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Posted 29 Sep 2023

What Is A Party Wall Agreement?

buy / flat / house

For certain projects, a party wall agreement helps you comply with the law and reassure neighbours. Here's my party wall agreement guide.

Do you know how a party wall agreement works and if you need one?

If you do need one, then understanding how to get a party wall agreement is important to comply with the law, protect your property, and stay on good terms with neighbours.

A party wall is a shared property boundary, standing on the land of two or more property owners. It is often a part of two buildings, along the dividing line – i.e. a wall between two houses – but shared garden walls can also count.

Shared walls are typically found in semi-detached or terraced houses, but can also apply to properties like flats and apartments. They are often structural – if you’re a first time buyer, during viewings it’s worth taking note of the party walls you would share with neighbours.

Party wall agreements protect property owners’ interests and ensure renovation or construction work does not lead to disputes – or damage neighbouring properties. 

In this detailed guide I’ll run through what you need to know about reaching a party wall agreement.

What is the UK law on party walls?

The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 applies in England and Wales. The legislation covers the following:

  • Building up or against the limit between two properties
  • Work performed directly on an established party wall or party wall structure
  • Excavation near to and below the foundation level of neighbouring buildings

It is legislation designed to ensure an agreement and if necessary, the resolution of disputes between property owners.

This could involve a variety of building projects. A few examples of these include, but are not limited to: 

  • Loft conversions that involve a party wall
  • Basements that involve extending a party wall downwards
  • Removing chimney breasts or projections from a party wall
  • Any work carried out on garden boundary walls
  • Demolishing or taking down a party wall
  • Insertion of a damp-proof course into a party wall
  • The construction of an extension on your property that involves a party wall

Repairing a party wall is also a common use case. If both adjoining owners on either side of the party wall would benefit from the repairs, the initiator may ask the other to pay for some of the work.

What is a party wall agreement?

Party wall agreements are needed for larger construction projects within your property that could affect the structural integrity of a wall shared between neighbours.

They include outdoor spaces, primarily work carried out that could affect garden walls between properties – wooden fences or hedges do not fit this definition. Minor work like drilling, electrical work, or plastering is excluded.

The government provides an explanatory booklet detailing the scenarios where you need to tell neighbours about work affecting a party wall.

And if you’re looking for a party wall agreement template, the booklet also includes several example letters to help you get started. 

What is a party wall notice?

A party wall notice is a legal requirement served to your neighbours in order to carry out work near or on your shared property boundary. This written notice must be served by a minimum of at least two months in advance to any construction projects.

The property owner intending to carry out the work must serve a formal notice to the affected neighbours. The notice outlines the proposed work and the intended start date.

The affected party must respond to this notice in writing within 14 days. In this case, they have a few options:

  • Consent to the proposed work entirely
  • Request modifications to the plans
  • Object to the notice

If the affected party objects, or doesn’t reply in 14 days, it initiates a dispute resolution process that involves the appointment of a party wall surveyor.

Each party may individually appoint a surveyor or agree to share one.

What is the role of the party wall surveyor?

A party wall surveyor can determine the extent of the work and necessary safeguards to protect the interests of both parties. They can assess the risk of this work before construction begins. 

Surveyors are in charge of setting out a party wall award, which outlines the specifics on what work can be carried out, how, when and who should pay.

If either side doesn’t agree with the award, they have 14 days to appeal at a county court.

Should you need a surveyor, commission one belonging to a reputable professional body such as the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

Party wall agreement: Other concerns

Obtaining planning permission or building regulations approval is not a substitute for a party wall agreement with an affected neighbour.

And even if you have a share of freehold, make sure you have an agreement with other co-freeholders.

In case you have already started building and realised that a party wall will be affected, it’s important to stop the process immediately. Reach an agreement with the neighbours as soon as possible to avoid a dispute or potentially, legal action.

Anyone carrying out building works affecting party walls must avoid unnecessarily inconveniencing their neighbour, protect their property from damage and pay for any harm caused if something goes wrong.

Similarly, if neighbours are carrying out work that could have a detrimental effect on your property, speak to them immediately. If they don’t take remedial action, consider applying for a party wall injunction from a court.

As an adjoining owner or occupier, you cannot stop a neighbour from permitted work that complies with the Party Wall etc. Act 1996. However, the serving of a notice and dispute process, if required, does give you the opportunity to influence their work – for example, how and when it takes place.

Final Thoughts

As the issues around a party wall vary greatly depending on the circumstances, getting an agreement in place can be complex.

But if you need one, it’s important to handle the process carefully and do things the right way. Where possible, maintaining good communication with neighbours can reduce the risk of disputes escalating and potentially, incurring high costs.

I hope this article has answered your main queries around how a party wall agreement works.

Elsewhere on our blog you can also find a variety of articles that could help you as a property owner or occupier. We can help you gain more insight and in-depth knowledge about the property issues that matter to you.

If you have any further queries, or you’d like to ask about a property in our portfolio, we are here for you! Please do not hesitate to contact us.

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