What Is The Party Wall Act And How Does It Affect Property Conversion And Renovation Projects?
The Party Wall Act came into force on July 1st 1997 in England and Wales. Scotland and Northern Ireland are exempt from the Act. The Act was introduced in order to prevent one neighbour’s building or home extension work from undermining the structural integrity of shared walls and/or neighbouring properties. The Party Wall Act also aims to prevent any disputes which may arise from potential building work on a neighbouring property.
Will the Party Wall Act affect proposed renovation work within a property?
For inhabitants of a semi-detached, terrace, flat or even a detached home that is in close proximity to neighbouring properties, the Party Wall Act may affect proposed renovation work. The key thing is to identify which walls qualify as “party walls”. To demonstrate, the Act covers floors and ceilings between flats, shared boundary walls in the case of semi-detached and terraced properties and any other walls which touch the neighbouring property.
The Act does not affect superficial work undertaken within a property, such as replastering and electrical rewiring. However, more extensive work such as loft conversions which involve cutting into the boundary walls to create new supporting beams, are affected by the Party Wall Act. Prior to embarking on a property extension it is worth seeking the advice of an expert in order to determine whether the proposed work is affected by the Party Wall Act.
In the case of extension, conversion or renovation projects which are affected by the Act, a neighbour has to provide their affected neighbour with “Notice” of the work’s commencement.
How is Notice given in circumstances where the proposed work is affected by the Party Wall Act?
Notice is provided through a letter which sets out the intention of the building work to any affected neighbours. A sample letter can be obtained in the Party Wall Act explanatory booklet, which can be accessed by clicking here. The letter should include all key information regarding the proposed building work and also the date on which the Notice was served, the proposed date of work commencement, a description of proposed work and the names and addresses of all parties involved. Failure to include these factors will mean that the Notice is invalid.
This letter and a copy of the explanatory booklet should be provided to the neighbouring property owner two months prior to work commencing, after which the neighbouring party has a 14 day window in which to produce a written letter of approval or rejection. A template for both of these letters is provided in the booklet.
In cases where the neighbour approves the proposed work the Notice is valid for a twelve month period. In cases where the neighbour either rejects the proposal or fails to respond during the fourteen day window there is deemed to be a “dispute”.
Is a Notice really required?
If during the proposed building work relationships become sour, or if the neighbouring party suspects the project will adversely affect their home, they are legally eligible to seek an injunction in order to prevent the work being completed. Serving Notice is the only way to assure this does not happen.
What happens in cases where the neighbour objects?
If the neighbouring party objects, a discussion should ensue, where the proposed plans are discussed in length and an agreement is established. If an agreement cannot be reached then a surveyor should be assigned to prepare a Party Wall Award. This Award determines what work can be carried out, how it can be carried out and when it can be carried out. In addition, the Award records the existing condition or both properties and provide measures to prevent damage to either property.