Disputes over party walls frequently occur between neighbours when properties are renovated, or when a change to a building is later found to have caused an issue with a party wall.
The Party Wall Act 1996 was introduced to regulate any alterations to a property, or to land with fences or walls.
Party walls apply mainly to semi-detached properties, such as terraced housing – but may also affect flats, including the ceilings and floors in a flat.
Changes to a property which might fall under the regulation of the Party Wall Act include:
- Changes to a party fence
- Changing a support beam
- Cutting into a party wall
- Damp proof installation
- Demolition of a party wall or a section of it
- Digging or excavating beneath the foundations of a party wall to within 3m to 6m of a neighbouring property
- Digging or excavating beneath a garden party wall
- Hanging a suspended ceiling beneath the floor of another property.
Renovation affecting party walls must be carried out in accordance with the Party Wall Act to prevent damage to an adjoining property.
This would not normally involve routine changes to a party wall, however – such as changing a light switch or electrical socket, or hanging a picture or shelving, unless the work involves drilling deeply into the wall or removing a section of the wall.
It is always advisable, however, to contact a party wall solicitor for advice if you are carrying out major renovations which might affect a party wall or boundary – or if a neighbour is planning to carry out renovations or has started on renovations which might affect a party wall between you.
In party wall disputes, it is essential to take legal advice from a party wall solicitor to protect your own interests and your property. The Party Wall Act details exactly what can and cannot take place regarding a party wall and a party wall solicitor will have the expertise to guide you through this.
LAWTEC Solicitors can advise homeowners and property developers carrying out property renovations on their rights and obligations under the Party Wall Act – and also have a successful track record in advising and representing homeowners whose home may be at risk as a result of a neighbouring renovation involving a party wall.
Making Objections under the Party Wall Act
Neighbours and developers carrying out renovations involving party walls must give adjacent property owners two months’ notice in writing of their plans.
Homeowners can make an objection to renovations involving a party wall within 14 days of receiving notification.
Homeowners may also agree in writing to the plans within 14 days if, for example, provision has been made for protecting the property of any neighbours affected by the works – and compensating any homeowners affected by the renovations.
If agreement cannot be reached in a party wall dispute, a joint surveyor is appointed – or either party can appoint its own surveyor – to draw up what is known as a party wall award, setting out details of:
- The existing condition of the party wall
- Works to be carried out
- Protective measures need for adjacent properties
- Timescales and time limits for the works
- The Schedule for the surveyors’ building inspections.
Party Wall Injunctions
In some party wall disputes, if work has already commenced, it may be necessary to obtain a court order – called a party wall injunction – to stop the works temporarily.
The cost of applying for a party wall injunction can usually be claimed back from your neighbour if the court grants you the injunction.
Because of the time limits involved in making an objection under the Party Wall Act, it is crucial to take legal advice as soon as possible in a party wall dispute.
LAWTEC Solicitors advise clients to get in touch to discuss the issues as soon as they receive notice of any renovations involving a party wall, which might affect their property.
Funding Legal Action in Party Wall Disputes
LAWTEC Solicitors can usually offer clients who wish to take legal action in a party wall dispute a Conditional Fee Agreement (CFA) to fund their case.
LAWTEC Solicitors also offer a fixed fee arrangement for the initial assessment of a case involving a party wall dispute, so our clients know exactly how much they will be paying from the outset.
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