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10 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE PARTY WALL ACT:
- The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 (“PWA”) provides that a neighbour must be notified of any work intended to be carried out which may affect the structural strength or support function of a party wall or may cause damage to the neighbouring side of the wall.
- A building owner must comply with the PWA where they intend to:
- Carry out works to an existing party wall, including rebuilding a wall to a reduced height;
- Build a new party wall;
- Build within 3 or 6 metres of the adjoining owner’s walls or buildings where the works involve excavation.
- A party wall is one which stands astride the boundary of land belonging to two or more different owners. It may be part of one building or may separate two or more buildings. A wall is also a party wall if it stands wholly on one owner’s land but is used by two or more owners to separate their buildings.
- A party fence wall is one which separates land but is not part of a building, such as a garden wall. A wooden fence is not a party fence wall for the purposes of the PWA.
- The rights and obligations of the building owner vary according to the type of works which are being undertaken. Generally speaking, there is a requirement to serve notice on the adjoining owner, to carry out the works in accordance with the agreed plans, to exercise reasonable care when carrying out the works, to avoid causing unnecessary inconvenience to the adjoining owner during the works, to compensate the adjoining owner for any damage caused, and to pay for all expenses relating to the works.
- If the building owner fails to serve notice, the adjoining owner can seek an Injunction preventing the works being carried out or compensation. However, where the notice has been correctly served, it is an offence for the adjoining owner to refuse access to the land or obstruct the works. The building owner is permitted (with police assistance) to break any doors or fences which prevent their right of access.
- The obligations on the building owner must be complied with, otherwise they can be liable for breach of statutory duty, for which damages can be sought, and they will not benefit from the protection provided by the PWA. Where damage or loss is caused as a result of a failure to comply with the PWA, the adjoining land owner has a claim in private nuisance against the building owner, who may also be liable in trespass.
- The PWA does not affect any requirement to obtain planning permission or building regulation approval and likewise these do not negate the requirements of the PWA.
- The PWA provides a dispute resolution procedure which gives the building owner the rights needed to carry out the works, whilst at the same time protecting the interests of the adjoining owner.
- Where agreement cannot be reached, the parties can instruct a surveyor to draw up an Award. A Party Wall Award will govern the extent of the building owner’s works, set out the manner in which the works are to be carried out and document the original condition of the land in case damage is subsequently caused. The Award is final and binding and can only be overturned on appeal to the County Court. Any appeal does not automatically stay an Award, meaning that the building works can continue unless a stay or injunction are granted.