Disputes over party walls are becoming increasingly more common, as home owners choose to improve and extend their properties rather than move. Disputes often occur between neighbours when home improvements are taking place, or when a change to a building is later found to have caused an issue with a party wall.
A party wall is a wall that divides two buildings, with the boundary of the neighbouring properties usually positioned at the centre of the wall. Party walls mainly occur in semi-detached properties and terraced housing, but occasionally flats too.
The Party Wall Act 1996 was introduced because building works can cause damage to adjoining properties and interrupt the adjoining owner’s use and enjoyment of the party wall. The Act serves to regulate any alternations to a property, or to land with fences or walls, by providing a dispute resolution procedure to protect the interests of the adjoining owner, whilst allowing the owner of the property to carry out the building works.
If you intend to carry out any work to your property that affects a party wall or adjoining structure, you must seek consent from the adjoining owner. The adjacent property owner must be given two months’ notice in writing and the notice must include details of the work being carried out on the property.
If you receive notice from your neighbour, you can either accept or object to the notice within 14 days. If you do nothing, then you are deemed to have objected to the plans. We would always advise that you object to any work being completed that involves a party wall, as this protects your interests and prevents any damage being caused to the party wall and/or your property.
If an agreement cannot be reached, a party wall surveyor will be appointed. The surveyor will draw up a party wall award that is legally enforceable. The party wall award will set out details of the condition of the wall, govern the extent of the building owner’s works and highlight any protective measures that need to be taken.
If the party wall award is breached, the most appropriate course of action is to seek legal advice, as the best way to proceed will vary from case to case. However, you may wish to issue a court claim if damage has been caused and/or obtain an injunction to stop the works or indeed to get access to carry out the works set out in an award.
If you have any questions about party walls or disputes in general, we would be happy to help. Please contact the litigation department on 01603 724654 or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.