The Act came into force on 1 July 1997 and applies throughout England and Wales. (The Act does not apply to Scotland or Northern Ireland).
The Act is intended to enable development whilst protecting adjoining owners and their occupiers. It places obligations on the owner who wishes to undertake such development to notify their neighbours in writing of what is proposed.
If necessary, the Act then provides statutory procedures for appointing surveyors who then resolve matters by way of an ’award’. An award prescribes the format that the person carrying out the work is required to adopt. It does not allow an adjoining owner to stop someone exercising his or her rights to conduct work under the Act, but it does ensure that the works are performed in such a manner that protects the adjoining owners’ interests.
The Act provides a Building Owner, who wishes to carry out various sorts of work to an existing party wall, with additional rights going beyond ordinary common law rights.
The most commonly used rights are:
- to build a new wall on your own land, up to the line of junction or astride the line of junction.
- to repair a party wall
- to insert a damp proof course
- to underpin the whole thickness of a party wall (for example, to prevent settlement)
- to cut into a party wall to take the bearing of a beam (for example for a loft conversion).
- to raise the height of a party wall (for example, adding another storey).
- to extend a party wall downwards (for example, to form a basement)
- to cut off projections from a party wall (or from an adjoining owner’s boundary or external wall) if necessary to build a new wall adjacent to that wall (for example, removing a chimney breast).
excavation under the 3 or 6 meter rule.
Some works on a party wall may be so minor that service of notice under the Act would be generally regarded as not necessary.
- drilling into a party wall to fix plugs and screws for ordinary wall units or shelving
- cutting into a party wall to add or replace recessed electric wiring and sockets
- removing old plaster and re-plastering may all be too minor to require a notice under the Act.
However, the key point is whether your planned work might have any possible consequences for the structural strength and support functions of the party wall as a whole, or cause damage to the Adjoining Owner's side of the wall. If you are in doubt about whether your planned work requires a notice you might wish to seek advice from a qualified building professional.
Can the Act be used to resolve a boundary dispute?
No. The Act does not contain any provision that could be used to settle a boundary line dispute.
Such disputes can be resolved through the courts or through alternative dispute resolution procedures (which may be simpler, quicker and cheaper), for example mediation, decision by an independent expert or arbitration.
Does the Act supersede other legal rights including common law rights?
Common Law rights are restricted by this Act only to the extent that the Act would take precedence on any matter for which it makes provision and only when the correct notices have been given and the procedures correctly followed. Any other rights, easements or covenants are not affected.
I have planning permission and building regulations approval - do I still have to go through the procedures in the Act?
The Act is separate from planning or building regulations control. Therefore, even if a building owner has planning permission and/or building regulations approval, they should still go through the proper procedures with their adjoining owners under the Act. However, not all work covered by the Act will require planning permission and/or building regulations approval.
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