How to Solve a Party Wall Dispute

By: Jordan Phillips

In light of increasing house prices and the disruption associated with moving, more and
more people are opting to extend their homes in the quest form more living space.

However, problems can arise for owners of terraced or semi-detached properties as they
share boundaries with adjacent properties, other-wise known as party walls.

If you plan to carry out work that will have an effect on the boundary between you and
neighbour, you could quickly find yourself in the middle of a legal dispute, scuppering your
plans in the process!

However, all is not lost. Armed with the right information and by taking the right steps, you
can avoid the process entirely. We take a look at party walls and how best to avoid or
resolve a dispute with your neighbour.

Party Walls

Let’s take a closer look at what constitutes a party wall.

As alluded to earlier, a party wall is the dividing wall between 2 adjacent properties. During
the construction stage of a terraced or semi-detached house, the dividing wall is built evenly
across the boundary of both properties with ownership split down the middle.

Sometimes, a party wall can also extend to garden walls built astride the property boundary.

Party Wall Disputes

Generally speaking, party wall disputes arise when the owner of one property decides to
carry out building work on or near the party wall without consent from the owner of the
adjoining property.

This may involve removing sections of the wall and inserting support beams, underpinning
(a way of repairing faulty foundations), raising (the act of separating a building from its
foundations), or modifying chimney breasts.

This is where the Party Wall Act comes into play.

What is the Party Wall Act?

The Party Wall Act 1996 is a legal framework brought in to help prevent and resolve party
wall disputes. Under the regulations, property owners must inform adjoining owners of
their intent to carry out work on or near the party wall. Adjoining owners have the right to
agree or disagree with the work in question.

How the process works

The following steps are required:

• Under the party wall act, a party wall notice must be served to the affected
neighbour(s) at least 2 months prior to any work commencing;

• If within 2 weeks the affected neighbour(s) do not provide written consent, both
parties are effectively in dispute

Similarly, an excavation notice must be issued if you plan on carrying out any work within 3
or 6 metres of a neighbour’s structure.

Resolving Party Wall Disputes

As mentioned earlier, a dispute arises if an adjoining neighbour does not consent to the
proposed work within a 2-week period.

Reasons for dissent vary, although the most common scenario is concern on behalf of the
adjoining neighbour that the work will have a detrimental effect.

At this point both a mediator, otherwise known as a party wall surveyor, must be appointed
to settle the dispute.

There are 2 options here:
– Owners appoint separate surveyors;
– Owners agree upon the appointment of a single surveyor

The Role of the Surveyor

The role of the party wall surveyor, usually a structural engineer, is to devise a solution thus
satisfying both parties.

As part of the resolution process, the surveyor will look at any points in dispute but will also
consider how to minimise risk and inconvenience.

Once all points are agreed, they are confirmed in an award (otherwise known as a party wall award) which is a legally binding document signed by the surveyor and served on the owners.

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