The Party Wall Act 1996 is designed to help builders and developers stop and resolve disputes over party walls, boundary walls and excavations. If you want to carry out building work covered by the Act you have to give your neighbours notice about what you’ll be doing, and they have the right to disagree.
Party wall disputes are common. Without the support of a party wall surveyor, things can and do go horribly wrong. Here’s some advice about keeping on the right side of the law from your local expert party wall surveyors in London.
The most common party wall issues
Many party wall issues are relatively simple to resolve. The most common tend to be:
- To convert a loft
- To extend a building
- To develop a basement
- To add a damp proof course
- To add flashings
- To raise the height of the wall
- To increase the thickness of the wall
- To demolish and rebuild a wall
- To underpin a wall if there’s been subsidence, or to prevent subsidence
If you want to carry out basic work like hanging shelves or adding new light sockets, it doesn’t come under the Party Wall Act.
What happens if you get it wrong?
- If you fail to do what you’re supposed to do under the Act, it isn’t criminal offence. But your neighbours can take you to court on a civil basis and ask for an injunction to stop the work until a proper party wall agreement is in place. Obviously this causes delays as well as costing you more.
- If you delay a building project your builder will be affected, and might ask for compensation for the time wasted. They may decide to start another job while you sort your party wall issues out, which means they might not come back to complete your job for some time, maybe weeks or even months.
- Your neighbours can ask for compensation if they can prove they’ve suffered a loss because of the work. The courts might even demand that you demolish what’s been built and start again.
What if your party wall is damaged by a neighbour?
If damage is done to your own property during party wall work and your neighbour has followed all the right legal procedures, they are legally bound to mend your wall at their own expense.
How to serve a Party Wall notice
- If the work you’re doing demands a Party Wall Act notice, you need to do it at least 2 months before the works begin, and at least a month before any excavation starts
- You need to serve notice on every owner of every neighbouring property that’ll be affected, whether they are freeholders or leaseholders
- You don’t have to get planning permission to serve a notice – the two are not always connected
- Once the Party Wall Agreement is finalised, you can take up to a year to start the work
- If your plans change afterwards, for example you want to increase the depth or size of an extension, it’s usually OK to provide neighbours with revised drawings, without needing a new notice
Tackle issues before they become nightmares – Get it right first time
The financial risk is considerable. Property development and construction work are expensive enough as it is, without disputes adding to the cost. Get experts like us on board at the earliest opportunity and things should go smoothly. Your budget will thank you for it!