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What are Party Walls and when do I call a surveyor?
24 August 2016

The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 has now been operative throughout England and Wales for nearly 20 years. Prior to 1997 party wall legislation only applied to London. The origins of party wall matters stem all the way back to the great fire of London in 1666. As a result of this conflagration there was a major redevelopment of London with buildings developed by Sir Christopher Wren and other well known designers and master builders and the birth of the masonry party wall.

Party walls are generally thought of as being a wall that separates two buildings. However, the Act is far wider reaching than this simple view by virtue of the ‘etc.’ in the title. In simplified terms there are three main types of work where the Act applies:-

  • Section 1 – building on the line of junction between two properties.
  • Section 2 – work to party walls.
  • Section 6 – excavation work within 3 metres of buildings on the next door land where these excavations go lower than the foundations of next door. For very deep foundations this distance extends to buildings within 6 metres.

The Act covers all domestic and commercial property and requires notices to be served on neighbours in advance of the work commencing. In certain situations it is necessary to serve multiple notices covering two or all three sections of the Act. Stuart Brown, Senior Building Surveyor at Robinson & Hall has been acting as Party Wall Surveyor throughout the lifetime of the Act. In his experience, the most common questions are:

Q: Can I use the Act to stop the work going on next door?

A: No. The Act enables certain work to go ahead but in a controlled way with information on the proposals provided to the neighbour.

Q: How long does the party wall process take?

A: Simple matters with neighbour’s cooperation can be resolved within two weeks, but if the full procedure including an Award is required this can take up to eight weeks.

Recent projects where we have been appointed Party Wall Surveyor include:-

  • Extensions to houses
  • Loft conversions with works utilising the party wall
  • Repairs to party wall
  • Deep foundation excavations alongside shops and offices

Developments must be correctly evaluated to see if the Act applies and what notices need to be served. Whilst designers may refer to the Act they would generally not be expected to know the detailed application of the Act and therefore the appointment of a specialist surveyor is advised. It is our experience that party wall matters are often a last minute consideration therefore to avoid project delays, it is essential that sufficient time is given before the work starts.

For a free initial consultation on whether the Act applies to your building proposal please contact Stuart Brown.


Call or email Stuart Brown on

01234 362923

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