May 24, 2024

Your guide to the Party Wall Act 1996

The Party Wall Act, also known as the Party Wall etc Act 1996, provides a framework for preventing and resolving disputes between neighbouring parties which share a ‘party wall’.

A party wall refers to a shared property boundary comprising a wall which is either:

  • Part of a building
  • Part of the property grounds, such as a garden wall

The Act also covers ‘party structures’, such as shared boundaries in flats or other buildings where different parts are owned by different people.

The Act does not cover wooden fences or agreed but unmarked boundaries.

Purpose and scope

The purpose of the Act is to reduce the chances of a dispute arising between neighbouring parties when works are being carried out on a Party Wall.  It also allows a party doing works to a Party Wall to be allowed reasonable access to the adjoining property should the need arise, for example to erect scaffolding.

It is based on the premise of shared courtesy, requiring the party carrying out the work (or contracting someone else to carry it out on their behalf) to inform their neighbours about the work.

To carry out work on a party wall, you must inform your neighbours about:

  • Building on or near the boundary between your properties
  • Working on an existing party wall
  • Digging below the foundation level of their property
  • Removing chimneys from a party wall
  • Cutting into a party wall
  • Making a party wall taller or shorter, or knocking it down
  • If access is required to enable works to be undertaken

You must give notice to your neighbours in writing of between two and 12 months before you start doing the work.

Coming to a decision

It is then up to your neighbours to give or refuse consent in writing, within 14 days. If they fail to respond then the presumption is that they consent to the works. If they refuse this will start the dispute resolution process detailed in the Act. However, even if they consent a Party Wall Award will usually be required and it is best practice to obtain one because it identifies the condition of your property should any damage be occurred during the works.

They may also serve a counter notice, requesting that additional work is done at the same time. If they benefit from these works, they’ll have to pay for it. You may have to split the cost of repairing a defect or repair highlighted by a counter notice.

A Party Wall Award is a binding document which lays out what work is permitted, when it can be carried out, access requirements, who is responsible for paying for it and it sets out the condition of the property should any damage occur during the works.

As a final step, you can appeal the result of a party wall award within 14 days by filing an appellant’s notice with the county court.

The Act in practice

As an example, consider two neighbours in a row of terraces.

When a wall is constructed around the garden of a terraced property, it becomes a party wall because it divides one property from the ones next to it.

The person in one house wants to build it up because they feel it is too low and not secure enough for their young children.

This person has a legitimate reason for wanting to make changes to the party wall, but they must inform their neighbours of their intent to do so.

The neighbour agrees to the work but serves a counter notice requesting that the wall is knocked down and repaired due to a defect in its foundation.

Once the work is agreed, they are ordered to split the cost of the rebuild with their neighbour because it benefits them both.

We can advise you on navigating the Party Wall Act and any disputes or concerns with arise with your neighbours as a result of undertaking work on your property.

Need advice on making changes to party walls on your property? Please contact a member of our Construction Law team.