Party Wall Awards

The Party Wall etc Act of 1996 is statutory legislation which extended long-time London provisions regarding party wall disputes to all of England and Wales (they previously applied only to certain inner London Boroughs). The act lays out the requirements and resulting compliance actions that arise whenever a property owner intends to carry out building construction or modification that will affect the jointly owned wall(s) of adjoining owners, excavations close to adjoining buildings or structures and some works at boundaries between the lands of adjoining owners.

The building owner intending to initiate any building work is the party that is required, under circumstances laid down in the Act, to give prior notice to certain owners of adjoining property; in many cases a full two months of prior notice can be required before proceeding with work, and then only subject to agreement within a defined timescale or Award. This gives the adjoining owner(s) time to properly look after their own interests and to consider matters arising and inconveniences that could arise from the notifiable works. If you hope to reach a satisfactory Party Wall Award and a successful conclusion to your project, it is nearly always a good idea to contact the neighbours informally before leaving them the required legal notice. A little courtesy and a short chat with neighbours that you should probably know anyway may save you a lot of money and headaches later.

A Party Wall Award will typically consist of:

  1. a set of guidelines governing how the notifiable construction work will progress, usually including set working hours; the existence of a party wall indicates close neighbours who can be easily disturbed by noisy or messy after-hours construction efforts
  2. a schedule of conditionö of parts of affected adjoining properties before the proposed work with supporting documentation such as photographs; this protects both parties if something should later go awry during the course of the works
  3. a Party Wall Award would often include detailed professional drawings illustrating the details of the proposed works.
  4. arrangements to allow Surveyor access to the worksites which may involve egress through neighbours property

Other items sometimes included in a Party Wall Award are proof of the contractorÆs public liability insurance, indemnities from the owner initiating the work to cover adjoining ownersÆ potential losses, and a time limit during which the work must be commenced, usually less than one year. To reach a Party Wall Award normally a party wall surveyor is appointed for each of the involved property owners and the fees of all surveyors are usually paid for by the building owner proposing the work.

Remember, even though the process of notifying your neighbours about party wall work and arriving at a party wall agreement may seem like a hassle at first, it is definitely the best course of action – indeed it is a legal requirement. A property owner in Lancashire was unfortunately in the news recently when his refurbishment work on a shop in a terraced building caused a neighbouring flat to partially collapse and require complete demolishment. The owner claimed to have thought that his work would not affect his neighbours at all, but now the Bolton Council is investigating the worksite and so far had found that he had not followed Building Regulations. Imagine the years of time and thousands of pounds that particular owner possibly faces to resolve a situation where his neighbours home collapsed. Far, far better to acquire written agreement from neighbours in the form of a well-drafted Party Wall Award.