If you live in a terraced or semi-detached property (as a majority of people in England do), then you will have a party wall between you and your neighbour. However, like all boundaries between properties, party walls have the potential to cause disputes between neighbours. The law surrounding party walls in the UK is governed by the Party Wall Act 1996.
The Party Wall 1996 (the Act) sets out a process whereby a building owner intending to carry out party wall works is required to serve a notice on any adjoining land owner, specifying details of the works intended as well as the proposed start date of such works.
The process then allows for the adjoining land owner either to serve a positive acknowledgment of the notice, a negative acknowledgement (objecting to the proposed works), or to do nothing. In the latter two scenarios, the next stage of the process is for the dispute resolution mechanism to kick in, whereby surveyors are appointed to survey the proposed works, consider any objections, and to make an award.
You will need to serve a party wall notice on every neighbour who may be affected by your works at least two months before you make a start.
Because there is a reasonable chance that their property could be damaged by the works you undertake, your neighbour has the right to obtain a court injunction to prevent you from carrying out your planned improvements.
Yes, therefore it is imperative that you plan the works carefully, ensure you hire a qualified builder to undertake them and provide the required statutory notice.
The dispute will be dealt with by surveyors rather than the courts. Because surveyors can only award damages for physical harm to your neighbour’s property, rather than non-tangible damage such as stress, the award is likely to be for a lesser amount.
Your neighbour has 14 days to answer your notice and if the consent in writing you can begin work immediately.
If your neighbour refuses to consent to your planned work on the party wall, you will need to instruct surveyors to make an award. It is much cheaper if you can get your neighbour to agree to have one surveyor act for both of you.
The award will contain the rules and practices your builder must comply with when carrying out the work.
If you require legal advice regarding a party wall dispute, you can find an experience property law solicitor by searching through Solicitors Guru today.