The Party Wall etc Act 1996 provides a framework for preventing and resolving disputes in relation to building works near neighbouring properties. Adem Esen from local solicitors Wiseman Lee explains
If you are planning to undertake works to your property, such as converting your loft or extending your house, you may have to give your neighbours notice in accordance with the Party Wall etc Act 1996.
Adjoining owners can agree or disagree with what is proposed and have certain rights and protections. If there is a disagreement, the Act provides a mechanism and process for resolving disputes.
Works covered by the Act include:
- New structures, such as an extension on the boundary between two properties.
- Work to an existing party wall or structure.
- Excavation near to or below the foundation level of neighbouring structures.
- Making a party wall taller, shorter or thicker.
- Removing chimney breasts from a party wall.
- Cutting into a party wall beam.
- Knocking down and rebuilding a party wall or fence.
Notice must be given in writing and include certain information, and in some cases, plans showing the work proposed. If you and your neighbour cannot agree, you must appoint a surveyor. You can appoint a joint surveyor or each of you can appoint your own. The surveyors will then agree the terms of an award.
The award is a legally binding document that will deal with matters including:
- The work that may be carried out.
- How and when the work will be carried out.
- The amount that each party will pay for the work (including the surveyor’s fees).
The word surveyor is not defined, but you cannot act as your own surveyor. Any surveyor acting on the behalf of either party must be qualified and wholly impartial. If there is a dispute as to who to appoint, the Act says you can appoint a surveyor on behalf of your neighbour if they refuse or fail to do so. This is important as it prevents delays to projects.
The Act may grant surveyors and contractors legal access to your neighbour’s property during usual working hours to carry out certain building works.
When carrying out the building works, you must avoid causing unnecessary inconvenience to the adjoining owners and occupiers and protect your neighbour’s property from damage, and must fix or pay for any damage caused.
Wiseman Lee is located at 9–13 Cambridge Park, Wanstead, E11 2PU. For more information, call 020 8215 1000