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The trouble with  PARTY WALLS

Kelvin Francis, residential spokesperson for RICS  Wales explains, if you live in a semi-detached or terraced house and are considering work on the wall or walls you share with your neighbour there are a few things you need to know…

A party wall separates buildings belonging to different owners so for those of you that live in a semi-detached or terrace house, the wall or walls you share with your neighbour count as a party wall.

Where a wall separates two different size buildings, only the part that is used by both properties is considered to be a party wall. The rest belongs to the person on whose land it stands.

Before any building work begins that may involve a party wall such as extensions, damp proofing works, some internal refurbishment or structural alterations you must get your neighbour’s agreement for the work. In some cases, excavating or constructing foundations for a new building within three or six metres of neighbouring properties will also need written agreement.

The introduction of the Party Wall etc Act 1996, allowed homeowners to carry out work on or next to a shared wall whilst also ensuring the protection of the interests of anyone else who might be affected by that work.

The Act created a set procedure for those in England and Wales to follow when building work involves a party wall or party fence wall.

Designed to minimise potential disputes between neighbours, the Act ensures property owners use a surveyor to determine the time and way in which work is carried out. An ‘agreed surveyor’ can be used to act for both property owners should problems arise.

However, the Act doesn’t cover everyday minor jobs that might involve a party wall such as fixing  plugs, screwing in wall units or shelving, adding or replacing some recessed electrical wiring or sockets, or replastering walls as these don’t require an agreement as they don’t affect the neighbours’ half of the party wall.

If some of your New Year DIY jobs involve anything that might affect a party wall you need to consider that written notice must be given to your neighbours at least two months before any work begins.

If a tenant or leaseholder is in the building next door, you will need to tell the landlord, as well as the person living in the property, that you want to carry out building work to the party wall.

Where there is more than one owner of the property or more than one adjoining property, you must let them know too. Written notice will also have to be given to the owners and occupiers living either above or below your property.

Ideally, talk to your neighbours in detail about the work you want to do before giving them an official written notice. If you can sort out any potential problems in advance the written agreement may be achieved more efficiently. Your neighbours must respond to your notice within 14 days.

For any disputes that arise, the Party Walls etc Act 1996 does provide a solution where both parties each appoint a surveyor or an ‘agreed surveyor’ who will act impartially.

The surveyor will draw up a document called an ‘Award’. This details the work to be carried out, when and how it will be done and records the condition of the adjoining property before work begins.

It may also grant access to both properties so the surveyor can inspect work in progress. The Award will determine who pays for the work if this is in dispute. Generally, the building owner who started the work pays for all expenses.

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