A party wall is a wall that stands on the boundary line between two adjoining properties. This wall is jointly owned by both neighbours and allows for the separation of buildings. If you plan to carry out building works that involve this shared wall in any way, such as excavating near it or attaching scaffolding, it is very likely that you will need a party wall agreement in place.
A party wall agreement is a legal contract between property owners that sets out rights and responsibilities when work needs to be done on walls or buildings that stand close to the boundary line. It allows for construction works that impact the party wall to be conducted in a lawful manner that protects the interests of both property owners. Having this agreement in place can minimise disputes, provide reassurance and clarify obligations before any building work begins.
When are party wall agreements necessary?
A party wall agreement becomes necessary if you are planning construction works that involve the party wall in any way, in order to avoid a dispute. If your neighbour is concerned about the scope of the work, or whether the proposed works are notifiable under the Party Wall Act, an expert witness report may be required for the matter. This will add to the schedule of works and the cost of your renovation project.
Here are some examples of situations where a party wall agreement would be required:
Excavating near or installing foundations up to the boundary line.
Digging deeper foundations near the party wall or excavating land right up to the boundary line would require an agreement.
Alterations to the party wall itself.
If you need to make any changes to the physical party wall such as raising its height, making openings in it for access or tampering with any part of the structure such as in the case of an extension or loft conversion, consent is needed.
Attaching scaffolding or cranes to the wall.
If you want to securely attach any equipment to the party wall as part of your construction works, this will call for a party wall agreement.
Any other works that might impact the wall’s structure or integrity.
It’s better to be safe than sorry, so if your planned works could possibly affect the party wall in any way, get an agreement drawn up.
In contrast, you typically wouldn’t need an agreement for minor works like re-plastering or repointing the wall. However, it’s still best practice to discuss any works planned with your neighbour first. The key is that whenever the structural integrity or physical shape of the party wall itself is impacted, a party wall agreement becomes essential.
The benefits of party wall agreements
Having a party wall agreement in place before starting any construction works provides several important benefits. A key benefit is that it clarifies the rights and responsibilities of each property owner involved. The party wall agreement will spell out what each party is entitled to do, what they are obliged to do, and what duties they have towards each other. This avoids confusion arising down the line by settling these details upfront.
Another major advantage is that a party wall agreement minimises the chance of arguments arising between you and your neighbours. By proactively addressing things like access, scaffolding locations, potential noise levels and compensation for any damage caused, most sources of potential conflict can be worked out in advance. This fosters an orderly and collaborative approach, and shows respect for your surrounding neighbours. The agreement also allows for fair compensation to be paid if any damage does occur during the works.
Finally, having everything formalised upfront through a legal agreement provides general reassurance for both parties before disruptive construction begins. It also grants any temporary access needed to facilitate the works.
When and how to obtain a party wall agreement
It’s crucial to obtain a party wall agreement well before the intended start date for any construction works impacting the party wall. Ideally, aim to begin the process at least two months in advance. Rushing into the works without an agreement risks causing disputes and delays. It’s advisable to have an informal chat with your neighbour first so they’re aware the notice will be coming.
The next step is appointing surveyors, with each party selecting an independent surveyor to represent them. These surveyors negotiate and finalise the details of the agreement. Only after surveyors are appointed should specific plans be drawn up. The agreement itself may influence aspects of the design, so confirming it early on prevents unnecessary rework.
As soon as you know for certain that the planned works will physically affect the party wall in any way, initiate the process of securing the agreement. Once a draft is created that both parties are satisfied with, it will be formally signed and come into legal effect. Only then should construction works begin as per the terms set out. Do not begin any structural building work, demolition, excavating, renovation or other property alterations until the agreement has been signed and formalised.
Clarify your rights and interests
Remember, the party wall agreement should be fully signed and settled before any actual construction commences. Allow plenty of time for thorough negotiations between the appointed surveyors.
A party wall agreement plays an important role whenever construction works are planned near a property boundary line. It provides a clear framework that protects the rights and interests of both neighbouring property owners. By clarifying responsibilities, minimising disputes and allowing for access, a party wall agreement enables building works to proceed smoothly and considerately.
For the small upfront time and money investment, a party wall agreement provides invaluable reassurance and avoids headaches down the track. It ensures the structural integrity of party walls is maintained through any intrusive works. Ultimately, obtaining a party wall agreement is a proactive step that demonstrates respect for your neighbour’s property and a commitment to getting necessary construction works done properly.