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Can I Demolish A Shared Garden Wall?

Jan 6, 2023

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Thank you, for clicking on today’s Property Surveying blogpost, today we are going to be discussing party wall surveying procedures, and providing some all-important advice from a party wall surveyor.

What is a Shared Garden Wall?

A shared garden wall is legally referred to as a party fence wall under the Party Wall etc Act 1996. Shared garden walls are usually constructed astride the boundary line.

Astride meaning that the wall is located half on the building owner’s land and half on the adjoining owner’s land.

While the wall has shared maintenance liabilities, it also has shared rights when it comes to demolishing and undertaking construction works to it.

Under Section 2(2)(l) of the Party Wall etc Act 1996, set out as follows:

to raise a party fence wall, or to raise such a wall for use as a party wall, and to demolish a party fence wall and rebuild it as a party fence wall or as a party wall;

A building owner will be afforded the legal rights to demolish a party fence wall, with that legal right being subject to the party wall procedures being administered and followed.

What are the Party Wall Procedures?

Party wall procedures will be the conventional Party Wall Notice service, whereby the adjoining owner will then be given the legal right to respond to that Notice.

Should the adjoining owner dissent to the Notice, a Party Wall Award would then be agreed, with that Party Wall Award giving the building owner the legal right to progress the planned works.

Equally, should the adjoining owner opt to consent to that Party Wall Notice, the building owner will be free to commence the works without further formality or delay.

Party Wall Access

It is important to note that the building owner will gain the legal right of access onto the adjoining owner’s land during the course of the demolition of the party fence wall.

The premise and logic behind this is that it will ensure the adjoining owner’s contractors have a safe passage and workspace in order to construct the planned works.

If the Act had not taken this into account, it would leave building owners and their contractors in a precarious situation, whereby they would have to demolish the wall overhand, or alternatively seek Access Licences from adjoining owners.

Defect and Disrepair

The Party Wall etc Act 1996 has also accounted for defect and disrepair.

If a party fence wall is in a state of dilapidation, proving the party fence wall is legally shared between the two respective owners, the building owner can request the adjoining owner to contribute to the party fence wall’s rebuild.

This rebuild would very much be to reinstate the garden wall as is.  Obviously not to construct a new party wall in its place.

Adjoining owners are often surprised and confused about this section of the Act, as ultimately a building owner can compel an adjoining owner to have to contribute towards the cost of rectifying and remedying a garden wall’s damage.

Location of New Party Walls

If indeed the garden wall is a party fence wall, and is built astride the boundary wall, when the building owner activates his or her legal right to demolish that garden wall and rebuild it as a party wall, that party wall forming the flank wall of their new planned extension, it goes without saying that the new party wall is going to be considerably thicker or wider than the existing party fence wall.

This is owing to the fact that the new flank wall is likely going to need to be a cavity type.

Cavity walls ranging anywhere from 250mm up to 300mm wide.

The Act has therefore taken this into account and in theory it means that an adjoining owner would lose a very small slither of land along the flank of the newly-constructed party wall.

While some adjoining owners will look at this as an unfair loss, here at Stokemont we would advise that you look at this as a gain.  Ultimately, in having the building owner demolish the party fence wall and rebuilt it as a party wall, in due course when you come to construct your own extension, you are going to be able to build directly off that.

Building directly off the newly-built party wall would be deemed making use in accordance with Section 11(11) of the Party Wall etc Act 1996, as follows:

Where use is subsequently made by the adjoining owner of work carried out solely at the expense of the building owner the adjoining owner shall pay a due proportion of the expenses incurred by the building owner in carrying out that work; and for this purpose he shall be taken to have incurred expenses calculated by reference to what the cost of the work would be if it were carried out at the time when that subsequent use is made.

Making use is another relatively unknown part of the Party Wall etc 1996.

We have a dedicated webpage on our website which deals with making use, and includes a handy but easy-to-understand making use calculator.

Party wall surveying matters can often be confusing, in many cases if a building owner or an adjoining owner has not gone through the party wall surveying procedures before, they can quickly become confused and unstuck by the Act’s procedures, protocols and requirements.

If you would like to discuss party wall surveying procedures with our team of experienced and qualified party wall surveyors here at Stokemont, please feel free to get in touch with us today.  Our surveyors will be more than happy to assist and advise you.

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