An Introduction To The Party Wall Act 1996← Back

The Party Wall Act came into force in 1996 and was implemented to provide a framework in preventing and resolving disputes, in relation to party walls, boundary walls and excavations near neighbouring buildings.

If you are having work carried out on your property, even if it doesn't go past the the centre line of a party wall, you need to give notice to your neigbour. There is no sole owner of a party wall, occupiers are joint owners so an agreement will need to made with regard to the way works are carried out and their timing.

The Party Wall Act 1997 covers various works including:

- Work that will be carried out directly to an existing party wall.
- New buildings at, or nearby the boundary line between two properties
- Excavation works carried out within 3m and 6m of a neighbouring building or structure, dependant upon the depth of the hole or proposed foundations.

If you are working on a party wall then you must serve a notice to the adjoining owner, under these circumstances:

- If you are cutting into the wall to take the bearing of a beam
- For inserting a damp-proof course all the way through the wall
- To raise the height or thickness of a wall
- If you wish or need to demolish a party wall
- To underpin the whole thickness of the Party Wall
- To protect two adjoining walls by inserting a flashing, even when cutting into an adjoining owners' building.

What are your duties under the Act?

If you intend to carry out any of the above works then you must inform all adjoining owners. You cannot even cut into your side of the wall without telling the adjoining owners of your intentions.

If you start without having first given notice in the proper way, adjoining owners may seek to stop work through a court injunction which will cause major delays to your project.

An adjoining owner cannot stop someone from exercising the rights given to them by the Act, but may be able to influence how and at what times the work is done.

The Act also says that a Building owner must not cause unnecessary inconvenience, to the adjoining owner.

The Building owner must provide temporary protection for adjacent buildings and is responsible for making good any damage caused by the works or makes payment in lieu of making good if the adjacent owner prefers it.

The following work would be generally regarded as not necessary to fall under Act:
  • Drilling into a party wall to fix plugs and screws for ordinary wall units or shelving;
  • Cutting into a party wall to add or replace electrical wiring and sockets;
  • Re-plastering
Informing the Adjoining Owner

Before serving an adjoining owner with a notice, it is recommended that you discuss your planned work with them to enable them to understand what is being under-taken.

Although you do not need to seek a professional to give notice on your behalf and there is no official form for doing so, Architectural Building Design Services can help you with putting such a notice together. There are also sample letters available through the Party Wall Act .pdf document in our downloads section of the website at

The advisory on time scale for serving notice is at least two months before the commencement of works to a party wall.

In the event that the adjoining owner does not agree to the notice, and you cannot come to an agreeable arrangement after further discussion, then each owner can appoint a surveyor to draw up an award together. If they still cannot agree then a third surveyor would need to be appointed. Surveyors must consider the interests and rights of both owners and draw up an award impartially.

Unless amended by a Court then the award is final and each owner has 14 days to appeal to the County Court against it.

If a neighbouring owner raises a dispute and refuses to appoint a surveyor, then you can appoint one on their behalf to enable to the procedure to go ahead.

Access to a Neighbouring Property

Under the Act, an adjoining owner must allow access to your workmen including your own surveyor, architectural designer etc to carry out works, in pursuance of the Act (but only for those works).

You must give the adjoining owner and occupier notice of your intention to exercise these rights of entry which would usually be 14 days.

It is an offence, which can be prosecuted in a Magistrates Court, to refuse entry or to obstruct someone who is entitled to enter the premises under the Act.

If the adjoining property is empty or unoccupied, then your workmen may enter the premises after following proper procedures if they are accompanied by a police officer.

Rights of Adjoining Owners

They include the right to:
  • Appoint a surveyor to resolve any dispute;
  • Require reasonable measures to be taken to protect their property from damage;
  • Not to suffer any unnecessary inconvenience;
  • To be compensated for any loss or damage caused by relevant works;
  • Ask for security of expenses before significant work is started so as to guard against the risk of being left in difficulties if you stop work at an inconvenient point

Builders and home owners tend to forget their obligations until a neighbour makes them aware, and this can lead to delays on site.

People consider complying with the Act costly, but realistically, once the notices are served, in the majority of the cases where there is an agreed surveyor, it can be done quickly and for a reasonable fee.

The costs of starting and stopping the works whilst it gets sorted out can be pretty high!!!

To continue to Part 2 of this topic, click here.