If you’ve got some building works in the pipeline at your home, it’s always worth keeping your neighbours well informed to prevent any unwanted friction. We’ve got some handy pointers here that will help you do just that.

When it comes to working on a property, there’s a specific law that helps everyone concerned; this is The Party Wall etc. Act 1996. It’s this legislation that’s referred to as means of providing rights to the party carrying out the works, at the same time as protecting neighbours from possible damage or adverse effect from the works carried out.

This Act can be used to cover off all types of works, from boundary lines in gardens to shared walls on the actual property.

Advice for Property Owners

a wall with two house doors on it

Prior to works getting underway, notice is required to be served on any neighbours who could be affected by them. Notices must cover off details of proposed works, the name and address of the person planning the works, as well as an estimated date for works to get underway.

Following this, neighbours have some options; they can consent to the works, dissent to the works, or just not reply.

Consent to the works: If this is the case, it’s worthwhile having a qualified surveyor who can draw up a Schedule of Condition on your behalf. This process includes;

  • Recording and photographing the existing condition of the property
  • Taking note of any observations that apply to the works
  • Using professional discretion to decipher any further inclusions

A Party Wall Agreement can be compiled following the aforementioned process is completed. The Party Wall Agreement serves to tie in the notice, the consent and the Schedule of Condition into a single, formal legal document.

One of the main benefits of having this agreement in place is that it highlights to your neighbours that the works will be totally professional and carried out in the correct manner.

Dissent to the works: if this situation arises, your neighbour has to appoint a surveyor as a source of resolving any dispute.

Neighbours and property owners have the right to have their own surveyors, although the building party most often pays the fees for both surveyors, so if you’re the property owner proposing the works, you may want to settle on a single agreed surveyor to reduce costs.

Surveyors will deliberate the plans and designs put forward and offer advice on amendments or alterations to minimise any possible impact on the neighbouring property. Extreme cases may see the surveyor refuse consent for the works, although this only happens if it is considered that the works pose a threat to stability or overall structure of the properties.

Should the surveyor/s be satisfied, they will serve a Party Wall Award; and following a short period, this is your green light to proceed. The same surveyor/s will inspect the works at the point of completion.

It’s worth noting that this inspection isn’t conducted if your neighbour initially consents to the works in the first place.

No Response to the Notice: After 14 days without a response to the notice, a reminder has to be served, providing an additional 10 days for the neighbour to respond. If there’s no response after those 10 days, you’re permitted to go ahead and appoint a surveyor on behalf of the neighbour who will be required to carry out the same process summarised above. Please note that no response does not mean that you are able to proceed without invoking the Party Wall etc Act.

Advice for Neighbours

A trio of trees in front of a wall

If your neighbour has plans to carry out works to a Party Wall, or you’re in the vicinity of a Party Wall, you should expect notification of the works, as included in the Advice for Property Owners section.

Should you want to consent to the works, subject to a Schedule of Condition, the Act provides adequate protection from any possible structural damage that could occur.

Alternatively, you might feel you want to dissent and have a surveyor step in to inspect the works. It’s not compulsory for refusal of consent to be protected by the Act, although it does mean you get the advantage of a final inspection by the surveyor who clears the Party Wall Award. While this may all seem like a lot of fuss when it comes to the small works intended to be carried out, it can prevent escalations if any issues arise, and also provide additional peace of mind where larger works are concerned.

In the event of works to a Party Wall beginning whereby you’ve not received notice, you have grounds for possible concern. For you to be covered by the Act, notice has to be served as previously described above. As such, if a neighbour fails to serve notice and moves forward with works which result in damage or undermine the structure, there is no direct legal option. For you to avoid situations like this, it’s advised that you communicate with them first of all, because they may not have been aware that they needed to serve notice.

Lack of notice from your neighbour after contact means you should consider pursuing guidance from either a surveyor or solicitor. As an absolute last resort in situations like this, seeking a court injunction can be attained to prevent works from continuing where notice has not been served.

Essentially, for all parties concerned, it’s paramount to follow the proper procedures and only use qualified professionals for all areas of the works. A neighbour is unable to halt any legally permitted and structurally-sound works from taking place, so bear that in mind. This should be enough information for anyone to follow the procedures put in place by the Act, and

If you require more information on this subject, from our structural engineers (Cornwall-based), party wall act tips and more, visit Martin Perry Associates.

Image: Paul Simpson under Creative Commons.