A wall is a party wall if it stands astride the boundary of land belonging to two (or more) different owners.

A wall is a party fence wall if it is not part of a building and stands astride the boundary line between lands of different owners and is used to separate those lands a (for example a garden wall). This does not include such things as wooden fences.

The Act also uses the expression party structure. This is a wider term, which could be a wall or floor partition or other structure separating buildings or parts a building’s approached by separate staircases or entrances (for example flats).

The Act provides a building owner, who wishes to carry out various sorts of work to an existing party wall, with additional rights going beyond ordinary common law rights. The most commonly used rights are:

  • To cut into a wall to take the bearing of a beam (for example for a loft conversion) or to insert a damp proof course all way through the wall.
  • To raise at the height of the wall and /or increase the thickness of the party wall and, if necessary, cut off any projections which prevent you from doing so.
  • To demolish and rebuild the party wall.
  • To underpin the whole thickness of a party wall.
  • To protect two adjoining walls by putting a flashing from the higher over the lower, even where this requires cutting into an adjoining owners independent building.
  • What are your duties under the Act?

If you intend carrying out any of the works mentioned above you must inform all adjoining owners. You must not cut into your own side of the party wall without telling the adjoining owners of your intentions. Although the Act contains no enforcement procedures, starting work without serving a notice could mean your neighbour could seek a court injunction or other legal redress.

An adjoining owner cannot stop someone from exercising their rights given to them by the Act, but may be able to influence how and at what times work is undertaken. The Act also provides that a building owner must not cause unnecessary inconvenience. This is taken to mean inconvenience over and above that which will inevitably occur or went such works are properly undertaken.

Adjoining owners should note that the primary purpose of the Act is to facilitate development. In return for rights to carry out certain works, the building owner (a person having the work done) must notify you in advance. He is made legally responsible for putting right any damage caused by carrying out the works, even if the damage is caused by his contract.

You cannot stop someone from exercising their rights given to them by the Act, but you may be able to influence how and at what times the work is done. If you refused to respond to a notice from a building owner, he will be able to appoint a surveyor on your behalf so that the dispute resolution procedure can proceed without your cooperation.

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