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Are My Neighbour’s Works Party Wall Works?

May 15, 2023


In today’s Property Surveying blogpost, we are going to be discussing party wall surveying procedures.

This blogpost will take a look at one of the most typical questions that our party wall surveyors here at Stokemont are asked on a daily basis.

Party wall surveying matters are often a point of concern and confusion for building owners and adjoining owners alike.

Building owners will want to ensure that there are the least amount of time and financial hurdles in front of their planned works.

Equally, adjoining owners will want to ensure that their property has the maximum protection, and that all of the necessary considerations in respect of this are taken into account.

The Party Wall etc Act 1996 is in place to ensure that there is a framework and protocol that building owners need to go through in the lead up to their planned construction works.

However, the Party Wall etc Act 1996 does not deal with all construction works.

Instead, it handles a relatively limited scope of works which we are now going to discuss in greater detail.

It is the aim here to give you a full understanding of the types of works that are likely to be governed by the Party Wall etc Act 1996, so if your neighbour is planning on doing works, you will have the benefit of knowing whether the Party Wall etc Act 1996 is indeed going to be applicable or not.

So, let us take a closer look at these construction works.

New Walls

The first distinct area of construction work that the Party Wall etc Act 1996 deals with, is the construction of new walls.

These planned new walls will need to be either up to, or astride, the boundary line.

In layman’s terms, this effectively means that the proposed construction works will have to be built in close proximity to the property boundary that is shared with another property or land owner.

This is actually a relatively typical part of the Party Wall etc Act 1996 that can come into play.

Mainly because building owners will rightly so want to maximise the overall construction space of their planned works.

In doing this, they will likely want to build as close to their boundary line as possible, this ultimately resulting in a larger overall end useable space.

Another point to bear in mind here, is that the right to build astride the boundary line is not automatic.  In essence, this means that a building owner can only build a new wall astride the boundary line, if their neighbour is in specific agreement to it.

This fact assumes, of course, that there are no walls that are currently built on the boundary.

If indeed, the boundary line does have some form of wall built on it, there is also an automatic right for a building owner to demolish that wall and build in place their new wall.

This area of the Party Wall etc Act 1996 is quite specific and hinges on certain requirements.

Therefore, if indeed, your planned works do comprise the construction of a new wall astride the boundary line, we would advise that you take the necessary party wall advice from a party wall surveyor at the earliest opportunity.

Works directly to a party wall, party structure, or party fence wall

The next section we are going to discuss is by far the widest section of the Party Wall etc Act 1996 when it comes to construction works.

To put this into perspective, we are now going to look at what the various different elements that we have listed out above are.

Party Wall

A party wall is a shared wall which separates two properties.

For a party wall to be referred to as a party wall, one side of the wall itself will need to be enclosed upon for the use of an internal part of the structure.

Party Structure

A party structure is essentially a horizontal structure which separates two different properties.

Conventionally, this will be the floor/ceilings between flats or maisonettes.

Party Fence Wall

A party fence wall is a shared garden wall separating two owners’ properties or land.

The vast majority of works directly to party wall, party structures or party fence walls are going to fall within the realm of the Party Wall etc Act 1996.

This will include, however, is not limited to:

  • Cutting into
  • Cutting away from
  • Exposing
  • Weatherproofing
  • Undertaking damp-proof courses
  • Strengthening
  • Gaining support from

Generally speaking, this is going to significantly cover the vast majority of construction works that property owners will undertake.

For example, loft conversions, chimney breasts removals, structural alterations, changing roof coverings, and demolishing structures are all very typical types of party wall works that this section of the Party Wall etc Act 1996 deals with.

Equally, when it comes to party fence walls, or garden walls, in many cases these will often be overlooked and are likely to be in disrepair.

This is equally going to result in the works falling within the realm of the Party Wall etc Act 1996.

One of the beauties of defect and disrepair to a party fence wall, is that the Act does indeed give the building owner the right to pursue the adjoining owner for their reasonable share and proportion of making good of that wall.

This can be particularly helpful when an owner is unwilling to contribute to a shared wall that requires remedial work.

Adjacent Excavation

The final section of the Party Wall etc Act 1996 that we are discussing today, is adjacent excavation.

The Party Wall etc Act 1996 is specific insofar as any excavation work that is deeper than the neighbouring property within 3m, or 6m (in the event of deep excavation) falls within the realm of the Act.

With the vast majority of property in England and Wales being built at the turn of the century, or in the 1930s, while these share incredibly rich characteristics in terms of their aesthetics, they do all share a common characteristic.

This common characteristic being that they are going to be built on incredibly shallow footings.

Usually, an assemblage of bricks sitting 3-4 courses, or 300mm-400mm beneath the level of the ground.

In practice, what this means is that as ground conditions change seasonally, firming up in the summer in the hotter weather, softening in the winter in the wetter weather, these older properties are incredibly likely to suffer from some degree of thermal movement.

Equally, a simple introduction of something like a tree, high water table, or granular soil, can significantly result in property movement.

This is commonly what an insurer would refer to as subsidence, heave or structural thermal change.

All of this came about as a result of property foundations being shallow. Therefore, building regulations caught up with this fact, and now require any new structure to have a minimum foundation of 1m deep.

This addition of a deeper foundation, naturally means that all excavation works that are within 3m of older properties are likely to fall within the realm of the Party Wall etc Act 1996.

Equally, if your planned excavations are within 6m of a structure, and are particularly deep such as basements, these works are also likely to fall within the realm of the Party Wall etc Act 1996.

In order for adjacent excavation works to be applicable and covered by the Party Wall etc Act 1996, importantly the works must be both deeper than the neighbouring foundation, however also within 3m or 6m.

We hope this blogpost has been helpful in giving you a clearer indication as to the different types of construction works that are likely to fall within the realm of the Party Wall etc Act 1996.

When it does come to the question of whether your neighbour’s works are covered by the Act, it is important to avoid jumping to any conclusions.

We would always therefore advise that discussions are had with the building owner as soon as possible.  The aim being to be full understanding, and ensure that you are working off the correct facts.

In many cases, building owners are likely to be working of some form of architectural or structural plans.  Therefore a very simple review of these could easily confirm whether or not the works do indeed fall within the realm of the Party Wall etc Act 1996.

If you would like to discuss your party wall surveying matters with our team of experienced and qualified party wall surveyors, please feel free to give us a call today.  We are here to help and look forward to hearing from you.

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