Party wall matters

Everyone wants to keep on good terms with their neighbours. However, it does not take much for party wall matters to cause issues and it is worth making sure you have an expert adviser on your side if they do. An independent Chartered Surveyor who specialises in The Party Wall etc Act 1996 (known as the ‘Party Wall Act’ or ‘The Act’) can help ensure you follow protocol to try and avoid disputes arising and to resolve these issues if they do.

What is a party wall?

Party walls sit on the land shared by two or more owners. They can either:

  • Form part of a building e.g. the wall that separates semi-detached or terraced houses.
  • Not form part of a building e.g. a garden wall (note that wooden fences are not considered party walls).

It is also worth knowing that if a wall or structure is wholly on one person’s land but separates buildings with different owners this is also considered a party wall.

What is an Adjoining Owner under the Party Wall etc Act 1996?

An Adjoining Owner is “any owner, and any occupier of land, buildings, storeys or rooms adjoining those of the Building Owner”.

Who is responsible for repairing a party wall?

You and your neighbour share this responsibility. Generally speaking, each neighbour should take care of the part of the ‘wall’ that is on their property. However, this is not always clear cut and you may need to talk to your neighbour to come to an agreement. A surveyor may be required if there are disputes about responsibility.

What is the Party Wall etc Act 1996?

The Act is relevant to houses in England and Wales. In a nutshell, its purpose is to prevent any building work that may compromise the integrity of shared walls.

With everything down in black and white, the Act provides the legal basis for the prevention and resolution of disputes over party walls, boundaries and excavations around neighbouring buildings.

What are my rights under the Act if I want to do work on an existing party wall?

The Act enables building owners to carry out a range of works at/near a party wall (assuming notice is given and proper procedures adhered to). Some examples of work you have right to complete include:

  • Demolish and rebuild a party wall
  • Underpin a party wall for structural repair
  • Underpin a party wall for a basement
  • Raise a party wall e.g. building another storey
  • Lower a party wall e.g. to build a basement
  • Cut into a party wall to take the bearing of a beam
  • Add a damp proof course
  • Build against a party wall

For a full list of projects you have rights to complete, see Section 2 of the Party Wall Act.

How do I inform the adjoining owner or owners?

In line with the Party Wall Act, you have to give your neighbours notice if you want to carry out works at/near a party wall. You need to do this before starting work but don’t need to have planning permission beforehand. You do this by serving a party wall notice.

You can use a party wall notice template to make sure you include all the necessary information. The government has party wall notice templates here. You may then either deliver the notice in person, by post or by email.

It is always a good idea to talk to your neighbours before giving them formal notice so that they understand your plans and the document doesn’t come as a shock!

What information should be included in the notice?

The information you must include depends on the specific work you want to complete. However, as a guide, notices should include:

  1. What work do you want to complete at/to the party wall
  2. When you propose starting work
  3. Whether the work requires special foundations
  4. Confirmation that you have a surveyor
  5. Request for acknowledgement of the Party Wall Notice

How much notice does a building owner have to give?

The amount of notice you must give depends on what work you want to complete and will be either one or two months’ notice (although your neighbour may agree to you starting work sooner). It is important to ask an experienced Chartered Surveyor to offer advice on timeframes for your particular project, to make sure notices are submitted correctly and in a timely manner. Failure to do so could lose your project valuable time.

Do I need a party wall agreement?

Once you’ve served a party wall notice, both you and your neighbour(s) will need a party wall agreement (known as a ‘Party Wall Award’) before getting started on works.

Party wall agreements should be sought if you are planning things such as:

  • building a new wall at the boundary
  • cutting into a party wall
  • making a party wall taller, shorter, deeper or thicker
  • removing chimneys from a party wall
  • knocking down and rebuilding a party wall
  • work to shared structures e.g. floors between flats
  • building an extension above a party wall
  • adding a new wall or structural bean that joins a party wall

Are there alternatives to a party wall agreement for minor works?

Not all works require a party wall agreement. Minor projects that have little risk of affecting the wall’s structural strength can be completed without consent or informing your neighbour e.g.

  • drilling into the wall to e.g. put up a shelf, fit kitchen units
  • plastering
  • adding/replacing wiring or electrical sockets

How long does the party wall process typically take?

The time taken for a party wall agreement can vary. Your neighbour may agree immediately and be happy for you to start work straight away. However, if a dispute arises and a party wall award is required, the process will be longer. You should expect to wait between two and six weeks, and longer if separate surveyors are appointed/more details are required e.g. drawings and measurements.

How long does a party wall agreement last?

A party wall agreement only lasts for one year, so do not serve the notice too soon.

What happens after serving notice?

You need to get written consent from your neighbour before you can get started on any work. This forms the Party Wall Agreement. Assuming you get this, it is an extremely good idea to then get a schedule of condition of your neighbour’s property in case they make future claims that your work has caused them damage.

With everything set up, you can get on with your plans.

What happens if my neighbour refuses to sign the agreement?

You should hear back within 14 days. If you have not heard anything after 10 days, you should send a reminder. If you still hear nothing or your neighbour refuses to sign the agreement, you should each ask a surveyor (or jointly appoint a single surveyor) to help resolve the dispute.

The party wall surveyor(s) will arrange an Award: a legal document detailing exactly how and when any work will proceed.

If you want to know what to do when your neighbour ignores the Party Wall Act,

Are there any costs associated with the party wall agreement? Who pays the surveyor’s fees?

It does not necessarily cost anything to arrange a party wall agreement, assuming your neighbour is happy with the proposal and willing to sign. However, if surveyors are required to help come to a party wall agreement, it is normal that the Building owner (the party carrying out the works) is responsible for the surveyor fees and costs for themselves and their neighbour. 

Can I get the required access to the neighbouring property?

Yes. Generally speaking, you are allowed access to your neighbour’s property to carry out party wall work. However, you should tell them what your plans are in the party wall notice and it is a very good idea to let them know when you will require access as soon as you know.

Do I need a party wall surveyor?

It is generally accepted that, due to the technical nature of the Party Wall Act, surveyors should be appointed to oversee the preparation and service of notices and awards. We help owners who are considering building works close to neighbouring properties and also for those who have been served notices under the Act.

The hope is that everyone understands and is happy with the plans and everything can go ahead without a hitch. However, there are times when this is not the case.

We have years of experience on both sides of the Act and it is our duty to resolve party wall disputes in an impartial and practical way. We work hard to ensure disagreements are settled quickly and good neighbourly relationships are hopefully maintained. 

Can you reach a party wall agreement without a surveyor?

The short answer is ‘yes’. However, it is an extremely good idea to ask an experienced, professional party wall surveyor to help. They will ensure everything is completed correctly and you have the best opportunity to carry out your plans without getting on the wrong side of your neighbours.

Get in touch

To find out more about our party wall services, Alternatively, if you’ve got any questions about party wall agreements or need advice regarding a party wall notice, please call us on 01962 880426 or Our experienced team will be able to give you guidance on party wall matters. Our knowledgeable Chartered Surveyors have years of experience in exactly this area and will be happy to help.