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What you need to know about the Party Wall Act

  1. 12 June 2018
  2. By Andi Michael

Whether you're improving your existing property or buying somewhere new with the intention to extend, knowing about the Party Wall Act is important.




We’re pleased to welcome Cosey Homes Chartered Surveyors back to our blog. You may remember their helpful information last month about telling the difference between damp and condensation – really useful when viewing potential properties!

Today they’re talking to us about party walls, which is not only relevant if you’re planning on extending or improving your home, but if you’re buying a property with planning permission, or with the intention to do building work. Getting the appropriate legal permission when it comes to party walls will make everything a lot easier.

But what actually is a party wall, and how does the Party Wall Act work?

Over to Cosey Homes!
 
 
Ok so it’s pretty obvious that a wall that divides two houses would be owned by both parties - and so it’s called a party wall.

But most of us won’t actually do any work that would affect this wall in the downstairs or upper rooms of a standard terraced or semi-detached house, so why do we need to know about the Party Wall Act?

Firstly, the Party Wall Act covers more than just the dividing walls; it covers the space between houses, party wall fences and the dividing walls.

The floor structure between flats is also a party wall. It allows owners to carry out certain work whilst at the same time protecting anyone else who might be affected by that work.

If you are doing any works to a party wall you have to serve notice to the adjoining owner. There may be one or more adjoining owners for example a landlord and tenant.

However, you only need a party wall ‘award’ if the adjoining owner/s do not agree with the proposed works.
 

Example One

Let’s consider a loft conversion. Often the ceiling joists are not strong enough to hold the weight of a new room and its contents, as a habitable space requires higher load-carrying capacity.

Therefore, structural floor supports are often required and potentially need to be tied into the party walls; here you would need a party wall agreement with the adjoining home owner.
 

Example Two

Next, let’s think about an extension to the side of your house. If the extension will be within 3m of your neighbour’s house, or if any excavation is 6m deep and within 6m of the neighbouring property, a party wall notice needs to be issued.

In general, this is to ensure the digging of foundations or other work does not affect the stability of the ground underneath or near to neighbouring buildings.
 
The main aim of the Party Wall Act is to avoid disputes and minimise risks, by making sure the property owners formally tell their neighbours in advance (through the ‘party wall notice’) about the proposed works and how the work will be carried out.

It also requires that where the adjoining owners do not agree to the works in writing, then a surveyor will be appointed to determine the time and way in which those works are carried out.

This helps to ensure qualified builders, insurances, planning checks and documentation are in place. A surveyor can also check plans and formally send out party wall notices and agreements.

So, if you are thinking about improving your home with a loft conversion or an extension, always use a RICS registered surveyor.

You can also find out more on party walls and building works on gov.uk.


 
 
Cosey Homes Chartered Surveyors
Cosey Homes are a RICS regulated professional practice with a team of highly skilled chartered surveyors, structural engineers and building engineers. Their head office is in St Helens, Merseyside and they operate nationally across the UK.
 

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