Most people find the thought of dealing with party wall issues a daunting prospect. The Party Wall Etc Act has many connotations, so it is no surprise that lots of people have difficulties with it.
Things can become even more convoluted in major cities like London, which have many period properties and buildings in close proximity to each other. It is vital that these issues are dealt with properly.
Explaining the Party Wall etc Act 1996
The Act provides rights and responsibilities whichever side of the ‘wall’ you are on. For the party carrying out the work the Act provides for rights not afforded by common law, such as access onto the neighbours land to carry out some or all of the proposed works, or provide temporary works (e.g. scaffolding) during the course of the works.
It is important to understand the Act whether it is you or your neighbour who proposes to carry out work on shared or close by structures. The Act covers work on structures such as shared walls, floors/ceilings of flats, garden walls, and excavations near a neighbouring property.
The general principle of the Act is that all work which might have an effect upon the structural strength or support function of a party wall or might cause damage to the neighbouring side of the wall must be notified.
Some of work covered by the Act is listed below:
- Demolishing and/or rebuilding a party wall.
- Increasing the height or thickness of a PW
- Cutting into the PW to take load bearing beams.
- Underpinning a PW.
- Excavations within 3 metres of a neighbouring building where the excavation will go below the bottom of the foundations of the neighbouring building.
- Excavations within 6 metres of a neighbouring building where the excavation will go below a line drawn 45° downwards from the bottom of the foundations of the neighbouring building.
Work which is not covered by the Act includes putting up shelves and wall units, replastering and electrical rewiring.
If your planned work on an existing structure falls under the Act, you must then issue a notice to all affected neighbouring parties. The neighbouring parties must then decide whether they wish to dispute the notice or not.
As with all work affecting neighbours, it is always better to reach a friendly agreement. Even where the work requires a notice to be served, it is better to informally discuss the intended work, consider the neighbours comments, and if practical amend your plans accordingly.