Frequently Asked Questions

We have provided you with answers to commonly asked questions, taken from Government’s Explanatory Booklet.

As a neighbouring owner, what can I do to guard against the risk that the Building Owner may leave work unfinished?

If there is a risk that you will be left in difficulties if the Building Owner stops work at an inconvenient stage, you can request them, before he starts the notified work, to make available such security as is agreed (or if not agreed determined by the surveyor/s), which may be money or a bond or insurances, etc. that would allow you to restore the status quo if he fails to do so. The money remains the Building Owner’s throughout, but if, for example, you need to have a wall rebuilt, you, or more commonly the surveyors, can draw on that security to pay for the rebuilding. This provision is usually reserved for particularly intrusive or complex works.

What can I do if the building becomes unsafe?

Incomplete work may make a building unsafe and therefore dangerous. Any concerns about dangerous buildings should be raised with the local authority building control department. Concerns about health and safety may also be raised with the local authority building control department or the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

What about excessive noise from the work being carried out?

You should contact your local authority environmental department who have powers under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and the Control of Pollution Act 1974 to deal with matters of noise and other potential nuisance, such as dust and deposits from construction sites.

Does the Act change who owns the party wall?

No. The Act does not change the ownership of any wall, nor does it change the position of any boundary. Boundaries can still run through the centre of a wall, so that each owner may technically own half of a wall. However, it may help in understanding the principles of the Act if owners consider themselves joint owners of the whole of a party wall rather than the sole owner of half or part of it. The Act sets out what rights an owner has in relation to works to a party wall and what he is obliged to do before he can exercise those rights.

Can the Act be used to resolve a boundary dispute?

No. The Act does not contain any provision that could be used to settle a boundary line dispute. Such disputes can be resolved through the courts or through alternative dispute resolution procedures (which may be simpler, quicker and cheaper), for example mediation, decision by an independent expert or arbitration.

Does the Act supersede other legal rights including common law rights?

Common Law rights are restricted by this Act only to the extent that the Act would take precedence on any matter for which it makes provision and only when the correct notices have been given and the procedures correctly followed. Any other rights, easements or covenants are not affected.

Who serves the Notice and how much notice should be given?

The Building Owner who wants to start work covered by the Act must give Adjoining Owners notice of their intentions. Generally, the notice should be given at least two months before the work is due to start or one month for new party walls or structures, and any excavation.

Can I send the Notice and/or other documents required under the Act by email?

Notices and other documents required under the Act may be served by delivering them in person, sending them by post, or sending them by email if the recipient has agreed to receive them by email, has not withdrawn that statement and has provided an email address to send the documents to.

Does the Building Owner have to wait for the full one or two months after serving a notice before starting work?

Yes, unless the Adjoining Owner agrees, in writing, to the work starting earlier than as stated in the notice.

What happens if a Building Owner does not serve a notice as required under the Act?

If the requirements of the Act are not followed, as with most property law matters (e.g. boundary disputes) it is a civil matter for the parties involved to resolve. Where work has begun without notice being given, an adjoining owner can seek to stop the work through a court injunction.

What if an Adjoining Owner ignores the Notice?

For proposed work under section 2 (existing party walls and structures) and section 6 (excavation and construction) of the Act, if the adjoining owner does not respond after 14 days of being served a notice it would be considered a dispute has arisen. For proposed work under section 1 (new building on line of junction) if the adjoining owner does not respond after 14 days of being served a notice the building owner may only build the new wall at his own expense and as an external wall wholly within his own land.

What happens if a dispute arises?

Both owners need to agree on an ‘Agreed Surveyor’ to produce an ‘Award’. Alternatively, each owner can appoint a surveyor to draw up an award together. A third surveyor is selected in case the two appointed surveyors cannot agree. The surveyors appointed and selected must consider the interests and rights of both owners.

What is a Party Wall Award?

It is a legal document that sets out the works to be carried out and how they are to be carried out. The surveyor/s will decide who pays the costs in producing the award and for any necessary checking that the work has been carried out according to the award.

What happens if I do not agree with what my appointed surveyor is doing?

You are unable to rescind his appointment, but you can approach the Third Surveyor to resolve the matter for you. However, if you have chosen to have just the one surveyor called ‘Agreed Surveyor’, then there is no Third Surveyor to call upon. This is why you should take care in selecting a surveyor and more particularly as to whether you just need the one ‘Agreed Surveyor’. 29

If there is no dispute does a surveyor need to be appointed?

No. If no dispute arises there is no requirement under the Act to appoint a surveyor.

What can I do if I am not happy with the conduct of a party wall surveyor?

Concerns about the conduct of a surveyor can be raised with the Citizens Advice consumer service and/or the trading standards body for the area concerned. Contact details can be found at: http://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/. If the surveyor is a member of a professional body, such as the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) or Faculty of Party Wall Surveyors, the relevant professional body can also be contacted to find out about the complaints procedures they have in place.

Can I build a new Party Wall astride a boundary?

Only if the Adjoining Owner agrees. If not, you must build the wall wholly on your own land.

Can I use the Act to resolve my concerns over the work being carried out by my neighbour?

The Act contains no enforcement procedures. It is advisable to raise your concerns with the owner of the property first. Where surveyor/s prepare an Award, they will endeavor to ensure your concerns are addressed in the way in which the works are carried out. If you cannot resolve the issues raised you may be able to seek redress through the civil courts. If either of the parties wishes to dispute the Award, they may appeal to the county court against the Award within 14 days, beginning with the day on which the award is served on them.

I have planning permission and building regulations approval - do I still have to go through the procedures in the Act?

The Act is separate from planning or building regulations control. Therefore, even if a building owner has planning permission and/or building regulations approval, they should still go through the proper procedures with their adjoining owners under the Act. However, not all work covered by the Act will require planning permission and/or building regulations approval.

Why didn’t the local authority tell me about the Party Wall Act?

Many local authorities inform those seeking planning permission or building regulations, approval of the Party Wall Act as a matter of good practice, but there is no requirement for them to do so.

What can be done if my neighbour’s work causes damage to my property but the work is not covered by the Act?

If work is not covered by the Act, at common law an owner has the right not to have his property damaged by someone else, and where a property is interfered with as a necessary part of the work to a neighbouring property, they have the right for it to be put back in good condition. If a building owner does not put right any damage caused, the adjoining owner has the option of taking legal action to enforce their rights. The adjoining owner would need to be able to prove that they have suffered damage or loss. Anyone considering taking legal action is strongly advised to seek their own legal advice before taking any action.

If I sell my house do I have to inform the purchaser that there has been a notice and/or dispute under the Act?

The property information forms, which are completed by the seller as part of the conveyancing process may include questions on the Act including whether there has been a dispute.