The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 defines the rights of Owners and their duties in the event of a dispute arising as a result of work being carried out to a Party Wall, a Party Fence Wall or a Party Structure. If you are proposing to construct a new building or extension within six metres of an Adjoining Owner’s foundation or intend to carry out any repairs or alterations to an existing Party Wall or Party Structure then the Act may apply.
WHAT IS THE PARTY WALL ACT 1996?
The Party Wall etc Act 1996 is by no means new legislation, however, there has been a new guidance note produced by the RICS (6th Edition) that is hoped to promote higher standards of professional competence.
There are some interesting points within the latest edition that has been the subject of many heated discussion between Surveyors, namely the right to enter the premises of the Adjoining Owner for the purpose of executing works in pursuance of the Act. As stated clause under 7.7… “it is generally accepted that there is a right to erect scaffolding to facilitate the access, if reasonably necessary to facilitate works in pursuance of the Act”. Whilst there is a need to clarify “access rights” there is no provision under the current form to permit scaffolding to be erected. “Generally accepted” provides too little conviction and until the Act is amended, in most cases, there will still be a requirement to draft a separate Scaffold Licence to allow specific provisions to be included which would fall outside the remit of the Act.
Under the guidance note, there is little to deter unscrupulous developers/builders undertaking works without notification. However, under Section 2.4 it hopefully goes a long way to convey that the Party Wall Act is not “unnecessary inconvenience”. The two party wall Surveyors are pivotal to the process with their “primary role to balance the interests of the two parties and not to frustrate the statutory process”. Despite the lack of any real power under the context of the Act including financial penalties, under the case – Roadrunner Properties Limited v (1) John Dean (2) Suffolk and Essex Joinery Limited (2003) EWCA SIV 1816 there is now greater authority to the Act. At Common Law, the liability would be the reverse of the following but the case places far greater burden on the Building Owner to disprove a connection between any damage caused by the works than the Adjoining Owner to prove the link, which could prove very costly.
Communication is all too often the main bone of contention when dealing with neighbourly matters. Invoking the Act should be a mechanism to improve communications as well as providing parties with an opportunity of recording the condition of both properties thus protecting the interests of all those involved. It is essential that the Party Wall Act is considered at the early stages of the project.
HOW WE CAN HELP
At Bradley Mason, we can provide expert advice on all Party Wall related matters acting either in the capacity of a Building Owners Surveyor, preparing and issuing Notices, Awards and Schedules of Conditions or as an Adjoining Owners Party Wall Surveyor, ensuring the Act is correctly administered, disputes are quickly resolved and properties are effectively safeguarded.
A testimonial from one of our Party Wall clients
“I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for the work you have done on this matter, your knowledge and advice has been invaluable and we are happy with the settlement achieved. I look forward to working with you on future projects.”
Kevin McAllister – Incommunities