Building control advice

Party walls - owner's duties

What is a party wall?

A party wall is a wall shared by two (or more) properties, which is usually divided by the boundary line but can include a wall, solely on one property, where an adjoining building derives support from it.  It could also include a freestanding garden wall if it is built astride the boundary.  Fences are not included in this definition.

What are my duties?

You are legally obliged to give notice and details of the proposed works which structurally affect the party wall, or of any excavations close to the wall, to all adjoining owners.  If you start work without first giving notice, the adjoining owner may seek redress through the courts.  You must not cause unnecessary inconvenience and you must compensate for any damage to buildings and property.

How long in advance do I have to serve notice?

At least two months before the planned start of work to the party wall, or one month if it is related to excavation work near to adjoining buildings.  The notice is valid for one year.

What constitutes work near adjoining buildings?

This is where you plan to excavate or construct foundations within 3 metres of an adjoining owner's building, where the work will go deeper than the neighbour's foundations.  Also, within 6 metres of a neighbouring owner's building, where the work will cut a line drawn downwards at 45º from the bottom of the neighbour's foundation.

What if I cannot reach agreement with my neighbour?

The best way of settling any differences is by friendly discussion and any agreement put in writing.  If this is not possible jointly appoint an "agreed surveyor" to draw up an award to suit both neighbours.  Otherwise each neighbour will have to appoint their own surveyor and these two surveyors will nominate a third surveyor who will only be called if the two surveyors cannot agree.

Whom should I appoint?

If you have discussed the proposals with your neighbour but not reached agreement, a surveyor will have to be appointed.  This should be a qualified person experienced in party wall matters.  It is more likely that your neighbour will allow an "agreed surveyor" if that person is not connected with the design or supervision of your building work.  An Institution such as the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors will supply you with a list of local surveyors.

Who pays?

The owner carrying out the work is expected to pay all reasonable costs.

Legal Note

This information is not an authorative interpretation of the law and no substitute for the Act itself. 

Reaching agreement with your neighbour under the Act does not remove the possible need for Planning Permission or Building Regulation approval. 

The Party Wall etc Act 1996 leaflet gives more detail.