What work does the Act apply to?

The Act applies where the Building Owner wants to do any of the following:

  1. Build a wall astride the boundary between his land and next door's land.
  2. Build a wall on his own land but up to the boundary line.
  3. Where a structure already exists astride the boundary or the external wall of a building forms the boundary and the Building Owner wants to:
    • Underpin, thicken or raise the wall.
    • Repair or demolish and rebuild a party wall where it is in very poor order
    • Demolish walls or arches not complying with Building Regulations and rebuild them so that they do.
    • Demolish a party structure and to rebuild it to take greater loads than before.
    • Cut into a party structure for any purpose, including to inject a damp proof course.
    • Cut away projecting parts from a party wall.
    • Cut away projecting or overhanging parts of the Adjoining Owner's building to enable the Building Owner to carry out party structures works.
    • Cut into the adjoining building to insert a flashing.
    • Raise or rebuild a party fence wall or to use a party fence wall as a party wall.
    • Demolish a party wall and clear it away.
    • Expose a party wall previously covered up or protected.
  4. Where the Building Owner intends to excavate below the level of the bottom of next door's foundations within a distance of 3 metres.
  5.  Where the Building Owner intends to excavate or build below "the 45° line" drawn down from the bottom of the Adjoining Owner's foundations within 6 metres. (See Diagrams 6 & 7 in the Government's Explanatory Booklet.)

What about safety and security during the work?

The Building Owner must protect the party structure from the weather and maintain structural and defensive integrity of the Adjoining Owner's property. The building owner must provide all necessary hoardings, shoring, fans, temporary supports and security provisions to protect the Adjoining Owner and his visitors from harm arising from the work.

My neighbour is building and hasn’t served Notices or told me what he is doing. What can I do?

If the Building Owner is doing work on or to a party structure (wall, floor, or fence wall) or digging within the prescribed depths and distances without serving Notices, they are acting outside the law. You should seek legal advice.

If you are a Building Owner and are served with an injunction, STOP! If you do not you could be imprisoned for contempt. Only continue if you are absolutely certain that what you are doing is not covered by the terms of the injunction. Again, you should take legal advice to be sure of your position. The risks really are not worth taking a chance.

Who pays for what?

Generally speaking, the Building Owner pays the costs of the work and all the surveyors' fees. However, there are provisions for certain costs to be borne by the Adjoining Owner as well, such as:

Where a new party fence wall is built, then the costs are shared between the Owners equally, otherwise the Building Owner builds the wall in his own land and it is his wall, the Adjoining Owner having no rights in it.

If the Adjoining Owner has already raised the party wall and the Building Owner now wishes to enclose on it, he must pay the Adjoining Owner a proportion of the present cost of building the wall.
Where a party structure has to be rebuilt because of a lack of maintenance, the costs are usually shared equally.

The Building Owner can place mass concrete foundations in the adjoining land without compensating the Adjoining Owner but not reinforced concrete foundations.

The Building Owner must pay the Adjoining Owner for any losses or damage caused by his exercise of his rights under the Act. Just being next to a building site does not count, but if the works materially affected the Adjoining Owner's business, he might well have a justified claim. Any physical damage done to the adjoining property must either be made good by the Building Owner or he must pay a proper sum to the Adjoining Owner to allow him to have the damage made good.

If I consent to a Notice can I still appoint a surveyor later if a dispute subsequently arises?

Yes, provided the disputed matter is connected with work that was the subject of the notice. This is also stated in the Government's Explanatory Booklet (at the beginning of Part 3: Adjoining Owners/Occupiers).
The question recently came before His Honour Judge Birtles, sitting in the Mayors & City of London Court, in an appeal against an award under the Party Wall etc. Act 1996. The judge ruled that the surveyors did have jurisdiction to settle the disputed matter by award.

The new building is blocking out my light. Can I stop it?

Not under this Act. The Party Wall Etc Act 1996 relates to the building processes involved in building on or close to the Adjoining Owner's building to ensure that damage is not done or, where it is, it can be properly made good again. It does not affect easements of light, access, air or support to land.

Many party wall surveyors also have considerable expertise with regard to these matters and can advise you and your legal advisers whether or not you have rights to a flow of light or air and whether the proposals will adversely affect those rights. There is no right to sunlight or to a view and the amount of light "necessary" in terms of the law can be surprisingly little. Specialist advice is essential before taking action on the grounds of injury to these easements