing the land or the surfaces, can go ahead before this happens or the Adjoining Owners may have a claim against you.

  • Is a garden wall a party wall?

    A garden wall is described as a Party Fence Wall if sits on the boundary and separates two owners’ land, and does not form part of a building. If a Building Owner wishes to undertake work to a Party Fence Wall then notice should be served in the same way as if works were to a Party Wall.

    If the wall sits on one side of the boundary only then this would not be considered a ‘party fence wall’ under the Party Wall Act. This is often referred to as a boundary or garden wall.

  • How long is a Party Wall Notice valid for?

    A Party Wall Notice will cease to have effect if the work to which it relates has not started within twelve months of the date on which the notice was served. 

    A Notice must be served at least two months before work will begin.

  • Who pays for a Party Wall surveyor?

    Usually the Building Owner will pay all costs associated with drawing up the award including the adjoining owner’s surveyors’ fees, if the works are solely for the Building Owner’s benefit. It is therefore important that the whole process is managed efficiently to keep to keep adjoining owner’s surveyors fees to a minimum.

    Adjoining owners’ surveyors are not required to quote in advance so their fees are calculated by reference to an hourly rate with the final figure being agreed with the building owner’s surveyor. Should the two surveyors fail to agree upon a reasonable amount the matter can be referred to the Third Surveyor who has the final say.

  • What party wall noise regulations are there?

    There is no specific requirement in the Party Wall Act to regulate noise from works. However, Section 7.1 of the Act contains the following provision :

    ‘A building owner shall not exercise any right conferred on him by this Act in such a manner or at such time as to cause unnecessary inconvenience to any adjoining owner or to any adjoining occupier.’

    A good Party Wall Award will incorporate this provision with a restriction on the hours that noisy works can be undertaken, and limiting such work to the working week.

  • Can I do a Party Wall agreement myself?

    No, unfortunately not. The Party Wall Act requires the appointment of a ‘surveyor’ who is not party to the matter. This means that it cannot be either of the owners, either the Building Owner undertaking work or the Adjoining Owner affected by the work next door. See our article on selecting a Party Wall surveyor.

    However, you can go ahead without a Party Wall agreement if your neighbour provides consent in writing for you to do so. This consent doesn’t have to be in any particular form, but it should include architects drawings to ensure your neighbour is clear about exactly what they are approving.

    No matter how amicable relations, many neighbours will want to protect their property with a properly qualified surveyor to oversee matters. In some instances your neighbour might settle for an ‘agreed surveyor’, who can act for both parties with independence and impartiality.

Further Guidance when appointing a Party Wall Surveyor

For information on how the Party Wall Act affects you as a Building Owner or as an Adjoining Owner, see our Party Wall Fact Sheet. For an explanation of some of the terminology used in the Act, see our Party Wall Glossary.

You can also find guidance on choosing a Party Wall Surveyor in our recent news article.

There is some further information in the government’s explanatory booklet on the Party Wall process.

If you are unsure how the Party Wall Act affects your property and want some advice please give us a call. If you would rather we called you instead, please fill in our Contact form and we will be in touch.

Contact

If you are planning work covered by the Act, or if you have received notice of work from a neighbour and want advice on how best to protect your property, please call our Enquiry line on 020 4534 3135; or contact :

Rickie Bloom

Director

DD : 020 7947 0960

M : 07816 845 160


Mark Amodio

Senior Director

DD : 020 4534 9339

M : 07803 504 021


Geoffrey Adams

Senior Director

DD : 020 7947 0965

M : 07507 709 434

To request a call back from a member of the Party Wall team, please fill in our Contact Us form. With offices in LondonBirmingham ManchesterBristol Plymouth we have surveyors based locally to your property all around the UK.

If you have further questions on the Party Wall process that we haven’t answered please submit them using our Contact Us form.

We will be updating our Party Wall FAQs regularly with any further questions that come up.

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