If you or your neighbour are planning works at or near your common boundary, you may be familiar with the Party Wall Etc. Act 1996. It exists to make sure shared walls remain safely intact and can help iron out disputes should they arise.
However, if work starts without a formal party wall agreement in place, you and/or your neighbour could get into all manner of trouble.
Here’s what to do if your neighbour ignores the Party Wall Act…
What is the Party Wall Act?
Firstly, it’s a good idea to have a basic understanding of the Party Wall Act and when it comes into play.
The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 applies to houses in England and Wales and its basic purpose is to prevent any building work that may compromise the integrity of shared walls. If either you or your neighbour wants to carry out works at or near a party wall, you need to give the other notice before going ahead.
Party wall agreements are developed to agree terms of what is to be carried out, how it will be done and the rights and responsibilities of the respective property owners. In this way, the Act provides the legal basis for the resolution of disputes over party walls
What kind of works require party wall agreements?
The Act doesn’t come into play for minor works such as plastering, adding electrical sockets or drilling to put up a shelf. However, the following list includes a few of the things that require notice to be given:
- Removing a chimney from a party wall
- Building an extension above a party wall
- Building a wall or adding a structural beam that joins a party wall
- Building a wall on the boundary
- Cutting into/knocking down/rebuilding a party wall
- Changing a party wall e.g. making it taller/shorter/deeper/thicker
- Significant work to shared structures e.g. floors between flats
Depending on the nature of work being proposed, the timescale requirements for advance notification of an Adjoining Owner will vary (between 1 and 2 months).
What if my neighbour carries out works without serving notice?
If your neighbour prepares to start works that could affect a party wall and it’s the first you’ve heard of it, you’re likely to be surprised… and possibly concerned about their plans!
Step one is to talk to them as soon as possible and find out what their plans are. It’s perfectly possible they had no idea they were supposed to give you notice. Then you have the opportunity to consider the proposals and obtain your own advice, as you have a right to do under the Act.
It is also worth knowing that if your neighbour notifies you under the Act, they are responsible for covering the costs of you appointing a surveyor. This can either be a jointly appointed surveyor on behalf of the Building Owner (the party carrying out the work), or directly appointed by the Adjoining Owner (the neighbour affected by the proposals).
If works carry on without you being served a party wall notice, that doesn’t mean your neighbour simply gets away with ignoring the process. Your first step is to contact a solicitor and see where you stand.
Under the Act, your neighbour has a duty to put right any damage the works cause to your property, and the law certainly disapproves of people who fail to serve notice and then damage property!
What if my neighbour ignores my party wall notice?
If you want to carry out works, serve your neighbour a party wall notice and hear nothing back after 14 days, you’ll need to serve them with another notice. They then have a further 10 days to respond.
If you still don’t get a response, you can appoint a surveyor on their behalf which, although sounds unfair to you, means they will be unable to make spurious claims once your works are completed.
Then you should be able to go ahead with your plans safe in the knowledge you’ve followed the Party Wall Act and done everything correctly.
Find out more
It can be extremely frustrating when neighbours act less than neighbourly but, if you follow the Act, the law is on your side. Whether your neighbour is planning works or you’re the one hoping to go ahead with property plans, we’re here to help.
At Trinity Rose, our Chartered Surveyors have years of experience administering the Act and would be delighted to answer any questions you may have. Please get in touch with us to find out more.