Working on party walls

Work that is carried out on either an existing party wall or a new wall needs to adhere to certain laws. This article outlines your rights and obligations under the law.

Working on walls you share with your neighbours

Under the The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 you can work on joint walls (those shared with your neighbours) as long as you don't exceed half of the wall/ceiling/floor's overall width. The Act also allows you to put up shelves, plaster and rewire in your home without planning permission.

The Communities and Local Government website has put together a useful explanatory booklet which outlines your rights and obligations under the act.

Giving your neighbors enough notice

The amount of notice that you give your neighbours will depend on whether you are working on an existing party wall or a new wall.

Existing party wall

If you want to do any of the following work on an existing party wall, you'll have to give your neighbours at least two months' notice before you start:

  • Demolishing and/or rebuilding a party wall
  • Increasing the height or thickness of a party wall
  • Insertion of a damp proof course (either chemical injection or a physical dpc)
  • Cutting into the party wall to take load bearing beams
  • Underpinning a party wall
  • Excavations within three metres of a neighbouring building, where the excavation will reach below the bottom of the foundations of the neighbouring building
  • Excavations within six metres of a neighbouring building where the excavation will reach below a line drawn 45 degrees downwards from the bottom of the foundations of the neighbouring building

New wall

If you want to build a new party wall on the boundary line of you and your neighbour's property, you'll have to give your neighbour at least one month's notice before you start work.

What needs to be included in the notice?

  1. The owners of the property undertaking the work
  2. The address of the property
  3. A full description of the proposed work (the level of detail will vary between sites, but may include colours of brick, hours of work etc.)
  4. The proposed start date for the work
  5. A clear statement that the notice is being served under The Party Wall etc. Act 1996
  6. The date the notice is being served

What to do once notice has been served

Make sure you keep documentation proving that you've served notice, such as Recorded Delivery or an independent witness. Also note the day you delivered the letter. Your neighbours should respond in writing within 14 days of receiving the notice giving consent or registering dissent.

Remember, under The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 , no work can commence until all neighbouring parties have agreed in writing to the notice (or a revised notice). Don't carry out work if they haven't bothered to respond – this automatically classifies the proposed work as a dispute. It may be that they're simply away on holiday, so check with them after the 14 day period to get their confirmation of agreement.

What to do if there's a dispute

In cases of your neighbours disputing your building plans for the party wall, it's normal practice to appoint a private sector surveyor. They will have final say on the dispute, awarding a 'yes' or 'no' to the work you want to carry out.

If they rule 'no', you have 14 days to appeal the decision at a County Court. If it's a 'yes', you're free to begin work!

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