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The Party Wall Act 4 - 10

4. What are my rights under the Act if I want to do work on an existing party wall?

The Act provides a building owner, who wishes to carry out various sorts of work to an existing party wall, with additional rights to do so. These go beyond ordinary common law rights.

Section 2 of the Act lists what work can be done. The most commonly-used rights are:

  • To cut into a wall to take the bearing of a beam, or to insert a damp-proof course all the way through the wall
  • To raise the whole 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 wall
  • To protect two adjoining walls by putting a flashing from the higher over the lower
5.  What are my duties under the Act?

If you intend to carry out any of the works mentioned in paragraph 4, you must inform all adjoining owners - see paragraphs 7 and 8. You must not even cut into your own half of the wall without telling the next-door neighbour of your intentions - see paragraph 6.

If you start work without having first given notice in the proper way, adjoining owners may seek redress through the courts.

A neighbour cannot stop someone from exercising the rights given to them by the Act, but he can influence how and when the work is done - see paragraph 10.

The Act also says that a building owner must not cause unnecessary inconvenience. The building owner must provide compensation for any damage and must provide temporary protection for buildings and property where necessary.

6. What about things like putting up shelves or wall units, installing recessed electric sockets, or removing/renewing plaster?

Minor works on a party wall are usually considered to be too trivial to come under the Act. Examples of minor works include:

  • Drilling into your own half of a party wall to fix plugs and screws for ordinary wall units or shelving
  • Drilling into your own half of a party wall to add/replace recessed electric wiring and sockets
    replastering

The key point is whether your planned work might have consequences for the structural strength and support functions of the party wall. If you are in doubt about whether your planned work requires a notice you might wish to seek advice from a qualified professional with knowledge of party wall matters.

7. Who counts as an adjoining owner?

Essentially, an adjoining owner is anyone with an interest greater than a tenancy from year to year in the adjoining property. If the next-door property is occupied by a long-term tenant or leaseholder it will be necessary to notify the landlord as well. Where there is more than one owner of the property, or more than one adjoining property, it is your duty to notify all of them.

8 How do I inform the adjoining owner or owners? 

It is obviously best to discuss your planned work fully with your neighbours before you (or your professional adviser) give notice, in writing, about what you plan to do. If you have already ironed out possible snags with your neighbours, this should mean that they will give consent in response to your notice.

While there is no set form for giving notice under the Act, a typical Party Structure Notice (see right hand menu) must include the following details:

  • Your own name and address
  • The building's address (if different)
  • A clear statement that your notice is a notice under the provisions of the Act
  • Full details of what you propose to do (including plans where appropriate)
  • When you propose to start

You may deliver the notice in person or send it by post. Where the neighbouring property is empty or the owner is not known, you may address the notice to "the owner" of the premises and fix it to a conspicuous part of the premises.

9 How long in advance to I have to serve the notice?

At least two months before the planned starting date for work to the party wall. The notice is only valid for a year, so do not serve it too long before you wish to start.

10. What happens after I service the notice?

A person who receives a notice about intended work may give his consent in writing, or given a counter-notice setting out what additional or modified work he would like to be carried out. A person who receives a notice about intended work, and intends to serve a counter-notice, should let his neighbour know within 14 days.

If, after a period of 14 days from the service of your notice, the person receiving the notice has done nothing, a dispute is regarded as having arisen. The procedure explained in paragraph 11 comes into play.

If you receive a counter-notice you must respond to it within 14 days. If you do not, a dispute is regarded as having arisen - see paragraph 11.

As mentioned in paragraph 8, your notice should not come as a surprise. If you have already ironed out possible snags with your neighbours, this should mean that they will readily give consent in response to your notice.

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