Broadly speaking, where buildings belonging to different owners are separated by a wall, the Party Wall etc Act 1996 allows the owner on one side to carry out building work to the wall – providing the correct notice has been served to the owner on the other side.
If the work is not done properly, the Act sets out a dispute resolution procedure to be followed.
Where the adjoining owner does not agree with the proposed works, a dispute is deemed to have arisen and is referred to a surveyor who draws up a document called an “award”. This will define the permitted work and any conditions that apply.
Work to existing party walls
The Act applies to any existing wall separating buildings and any wall of a building which stands astride the legal boundary.
There is a strict procedure for serving a party wall notice – it must be in a set format and give details of the proposed work. Every adjoining owner must be served.
Work to party walls without the agreement of the adjoining owner/s or in accordance with any subsequent award may give rise to an application to a County Court for an injunction, if the works have caused, or are anticipated to cause, damage. Supportive expert surveyor evidence is essential when making such a claim.
Role of surveyors
Once a dispute arises, it is determined by a surveyor. The surveyor is limited to the party wall matters under the Act and cannot extend their jurisdiction to other issues such as deciding boundary disputes or awarding sums of money.
The costs of the “award” are normally dealt with by the surveyor.
The Act does allow a power of appeal to the County Court, but there is a strict time limit of 14 days.