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What is A Party Wall Agreement?
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The Party Wall Act 1996 gives you rights and responsibilities whichever the side of the 'wall' you are on i.e. whether you are planning/doing work on a relevant structure or if your neighbour is.
The Party Wall Act does not affect any requirement for Planning Permission or Building Regulation Approval for any work undertaken. Likewise, having Planning Permission and/or Building Regulation Approval does not negate the requirements under the Party Wall Act. The Party Wall Act comes into effect if someone is planning to do work on a relevant structure, for the purposes of the Act 'party wall' does not just mean the wall between two semi-detached properties, it covers:
A wall forming part of only one building but which is on the boundary line between two (or more) properties.
A wall which is common to two (or more) properties, this includes where someone built a wall and a neighbour subsequent built something butting up to it.
A garden wall, where the wall is astride the boundary line (or butts up against it) and is used to separate the properties but is not part of any building.
Floors and ceilings of flats etc.
Excavation near to a neighbouring property.
As with all work affecting neighbours, it is always better to reach a friendly agreement rather than resort to any law. Even where the work requires a notice to be served, it is better to informally discuss the intended work, consider the neighbours comments, and amend your plans (if appropriate) before serving the notice. If agreement cannot be reached between neighbouring parties, the process is as follows:
A Surveyor or Surveyors is/are appointed to determine a fair and impartial Award, either:
An 'Agreed Surveyor' (someone acceptable to all parties). or
Each party appoints their own Surveyor to represent the individual parties.
The first option should be cheaper as the costs should be reduced - the Surveyor (or Surveyors) will decide who pays the fees - usually it will be the party undertaking the work; the exception being where the owner of the adjoining property calls on the Surveyor unnecessarily. It should be noted that any Surveyor(s) must act within their statutory responsibilities and propose a fair and impartial Award.
The Agreed Surveyor, or the individual Surveyors jointly, will produce an Award which must be fair and impartial to all parties.
Once an Award has been made, all parties have 14 days to appeal to a County Court against the Award.
Once you have agreement, all work must comply with the notice. All the agreements should be retained to ensure that a record of the granted permission is kept; a subsequent purchaser of the property may wish to establish that the work was carried out in accordance with the Party Wall Act requirements.