The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 is a complicated piece of legislation…
…that concerns what must be done if you are about to work near to a boundary or a party wall, and identifies the form and content of notices that must be given by home owners when they are excavating, constructing foundations near a neighbouring owners’ building or structure, or working in many different circumstances on a wall that is a shared and often dividing wall.
Exactly which type of notice needs to be served is complicated, and different types of notice require different time periods between the date of the notice and when the works can begin…
…And, the obligations are not optional!
Call our expert team today on 0800 088 6004 for a free initial assessment.
What is a Party Wall Agreement?
A Party Wall Agreement (technically called “an award”) is a legally binding document, drawn up by Surveyors (often one for each party) which defines what work can be done and how any work which is being undertaken, needs to be done. It usually includes a schedule of condition to enable a “before and after” assessment to take place to make sure there is no damage.
What Is The Party Wall Act 1996
The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 is a complicated piece of legislation that concerns what must be done if you are about to work near to a boundary or a party wall and identifies the form and content of notices that must be given by home owners when they are excavating, constructing foundations near a neighbouring owners’ building or structure, or working in many different circumstances on a wall that is a shared and often dividing wall or structure.
Exactly which type of notice needs to be served is complicated, and different types of notice require different time periods between the date of the notice and when the works can begin.
And, the obligations are not optional!
Party Wall Act guidance - What Can you Do?
If you are planning works we can advise you in relation to you will need advice on your legal obligations under the Party Wall Act, and if you are worried about works that your neighbour is planning or has already started, we can advise you on what you should do to protect your property from damage.
What is a Party Wall Notice?
A building owner who is proposing to commence work on a party wall must, by law, give written notice of their intention to commence this work.
Do I Need a Party Wall Award?
It is important to remember that the Party Wall Act process is not just recommended, it is compulsory, and in all normal circumstances there is an absolute requirement for neighbours who are undertaking works that fall within the Act to serve the correct notice at least one month before, and on occasions at least two months before the date on which the proposed work will begin.
If the correct types of notices are served by anyone undertaking building works, and with the correct notice period given, and the adjoining owner does not respond, this does not mean under the Act that approval has being given for the works to begin without surveyors being appointed to represent the parties. Neighbours have the right to ensure the formal document called a Party Wall Act Award is drawn up, and usually all at the cost of the household doing the building work. The general rule is that under the Act any land owner who receives a notice is entitled to have their own surveyor appointed to be paid for by the property who wishes to undertake the building works
What Should You Do if Your Neighbour has Not served the Correct Party Wall Notice?
If you are faced with building works being undertaken by your neighbours unlawfully, when they should have served a Party Wall Act Award, the danger to you is that serious damage will be caused to the structure of your property and you will face difficulties in proving whether or not the damage pre-dates the building work.
For that reason, in many cases surveyors appointed under the Party Wall Act prepare schedules of condition before the works begin, so that protection is provided to all of the home owners and so that it can clearly and obviously be shown whether or not any damage was caused by the works.
Additionally, when the proper procedures in the Party Wall Act are followed, surveyors can identify exactly what works are allowed, what access can and should be provided, and the parties can work together so that everyone’s position is protected.
However, if a neighbour decides to begin work without complying with their obligations under the Act, or inadvertently begins work because they are not aware of their legal obligations to serve proper notices, then an application for an injunction can be made to protect the home owner who faces unlawful building works in breach of the Party Wall Act and without proper notice having been given.
The usual rule with Party Wall Act injunctions is that a Court will make the party in default pay the legal costs.
However, time is extremely short in such cases, delay can prejudice the possibility of obtaining an injunction and leave a home owner in a difficult position where they do not have the protection of the Party Wall Act, and do not have an opportunity to prevent the neighbour from continuing with the unlawful works
How can you appeal a Party Wall Act Award? Appeals
The Party Wall Act Award is the document prepared by the appointed surveyors setting out usually what works can be undertaken, and how and when. It binds the parties.
The surveyor has a unique statutory role. But they do get things wrong.
Once a surveyor has prepared a Party Wall Act Award, there is only a very limited time available to any of the parties to appeal the contents of the Award.
By section 10(17) of the Party Wall Act, the parties can appeal to the County Court to modify or rescind the terms of the Award.
We can assist with these appeals, there are very particular technical requirements for any appeals.
You must act within days to be able to appeal.
How much will legal action cost? Funding your legal action
As expert party wall Solicitors, we are able to provide you with an initial assessment of your case at reasonable cost, so you can understand exactly what the issues are and what your options are.
In appropriate cases, we can consider Conditional Fee Agreements, and the use of legal expenses insurance.
Because of the time limits involved in objecting under the Party Wall Act, appealing any Party Wall Act Award, and obtaining an injunction from the Court if works have commenced in breach of the Party Wall Act, it is very important to take legal advice from a specialist Party Wall Act Solicitor as soon as possible.
If you have concerns over building works being planned or undertaken by your neighbours, we can assist. However, there are deadlines that apply and it is important to ensure that you receive expert advice at an early stage.
As specialists in these cases we act for clients nationwide to resolve their legal difficulties.