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Hot Topic Highlight – RICS Consumer Guidance to the Party Wall etc. Act 1996

Updated: Oct 28, 2023

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What is this week's blog about?

In this week’s blog, we take a look at the RICS Consumer Guide to the Party Wall etc. Act 1996. Essential reading for RICS APC and AssocRICS candidates with any involvement in party wall work, in addition to the Legal & Regulatory Compliance and Inspection competencies.

You can download a full copy of the guide here.

Why does the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 exist?

The Act permits specific construction works at or on boundaries, excavation works and excavation and construction works of foundations within defined distances of adjacent structures. This includes works to the full thickness of party walls, party fence walls (i.e., a garden wall across a boundary) and new walls at boundaries.

In summary, the Act aims to balance the interests of both owners of a party wall; allowing works to be carried out by the building owner, whilst protecting the interests of the adjoining owner.

This helps to mitigate disputes by ensuring works are notified to the adjoining owner in advance. If agreement is not provided in writing, then a surveyor can determine when and how the works will be carried out.

If a notice(s) is not served as prescribed by the Act, legal proceedings may be pursued against the building owner.

Where does the Act apply?

The Act only applies in England and Wales, so if you are advising clients in Scotland or Northern Ireland then it will not be applicable.

How does the Act apply to building owners?

A building owner is the party who wants to carry out works, including (but not limited to):

  • Cutting into a party wall

  • Inserting a damp proof course

  • Demolishing and rebuilding a party wall

  • Underpinning party structures

  • Maintaining a party wall

  • Excavating foundations or below ground structures within 3m of a neighbour’s structure and deeper than its foundations

  • Excavating foundations or below ground structures within 6m of a neighbour’s structure and below a line drawn downwards at 45 degrees from the bottom of its foundations

  • Building a new boundary wall

Depending on the nature of the works, a minimum of one or two months’ notice must be given to all adjoining owners. However, it is advisable to give as much notice as possible and to consult with the adjoining owner prior to notice being served.

Before works start, written consent from the adjoining owner must be given, or a Party Wall Award must have been published.

How does the Act apply to adjoining owners (or occupiers)?

An adjoining owner (or occupier) is a freeholder, a tenant with a lease over 1 year or a person entitled to receive rent for property adjoining that of the building owner. An adjoining occupier who has a lease of under 1 year has no entitlement to notice, but they may still have limited rights to compensation for loss under the Act.

An adjoining owner has a statutory right to notice of adjacent works to a party structure. There are a number of options when a notice is received, including consenting (in writing within 14 days) or withholding consent for the works.

In the latter scenario, the adjoining owner must appoint an agreed surveyor, the costs of which are generally paid for by the building owner (unless, for example, a party wall is in disrepair and the costs are apportioned between the two owners).

The appointed surveyor has a duty to act impartially and can, therefore, be appointed by both owners (reducing overall costs). Alternatively, each party can appoint their own surveyor and a third surveyor will then be responsible for preparing the Award based on the submissions of each parties’ surveyor.

The role of the agreed surveyor or third surveyor is to prepare a Party Wall Award, detailing the work to be carried out, when it will be carried out and how it will be carried out. It will also include a schedule of condition prior to the works being undertaken and grant access for the works to be carried out. The Award is binding unless an appeal is made to the County Court within 14 days.

What are the three types of notice?

A building owner can serve one of three types of party wall notice on the adjoining owner:

  1. Party structure notice under Section 2

  2. Notice of adjacent excavation under Section 6

  3. Line of junction notice under Section 1

How can we help?

Stay tuned for our next blog post to help build a better you.

N.b. Nothing in this article constitutes legal, professional or financial advice.


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