A Guide to Party Wall Procedures


Contrary to what many people believe, the scope of The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 goes much wider than work directly to shared walls – there are in fact 3 distinct types of work that are covered.

Section 1 deals with new walls built on or at the line of junction between two properties. The Adjoining Owner’s consent will be required to build astride the boundary but even if the new wall is wholly on your own land but built up to the boundary it will be notifiable under Section 1. The notice period is 1 month.

Section 2 covers work directly to party walls. Tasks such as cutting pockets for beams, cutting away chimney breasts and inserting flashings are included and the notice period is 2 months. Although the Act is not specific it is generally agreed that minor tasks such as drilling holes for picture hooks or chasing in cables are not notifiable.

Section 6 covers adjacent excavations. In simple terms, if you plan to excavate within 3 metres of an adjoining or shared structure and to a depth greater than the base of the foundations to that structure you will need to serve a notice; for deeper excavations, such as piled foundations, that distance increases to 6 metres. The notice period is 1 month.

Having established that your works come within the scope of the Act you should serve the appropriate party wall notice as soon as possible. There are no prescribed forms so this is something that you can do yourself although the notice must contain the following details to be valid:

  • Your name and address and the names and addresses of anyone that owns the property jointly with you. 
  • The address of the property/land where the work is to take place
  • The name and address of the Adjoining Owners – it may be addressed to ‘The Owner(s)’ if you are delivering it by hand although it is very easy to search the Land Registry database for owner details
  • A brief description of the works
  • The date on which you plan to commence work
  • If the notice relates to excavation work it must be accompanied by a drawing showing the location and a section through the excavations.

Make sure that you sign and date the notice before serving but then you must wait patiently for a reply. The Adjoining Owner has 14 days to consider your notice and confirm their consent. If they do not consent, or do not reply at all, during that period they will be deemed to have dissented and a ‘dispute’ will be deemed to have arisen under the Act.

Disputes are settled by Award (often referred to as a Party Wall Agreement) and Awards can only be drawn up by surveyors acting on behalf of the Owners; the Owners can each appoint their own surveyor or can concur in the appointment of a single ‘Agreed Surveyor’.

For more minor works where access to the Adjoining Owner’s property is not required the best outcome will be a consent. To help you achieve that goal you should speak to your neighbour as early in the process as possible and keep them fully informed of your plans. It can happen that an Adjoining Owner who is unhappy with your plans will dissent to your notice in the mistaken belief that it will prevent your works – some neighbours do not recognise the clear distinction between the planning process and party wall matters.

If surveyors must be appointed their primary role is to resolve the dispute that has arisen between the owners – that is done by agreeing the terms of a Party Wall Award. The Award will give details of the proposed works and set out the rights and responsibilities of the respective owners. Once agreed it is served upon the owners and work can commence.

In all normal circumstances you will be responsible for the fees of both surveyors. You should get a ball park figure from your own surveyor up front and one of his or her tasks will be to agree a reasonable fee for the Adjoining Owner’s surveyor – if necessary with the assistance of a previously selected Third Surveyor.

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