Can My Neighbour Build on My Boundary Wall?

By Jack Pye MRICS on and updated on

While you might be confident that your neighbour would not be able to build on a shared boundary line, in fact, with the right permissions and notices, they may be able to do just that. If your neighbours are considering such work, it’s essential to speak to specialists and be as informed as possible to ensure the work doesn’t disrupt or affect your property more than it has to.

What rights does my neighbour have?

So, what exactly is your neighbour able to do? The work they can carry out and where they can do it is defined in the Party Wall Act. This states that your neighbour can build up to the boundary. They may also build astride the boundary line, but only with your permission.

Under the terms of the act, those wanting to alter a boundary wall can:

  • Underpin, thicken or raise a boundary wall
  • Make good, repair, or demolish and rebuild a boundary wall where necessary
  • Demolish a party structure that is of insufficient strength or height for any intended building and rebuild it so it is suitable
  • Cut into a party structure for any purpose, such as inserting a damp proof course
  • Cutaway any footing or any projection to erect, raise or underpin a boundary wall
  • Cutaway or demolish parts of any wall or building overhanging the land of the building owner to enable a vertical wall to be erected or raised
  • Raise a boundary wall or demolish and rebuild it

However, it should be noted that this depends on notices being issued – your neighbour can’t simply start working on a boundary line when they want to. Instead, they must set out what they intend to do and serve written notice on you and any other adjoining owners at least two months before starting any party wall works. While you can’t prevent work that is allowed under the Act from being carried out, you can raise a dispute in response to the notice. This will require a party wall surveyor to assess the situation and make an award that determines how the works will be carried out.

Your neighbour must also inform you if they plan to build a wall wholly on their land but up against the boundary line, although in this case, you cannot prevent any work from taking place. Construction can begin one month after notice has been served.

Interestingly, should they move the work even a minimal distance away from the boundary, they would no longer have to notify you in most cases.

When it comes to allowing your neighbour to build astride the boundary line, you’ll have 14 days to agree in writing once you’ve been served notice. If you do this, the work can go ahead. If you don’t respond or object to the proposal, your neighbour must build the wall wholly on their land and at their own expense.

Can a neighbour use the boundary wall as part of their extension?

If it’s a party wall, which means the boundary line runs through it, your neighbour is entitled to use the wall in their extension, but they may need to serve a notice enclosing on the wall and for adjacent excavation. If, however, the wall is wholly on one side or the other, the Party Wall Act grants no right to use.

Of course, this right works both ways, so if you’re planning an extension, you can also build up to the boundary wall. Neither party has any right to build on the other’s land except to place foundations for a new wall where necessary, but this is unlikely to happen during small, domestic projects such as an extension.

What obligations must your neighbour meet?

Your neighbour’s specific obligations will vary depending on the works being carried out, but, as a rule, in addition to serving notice, they must also commit to taking reasonable care when carrying out the works, including avoiding unnecessary inconvenience to you. They must also pay all costs associated with the work and compensate you for any damage.

Work must begin with 12 months of serving you notice, and it must be carried out in line with what was agreed.

In return, you must allow contractors access to your property as agreed if it’s required for the party wall works.

The Novello Approach

Party walls are complex, and situations can soon escalate as homeowners understandably worry about the impact of their neighbours’ plans on their property. While keeping dialogue open is essential, calling in expert party wall surveyors will help the process run more smoothly and ensure all parties are clear on their obligations. At Novello, we’re a team of highly experienced, RICS qualified surveyors that can work on behalf of you as the adjoining owner or as a surveyor for both parties. Whatever the situation, we promise to be responsive, efficient, clear and impartial, handling any party wall matter with transparency, honesty, fairness and punctuality. We can prepare Schedules of Conditions and Party Wall Awards, so you’re clear on what work is being carried out. Hence, you’re aware of your rights and what your neighbour must commit to and help avoid disputes, so you don’t have to worry about costly legal battles or avoidable damage to your home.

Contact us today to find out how we can take the worry out of party wall works.

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