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Party Wall Act 1996

Article 286 [ added on 01-10-2009, updated on 12-08-2010 ]

Building near Boundaries

(Any wall, floor, foundation or other structure that sits astride the boundary of a property or is used to separate distinct properties is a ‘party structure’).

If your extension is proposed within the specified distance of your neighbour’s foundations, it may be likely that you have a duty under the Party Wall Act 1996 to notify the owner of that property of your intentions. Only ‘likely’ because it does ultimately depend upon the depth of their foundations in relation to yours.

The Party Wall Act was introduced to England and Wales in general in July 1997 but has existed in London under the London Building (Amendment) Act since 1939. It endeavours to prevent neighbour disputes over party walls ending up in the courts by setting down a procedure for consultation.

If your extension proposals fall within the Party Wall Act you are required to notify the owner of the neighbouring building of your proposals one month before you start the work.

Examples of boundary issues

•    A shared driveway where a new neighbour has started using more than his fair share with additional vehicles.
•    A house owner who has cultivated a plot of land for more than 10 years may suddenly be informed that the land is not his and he is required to vacate very quickly.
•    A joint ownership property where the individual boundaries of the land are not clear.

Neighbour Agrees

The agreement must be in writing. If this is the case, the one month is not an issue and you can execute the works. In the event that having served notice on your neighbour of your intention and having given them a copy of the plans detailing your proposals and 14 days has passed without reply, they have then deemed to have disapproved and you have to appoint surveyors.

The neighbouring owner can require you to underpin their foundations at your own expense should they prove to be within the affected zone caused by your excavated trenches.

Neighbour Disagrees

You may jointly in agreement appoint one surveyor to act for both of you, or appoint two surveyors, one to act on behalf of each party. The surveyor/s draw up an agreement which covers the right to do the work, describes it and the time and manner in which it is to be done, and the costs which you may pay to the neighbour in compensation. If an agreement cannot be met then a third surveyor can be jointly appointed to act as the final arbitrator. This adjudication by surveyors is intended to relieve the courts of disputes.

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