PARTY WALL ACT SERVICE
The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 – was enforced on the 1st of July-1997, thus it is now statutory law throughout England & Wales. The Act confers both the adjoining and building owners with rights and responsibilities, whichever side of the 'wall' you are on i.e. whether you are doing the work involving the party wall structure or if your neighbor is.
The Party Wall Act comes into effect if someone is planning to do work on a relevant structure, for the purposes of the Act. 'Party wall' does not just mean the wall between two semi-detached properties, it covers:
A wall forming part of only one building but which is on the boundary line between two (or more) properties.
A wall which is common to two (or more) properties, this includes where someone built a wall and a neighbor subsequent built something butting up to it.
A garden wall, where the wall is astride the boundary line (or butts up against it) and is used to separate the properties but is not part of any building.
Floors and ceilings of flats etc.
Excavation near to a neighboring property (within 3 or 6 meters)
The Party Wall Act does not affect any requirement for Planning Permission or Building Regulation Approval for any work undertaken. Likewise, having Planning Permission and/or Building Regulation Approval does not negate the requirements under the Party Wall Act.
As with all work affecting neighbors, it is always better to reach a friendly agreement rather than resort to any law. Even where the work requires a notice to be served, it is better to informally discuss the intended work, consider the neighbors comments, and amend your plans (if appropriate) before serving the notice in order to get consent.
However, if at least one of the adjoining owners has dissented, (after 14 days that notice was served), then the building owner is legally obligated to appoint a party wall surveyor and may have to pay additional costs for the adjoining owner’s surveyor’s fees. Nonetheless, there is a clause in the Act that protects the building owner from having to pay ‘unreasonable fees.’ Once there is dissent, then a party wall award between the two neighbours is needed. A ‘party wall award’ is akin to a contract between the building and adjoining owner(s), and includes a thorough ‘schedule of condition’ of the party wall, conducted by both surveyors, in order to safeguard the building owner (the neighbour carrying out the works), from any future claims (that may be made by either of the adjoining owners), that the works carried out have caused damage and/or ‘cracks’ as well as unnecessary ‘inconvenience.’ Both appointed party wall surveyors are legally obligated to act impartially and thus ensure that the ‘award’ is in accordance with the Act and that the ‘reasonable’ requests of both parties have been met.