Whether you are knocking a wall down, relocating your bathroom or planning on building a conservatory, proper planning permission is always essential. If you don’t have planning permission before you start building, you may be issued a notice to tear the existing construction down as well as facing a hefty fine. Continuing work without planning permission is one sure-fire way of wasting any money you have to spend on home improvements.
Where Party Walls are concerned, it is important that you obtain all the right permissions before going ahead, as you would with any other type of construction work. However, depending on the work you have planned, you may need to draw up a relevant Party Wall Award in accordance with the Party Wall Act (1996).
The Party Wall Act of 1996 was designed to assist homeowners of adjoining properties in reaching a conclusion about making adjustments to a Party Wall. If this is your first time hearing of The Party Wall Act, read on for helpful information about what it is and why you need it when conducting work on a Party Wall.
What is a ‘Party Wall’?
A Party Wall is a wall that separates two adjoining buildings or rooms. It stands astride the boundary line between different owners and is found in terraced or semi-detached houses. A Party Wall can also be described as a wall which is – in part – owned by two separate homeowners. Therefore, if any construction or renovation works are conducted on the Party Wall, both parties must be in agreement with the proposed works.
What is the Party Wall Act?
The Party Wall Act (1996) is a document designed to prevent disputes arising between joint owners of a party wall. Where plans have been made to conduct certain construction or renovation works, a building owner is required to receive permission from adjoining owners of the Party Wall. It has been put in place to protect homeowners and allow both parties to come to an agreeable conclusion.
Works conducted include, but are not limited to; cutting into a party wall, making a party wall shorter or taller, knocking down and rebuilding a party wall, removing chimney breasts from a party wall and more. It is important that the express permission of both homeowners is given before works can begin.
Some Works do not Need Permission
Small property adjustments will not need to be covered by the Party Wall Act. This includes putting up shelving and wall units, re-plastering the party wall and electrical rewiring. However if you are unsure as to whether or not any work you plan to do is covered by the Party Wall Act, it is better to be safe than sorry and to ask for assistance from a professional.
What Happens if an Agreement Cannot be Reached?
There will be times where disputes arise or an agreement cannot be reached between the two parties. If everything is done according to the law, this is a rare occurrence but there have been cases where two parties simply cannot reach an agreement. In these instances, an appointed surveyor or several surveyors are required to write up an ‘Impartial Award’ which is designed to ensure a fair and reasonable middle ground for both parties.
Once this Award has been made, both parties have 14 days to appeal to a Country Court if they disagree with anything set out in the terms of the Award. In addition to this, all works conducted must comply with the Award given once you have agreement from both parties. If not all work complies with the terms set out in the Award, the offending party may face a fine and other penalties in court.
While it is possible to reach a reasonable conclusion between the two parties in accordance with the Party Wall Act, it is always good to get a professional opinion if you are ever in doubt. An experienced chartered surveyor will be able to prepare the relevant Party Wall Agreement, listing all rights and responsibilities regarding how the work will proceed. They will also be able to provide advice and assistance on legal responsibilities in the event that anything goes wrong, such as damages caused. If you have doubts as to whether or not your neighbour is likely to consent to the planned works, it is important that you enlist the help of a professional surveyor sooner rather than later.
Article provided by Sara Bryant, an independent content writer working alongside a selection of companies including Gowers Surveyors, who were consulted over this post.