PARTY WALL SURVEYORS

What every property owner should know

If you share a wall with your neighbour, then you have a party wall. As experienced party wall surveyors we can provide you with help and advice, whether you’re a homeowner or a landlord – this page summarises your rights and your responsibilities.

What is a party wall?

A party wall or structure is any part of your property that you share with a neighbour. So if you live in a semi-detached or a terraced house, or in a flat, you’ll almost certainly share at least one wall – and in a flat the ceiling (or floor) may be shared with your upstairs (or downstairs) neighbour. So a party structure is anything that separates buildings, or parts of buildings, belonging to different owners.

If one building is smaller than the other, then only the part of the wall they both use is a party wall. The rest belongs to the person whose land it’s standing on.

You’ll need to get agreement from your neighbour before you can start such building work as:

  • An extension
  • Damp proofing
  • Internal refurbishment (of some kinds)
  • Structural changes.

Digging foundations within 3-6 metres of your neighbour’s property may also need written agreement from your neighbour in some cases.

The Party Wall etc Act

Under the Act you’re allowed to work on or near a shared wall, but you must consider the interests of anyone else who might be affected by the work.

Not surprisingly, building work involving a party wall can sometimes lead to arguments, and even to battles in court. To avoid such problems the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 sets out guidelines for work involving a party wall or party fence. It recommends using a party wall surveyor to look after your interests and property. Both parties can appoint their own surveyor or if both property owners use an ‘agreed surveyor’ the property owner doing the work will pay less in fees, and it can help you avoid possible misunderstandings.

Our surveyors can prepare a Schedule of Condition before work starts on a party wall, so there’s a clear record of the condition of areas of next door property likely to affected by the intended work. The schedule makes it easier to find out if the work has caused any damage to next door.

This schedule then forms part of the Party Wall Award document which both parties are given copies of.

What the Act doesn’t cover

You don’t need to worry about ordinary, everyday jobs that only affect your part of the wall, like:

  • Fixing electrical plugs
  • Putting up shelves or wall units
  • Replastering
  • Adding or replacing some recessed electrical wiring or sockets

What the Act does cover

You do need to be careful about other things. For instance, without written agreement from the other property owner you can’t:

  • Cut into a wall to create a bearing point for a beam (e.g. in a loft conversion)
  • Put in a damp proof course all the way through a wall
  • Raise the party wall (or cut off any objects that might stop you from raising it)
  • Knock down or rebuild the wall
  • Underpin all or part of the wall
  • Protect adjoining walls by cutting a flashing into an neighbouring building
  • Build a new wall on the boundary line (or the ‘line of junction’) between two properties
  • Dig foundations within three metres of a nearby structure that are lower than the foundations of that structure
  • Dig foundations within six metres of a nearby structure, and below a line drawn down at 45° from the bottom of its foundations.

What do I do next?

If you’re planning to do anything in the list above you have to give your neighbours written notice at least two months before you start (for work on a party wall) or one month before for excavation work or work along the ‘line of junction’.

If your next-door neighbour is a tenant or a leaseholder, don’t forget to tell the landlord as well. If the next-door property has more than one owner, then they all need to know. And don’t forget to write to all the owners and occupiers above or below your own property (e.g. if you live in a block of flats).

It’s common sense to be considerate, and to talk to your neighbours in detail about the work you want to do even before you write to them. That way you can sort out any possible problems well in advance. The neighbours may be more likely to consent (agree) in writing to your written notice (which they must do within 14 days).

What if there’s a dispute?

That’s where we come in. Under the terms of the act, each party can appoint a surveyor, or both can appoint a joint or agreed surveyor who will work impartially. The surveyor draws up a document called an ‘Award’ which:

  • Lists the work to be done and how it is likely to affect the neighbouring property.
  • Records the condition of the next door property in a Schedule of Condition before work starts
  • If any damage to next doors property is caused by the work, it determines who will pay for the work if this is in dispute (though as a rule the person who started the work pays all the expenses)

It may also give access to both properties so the party wall surveyors can check the work while it’s being done if needed.

Click here to contact one of our party wall surveyors, or call us today on 01473 623 656 or freephone 0800 652 8285