No, the Party Wall etc Act does not provide any facilities by which an existing boundary line dispute can be resolved. Any disputes of that nature should be settled through the proper court jurisdiction or, if both owners agree, through alternative resolution options such as arbitration, mediation, or independent research. Alternative dispute resolution venues like these can often be easier, faster, and cheaper for both parties involved. The RICS offer a service whereby they will refer you to an expert Surveyor who deals with such matters.
Yes. The Party Wall Act may supersede common law rights in certain circumstances. It will not do so in relation to construction works not specifically covered by the Act, and it may not unless all of the proper notices have been given and all other procedures have been properly implemented.
Must the Building Owner initiating work wait for one to two months after serving notice on neighbours before proceeding?
Work may begin early as long as all relevant Adjoining Owners agree in writing.
You do not need to appoint a Surveyor. The Owners can agree matters in writing between themselves if they are able to do so and, presumably, if they are satisfied that their interests are being properly protected.
Amongst many other duties, appointed Surveyors are authorised by Section 10 of the Act to determine in an award:
The Surveyors will usually, where possible, prepare a schedule of condition of the adjoining owners property before any work starts. In the event of damage, or alleged damage, caused by the works, the schedule will be of assistance in determining whether the notifiable works did actually cause damage.
The Surveyors will prepare, agree and serve an award that covers important aspects of the works such as working hours, access and safeguards to reduce the risk of damage occurring and they will provide a method of resolving disputes between the owners arising from the works.
The Surveyors more often than not, will retain the right within an award to make and serve further awards (eg: should damage occur, if the scope of notifiable works is required to be materially altered)
The Act does nothing at all to impact the ownership of any wall. Neither does it change the position of any property boundaries. Each owner has the right of support and protection of the entire wall – they share it.
Party Structure Notices need to be served at least 2 months before the Building Owner intends to start the work that is the subject of the Act. Notices relating to excavations should be served at least 1 month before work is started.
Sections 10(16) & 10(17) of the Act deals with this question, and as follows:
“(16) The award shall be conclusive and shall not except as provided by this section be questioned in any court.
(17) Either of the parties to the dispute may, within the period of fourteen days beginning with the day on which an award made under this section is served on him, appeal to the county court against the award and the county court may— (a) rescind the award or modify it in such manner as the court thinks fit; and (b) make such order as to costs as the court thinks fit.”
As soon as an Award is served, the Building Owner has the right to proceed with the notifiable works as set out in the provisions within the award.
An Adjoining Owner has 14 days from service to appeal an award.
A Building Owner also has 14 days from service to appeal an award.
It may be necessary for an adjoining owner to also seek an injunction in order to stop works until a court hearing is conducted. We would recommend that legal advice be sought prior to lodging an appeal and / or seeking an injunction particularly bearing in mind the costs and timescales that can be incurred.
Upon receipt of a Notice you have several options. You can consent to the proposed works, or dissent to the proposed works, If you fail to respond within 14 days you are deemed to have dissented.
When you dissent to a notice (or are deemed to have dissented) then the Act requires Surveyors to be appointed and they will prepare and serve a party wall award.
KMASS can review the notices and any details of the work / drawings provided and answer any questions you have in order to assist you in deciding how you wish to respond to a notice(s).
Costs are usually borne by the person carrying out the work (the Building Owner) although there are some unusual exceptions and in certain circumstances an Adjoining Owner may be liable for some costs particularly if they have served a counter notice under the provisions of the Act .
The Act allows appointed Surveyors to determine who pays costs and they are usually set out within an award.
Not all works are notifiable under the Act. In the first instance we suggest that you try to speak to your neighbour or otherwise ascertain detail of precisely what works are being carried out and whether they are notifiable under the Party Wall etc Act 1996.
If the works are notifiable under the Act, and notice has not been served and the procedures set out within the Party Wall etc Act 1996 are not being followed, then the works are unlawful and the building owner is in breach of their statutory duty.
You could apply for an injunction from the County Court to stop the work until such times as the provisions of the Act are complied with. If you do, you will likely be asked by the Court to provide an undertaking as to costs (which means that if the works are found to be non notifiable, or if the Court decides that your request for an injunction was not appropriate, you may be required to pay substantial costs including those of the building owner).
Except in the most extreme circumstances (such as significant and costly damage being caused by unauthorised works) we would suggest that you obtain legal advice prior to seeking an injunction, and you should always attempt to speak to your neighbour to understand their position and attitude towards your interests.
If you are carrying out work that is notifiable under the Act then you are required to serve Notice.
Examples of notifiable work are a) cutting into a party wall to install beams for a loft conversion, b) removing a chimney breast that is attached to a party wall, c) excavating for foundation for a house extension within 3 metres and below the level of the foundation to your neighbours property d) underpinning works to a party wall, e) Constructing a basement within certain distance of neighbours' property.
If you are carrying out notifiable work you must serve a Notice on the neighbour (adjoining owner). The Act sets out the timescale for serving the Notice. It is 2 months for works to a party wall or party structure, and 1 month for excavation works.
Upon receipt of a Notice, your neighbour (the Adjoining Owner) has several options. They can consent to the proposed works, or dissent to the proposed works, If they fail to respond within 14 days they are deemed to have dissented.
When the adjoining owner dissents to a notice (or is deemed to have dissented) then the Act requires Surveyors to be appointed and they will prepare and serve a party wall award.
KMASS can prepare Notices on your behalf for a modest fee.
The Act covers various construction related work to be carried out on existing party walls or structures, boundary walls or lines between properties, or excavation within 3 to 6 metres of a neighbouring building, structure, or wall, depending on the depth of the proposed excavation and the types of building foundations involved.
The Party Wall etc Act 1996 came into force of law on July 1, 1997 throughout all of England & Wales. The Act was based on London Building Acts which were found to be successful for many decades before it was extended to apply to all of England and Wales. It is intended to foster development while still protecting the rights of adjacent property owners. The Party Wall etc Act 1996 created a framework for resolving party wall disputes in relation to certain aspects of construction, renovation, and excavation with the purpose of attempting to avoid court action and expensive and costly delays.
A wall is defined as a Party Wall under the Act if it stands on both sides of the boundary which delineates land owned by at least two different owners and the wall is used to separate said land. Note that wooden fences do not fall under the definition of a party wall under the Party Wall etc Act of 1996. A wall separating dwellings is also a party wall. A floor separating different dwellings is a party structure and is also covered by the Act.
The Party Wall etc Act 1996 came into effect throughout England & Wales on the 1st July 1997 (it replaced Part Vi of the London Building Acts (Amendment) Act 1939 which was only applicable to the Inner London Boroughs).
If you are carrying out work that is notifiable under the Act then it applies to you.
KMASS can review the drawings for a modest fee and advise you whether or not the Act applies.
The link below should take you to a government site containing a .pdf copy of the Act: