What are Party Wall Awards and why do I need to consider the Party Wall Act 1996 (“the Act”)?

Following our recent article in the November issue on making alterations to leasehold properties, we discuss in more detail Party Wall Awards. Certain types of work you may wish to undertake can damage the neighbouring property as well as disturb its owner’s use and enjoyment of the party wall or structure. In order to provide protection to the owner of a neighbouring property and at the same time to give you the rights to carry out the works you require, the government introduced the Party Wall Act.

Examples of a Party Wall

There are various scenarios when the Act will be triggered. One of the examples is when you are planning to repair a shared wall in a semi-detached house or a terraced row of houses or alternatively the wall which is adjacent to your neighbouring owner’s garage. The party wall or party structures will also apply to the floors and ceilings between your and your neighbour’s properties. The other most common example which may be of significance is building of a new wall or repair or removal of a garden wall that you share with your neighbour. Wooden fences are not considered to be party wall fences. If you decide to extend into the roof space or remove a chimney breast, you should also consider whether these will trigger the Act.

Types of work covered under the Act


Generally, there are three main types of work involved which are covered under the Act.

  • Building or demolishing a party wall or structure.
  • Carrying out works to party structures.
  • Excavating a site within three or six metres of the neighbouring buildings.

Procedure

Once you have established that the work you intend to carry out is subject to the Party Wall Act, you would need to serve a notice on all the owners of adjoining properties about the planned works. The time frame for the notice and whether the consent of the neighbours is sufficient will depend on the type of works you are planning to undertake. You should also bear in mind that there is a statutory timeframe of one year to start the necessary works from the date of the notice. Your neighbour should serve a counter notice incorporating any additional works into the works if necessary, such as adding deeper and stronger foundations or strengthening the foundations of your neighbour’s own building.

If no agreement is reached between you and the adjourning neighbour following the counter notice, there will be a deemed dispute which triggers Section 10 of the Act. This provides for an agreed expert surveyor or three surveyors to be appointed. They will make a binding party wall award. The conclusive award may determine “the right to execute any work, the timeframe and manner of executing any work and any other matter arising out of or incidental to the dispute including the costs of making the award”

Who is liable for the cost of the works and costs of the party wall award?

Usually the costs of the building works are covered by you as they will be for your own benefit. It is also likely that reasonable professional fees (surveyor’s and legal costs) and insurance fees will also be covered by you. If your neighbour requested additional works to be carried out in its counter-notice, then your neighbour may be liable for the costs of those works.

Consequences of the failure to comply with the Act

If you fail to comply with the Act, you will be deprived of the Act's protection. If your neighbour sustained any loss or damage as a result of your breach, your neighbour may bring an action in private nuisance and trespass against you and obtain an injunction or compensation. You may also be found in breach of your statutory duty if you failed to serve the necessary notices or you carried out works which are outside the authority given by the Act.

If you need any advice on Party Wall Awards and / or Property Litigation matters more widely, you may wish to contact our Dispute Resolution Team who have substantive experience in this area.

Karen Bright is a Partner in the Dispute Resolution Team at Bishop & Sewell LLP.

Tel: 020 7631 4141
Email propertyexpert@bishopandsewell.co.uk


January 2017