What is a Party Wall Agreement?
Defining Party Walls
A party wall can be defined in a number of ways under the 1996 Party Wall Act. The most common definitions are the following.
- Any wall that is part of a building (or shared buildings) and is situated on the boundary line of two or more separately owned lands. In this case, the boundary line would be defined as anywhere within the wall in question.
- Any wall that is not part of a building but lies on two lands belonging to separate owners. These type of walls are technically referred to as party fence walls. The act defines garden walls as eligible in this case but not timber fences.
- Any wall located solely on land belonging to one owner but used as a dividing wall for adjacent buildings belonging to other people.
Partitions, floors and other dividing structures are also included in the Act, referred to as “party structures.”
Party Wall Agreements Explained
With clear definitions of what a part wall is and how it applies to multiple land owners, what happens when someone wants to carry out work on or near a party wall? This is where a party wall agreement comes into play.
A party wall agreement sets out the terms that need to be agreed upon by the relevant parties before construction can take place. These terms are drawn up by one or two party wall surveyors, who will usually:
- Lay down guidelines for the proposed work, governing how things will progress
- Assess the condition of the neighbouring property, carrying out what’s known as a “schedule of condition”
- Create diagrams of the work to be completed
Any work that requires a party wall agreement between two land owners is termed “notifiable work,” and a party wall notice needs to be issued two months before any such work can take place. The recipient of the notice (adjoining owner) has 14 days to respond and a further 10 days to appoint a surveyor before one is appointed for them. In this case, both surveyors would draw up an agreement together before work could commence.
Why is a Party Wall Agreement Needed?
A party wall agreement is required for a number of reasons, including:
- To prevent disputes: As a contract, both parties will have agreed to the details of the construction project before any work can take place. Thus, there’s no ambiguity that might cause problems further down the line.
- To resolve disputes: A contract is written proof of the agreed terms and any grievances can be settled fairly within the conditions of the contract.
- To avoid large costs if something goes wrong: As long as a notice has been served and the terms have been followed correctly, any damage caused to an adjoining owner’s property would be dealt with by the surveyor, rather than the courts, which limits any costs that would need to be paid out; surveyors have limited powers for awarding compensation compared to the courts, where emotional damage can be taken into consideration.
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