Party walls are structures that sit directly on the boundary of land between two or more properties – think of the shared walls between terraced or semi-detached homes or walls that make up the boundary between gardens.
If you’re planning on starting building work on or near these walls or structures, your neighbours will understandably be concerned about the impact this could have on their properties. Having a Party Wall Agreement in place before any work begins helps to minimise these concerns by offering a clear overview of the project while ensuring your neighbour is covered should any damage occur to their property.
What work requires a Party Wall Agreement?
As a rule, you must tell your neighbour if you plan to build on or at the boundary of your two properties, work on an existing party wall or party structure, or dig below and near their property’s foundation level. This means work such as loft conversions or extensions can require Party Wall Agreements.
Common projects that will require you to have a Party Wall Agreement in place include:
- Any work to shared walls between semi-detached and terraced houses.
- Work involving shared party structures, such as floors between flats.
- Work to garden boundary walls.
- Basement conversions or other excavation works – or underpinning – to, or within 3-6m of, the party wall.
- Loft conversions that could mean cutting into a party wall.
- Inserting a damp proof course into a party wall.
- Making party walls thicker or higher.
- Building a second-storey extension above a shared wall.
- Building a new wall up to or off the party wall.
- Removing chimney breasts.
Not all work to party walls requires an agreement, however. If you’re just carrying out minor repairs such as plastering the wall, for example, this will not fall into the realms of Party Wall Agreements either.
What information does a Party Wall Agreement include?
The agreement, also known as a Party Wall Award, will explain all the critical aspects involved in the work. This includes how the proposed works will be carried out and includes the preparation of a schedule of condition - a document showing the state of the properties prior to work starting, often including photos. This means that you have clear evidence of the situation before work began if any dispute or damage occurs.
Other information to include would be the full addresses of all the parties concerned as well as of any surveyors involved, details of what the project intends to create, supported by architectural drawings, working hours, when the work is due to start and details of the contractor’s public liability insurance.
Basically, this document should provide all the information your neighbour needs to fully understand the project and the implications it’ll have on them while also offering reassurance that the necessary checks are in place to avoid any significant issues. Crucially, if the work causes any damage, it will also ensure they’ll be adequately legally protected.
How do I get a Party Wall Award?
Once you know the work you’re planning will impact a party wall, make sure you inform your neighbours and formally serve them with a Party Wall Notice in writing.
There are three different party wall notices that may need to be served, and you may need to use one, two or all of them, depending on your planned work. These are:
- Section 1 Notice – where you plan to build on or close to the boundary line
- Section 3 Notice – where you want to work on an existing party wall or party fence wall, such as cutting into the wall, removing a chimney breast or raising the wall
- Section 6 Notice – where you want to excavate within 3m of your neighbour and deeper than their foundations.
A party wall notice should give sufficient detail to enable a neighbour to understand what work you want to do and how it may affect their building. Key information to include would be details of the work you have planned, the date it will start, as well as any access requirements that will affect their property.
Your neighbour can then review this information and, hopefully, consent to the work.
If the neighbour has concerns, read our advice for settling party wall disputes peacefully.
Do I need a Party Wall Surveyor?
The purpose of the Party Wall Award is to provide both parties with a balanced written framework for ensuring that the work is carried out legally, fairly and safely. The agreement also sets out an inexpensive and simple dispute resolution procedure to govern how any future disagreement between the two parties should be resolved.
While notices can be served without a surveyor, you will need to appoint a surveyor if you intend to produce a Party Wall Award. Party walls can be a complex area and may end up being costly should anything go wrong, so having a surveyor on hand can be invaluable in helping the process run smoothly. While your neighbour may be relaxed before work starts, their patience can run thin after months of building work, so making sure you are fully covered and everyone is clear about the extent of the project – and is fully legally protected should issues arise – is essential.
It may also be a good idea to ask a surveyor to carry out a condition survey ahead of work beginning to minimise the risk of disputes.
The Novello Approach
We know that the Party Wall procedure can be confusing and making mistakes can be costly and time-consuming. Whether you’re about to start work or you’re concerned about a neighbour’s planned project, Novello’s impartial RICS surveyors can handle any party wall matter with transparency, honesty, fairness and punctuality.
From preparing notices, schedules of conditions and Party Wall Awards to determining a property’s condition prior to alterations, we are here to guide you through the entire process, helping to avoid legal and financial setbacks so you can focus on enjoying your home.