POSTED 02 March 2018 General

What is a Party Wall Agreement - Do I Need It?

The unfortunately named ‘Party Wall’ is the wall you share with your neighbours, most commonly in semi-detached or terraced houses.

To work on or even near shared walls or boundaries, the Party Wall Act requires you to get your neighbour’s approval in writing, at which point you have what is known as a ‘party wall agreement’ or a 'party wall notice'. 

To ensure this is formally binding party wall surveyors are usually employed with a party wall award provided to ensure you are covered to carry out the works. Do it right, and it’s not that complicated. Honest!

I hate paperwork. Is there any way out of this?

If you live in Scotland or Northern Ireland, the Party Wall Act doesn’t apply. Also, you don’t need your neighbour’s permission for DIY such as drilling, or cutting into the wall to insert a plug socket, although do check with a professional if unsure.

So it’s just if I want to make structural changes to the party wall?

You’d definitely need a party wall agreement in that case. The most common cases are:

  • making repairs to the wall
  • inserting damp proofing
  • changing its thickness or height
  • cutting into the wall to take the bearing of a beam (for example for a loft conversion)
  • demolishing and rebuilding it
  • cutting off projections (for example, removing a chimney breast).

But there are other cases.

Such as?

Building up to, or across, your boundary with your neighbour. If you want to build a garden wall along the boundary or put an extension on your house that comes as far as the boundary, you’ll need a party wall agreement.

The floors or ceilings separating flats are covered by the Party Wall Act too.

I need written permission to build a garden wall?!

Yes. Not hedges and fences though.

Wait, you said I might need permission to even work near the wall?

You need a party wall agreement if you want to excavate within 3 metres of your neighbour’s property, and the work is as deep as their foundations.

You also need a party wall agreement if your excavations are within 6 metres, and your work would cross a 45° line from the bottom of their foundations towards your excavations. The government have provided a visual example for that as shown below:

party wall info

 

That’s actually a good idea; I’ll draw pictures and you tell me if I need a party wall agreement

 

 

 

party wall agreement 1

party wall agreement 2

party wall agreement 3

This is ridiculous; can’t I just talk to my neighbour like a human being?

That is the recommendation; you’re far more likely to get an agreement if you’ve explained the work in person. Ideally, the party wall agreement will just be a quick follow-up to a conversation.

So what actually is a party wall notice?

It’s really just a letter telling your neighbours about your plans. The trick is to deliver it at least two months before you intend to start work, and include the following details, or the notice will be invalid:

  • Your name and address (and those of joint owners).
  • The name and address of all owners of the neighbouring building. (If you don’t know the name, you are allowed to address your letter to ‘The Owner’ but you must hand it to a person on the premises, or stick it in a prominent place, not just post it through the door).
  • The address of the building to be worked on.
  • A full description of what you propose to do (include plans if you have them; excavation works require a plan and a description).
  • The date you intend to start work.
  • The day the notice was delivered.
  • A clear statement that it’s “a notice under the provisions of the Party Wall Act”.
  • A signature from all building owners

What happens if i don't serve a party wall notice? 

Some homeowners fail to serve a party wall notice to their neighbour(s) for various reasons, some of these include:

  • I didn't think it was mandatory to do so
  • I get on with my neighbour(s), they won't mind
  • I don't get on with my neighbour(s) 
  • If any damage occurs, I'll pay for it
  • Party wall surveyors are too expensive
  • The neighbour(s) can't do anything once I've started the work.

Whatever the reason may be, by not serving a party wall notice to your neighbour, they are fully entitled to take you to court for any infractions or damage caused.

Your defence is weakened by lack of party wall notice and award, with the possibilities of the legal fees falling on your lap. The benefits of serving a party wall notice and receiving a party wall award include:

  • Being an effective form of arbitration between yourself and neighbour to prevent any direct confrontations.
  • Although you may be happy to pay for any damages caused to your neighbour's property, a party wall award protects you from any additional or false claims.
  • Once the notice is served and aware provided, your neighbour can't prevent you from any planned/agreed work.
  • The cost of notices and awards are much less than the possible thousands in legal costs

Ok, that’s not actually that complicated.

It's not, just remember to include all of the above, and see a surveyor if you’re unsure. If tensions arise, you’ll save a lot of money and time by having a valid agreement!