If your home is adjoined to another property and you’re looking to renovate your house, you might need a Party Wall Agreement in order to carry out any work needed. This is something you’ll most likely require, depending on the project you’re about to undertake, if you live in a terraced or semi-detached house or if you reside in a flat.
If you inhabit any one of the aforementioned properties, it’s likely you share a wall with your neighbour(s) and so you’ll need to ask their permission to carry out building work on the adjoining structure. But what exactly is a party wall, do you need a Party Wall Agreement and when should you serve a Party Wall Notice?
What is a party wall?
A party wall separates adjoining homes and both homeowners, on either side, will share legal interest regarding these walls. They can be located upstairs, downstairs, in lofts and even in basements. If you’re looking to carry out extensive works or home renovations on your side of a party wall then you’ll need to ask your neighbour(s) permission before you commence. If you fail to do this, then it will, strictly speaking, be considered as trespassing on your neighbour(s) property.
However, this is a highly complex area of law as it covers more than one type of wall and so it’s always best to hire a professional if you need further advice and guidance about identifying party walls and deciding whether or not a notice or an agreement needs to be drawn up.
What is a Party Wall Agreement?
A Party Wall Agreement is a document that’s drawn up for the purposes of carrying out work on a party wall within your home. This must be given to your neighbour(s), in writing, with a Party Wall Notice. A fully-certified party wall surveyor will be able to help you with this if you aren’t sure about how to go about writing a Party Wall Agreement.
You will need to obtain a Party Wall Agreement in the following circumstances:
- Work needs to be carried out on shared walls
- Work needs to be done on ‘party structures’ such as adjoining floors and/or ceilings
- Work being done on shared garden boundaries (including walls and fences)
- Excavation work to or near to the party wall (within 3-6 metres), including underpinning
- Provisions for loft conversions
- Inserting a damp-proof course to a party wall
- Making party walls higher or thicker
- Building a storey extension above a party wall
- Building a new wall coming up to or coming off a party wall
Minor works will not require a Party Wall Agreement, such as drilling, replastering, replacing electrical wiring or adding or taking out electrical sockets or light switches. If you aren’t sure about whether or not you need a Party Wall Agreement then you should consult a professional for absolute peace of mind. It’s essential that this is done correctly in order to comply with the Party Wall Act 1996.
What is the Party Wall Act?
The Party Wall Act 1996 is a piece of Government legislation covering the whole of England and Wales and it’s designed specifically to preempt any disagreements between adjoining neighbours regarding construction-related disputes. It provides a clear legal framework in which such disputes can be managed and settled accordingly.
Essentially, the Party Wall Act 1996 prevents building work from being carried out by one neighbour that will negatively affect the structural integrity of the neighbouring property, including any adjoining walls, floors and ceilings. Therefore, any disputes can be settled before any building work is carried out, which is better for all of those involved.
Will the Party Wall Act affect my plans to renovate my home?
The Party Wall Act might prevent you from carrying out work on your home if you’re joined to another property. But that’s only if your neighbour(s) reject your Party Wall Notice or take more than 14 days to reply to your Party Wall Notice (from the date at which it was presented to them). This is yet another reason why your Party Wall Agreement and Party Wall Notice should be professionally drawn up and overlooked by a dedicated party wall surveyor.
When should I serve a Party Wall Notice?
A Party Wall Notice will need to be served no later than two months before work is due to be carried out. This gives your neighbour(s) notice that work will be carried out on a party wall. Usually, a Party Wall Notice is presented to the neighbour(s) concerned with a copy of the Party Wall Act 1996 and subsequently, an agreement will be written to outline the intended work. The typical timeframe in which you present your neighbour(s) with a Party Wall Notice is between one year and, as previously mentioned, two months.