The Party Wall etc Act 1996 came into force on 1 July 1997. It is largely based on Part VI of the London Building Acts (Amendment) Act 1939 and started life as a Private Members Bill sponsored by the Earl of Lytton.

Since the Party Wall etc Act 1996 came into force, homeowners in England and Wales have had a procedure to follow when building work involves a party wall or party fence wall. The Act is designed to minimise disputes by making sure property owners use a surveyor to determine the time and way in which work is carried out. You can use an 'agreed surveyor' to act for both property owners should problems arise.

If you live in a semi-detached or terrace house you share a wall (or walls) with your neighbour - that is known as the party wall. It separates buildings belonging to different owners.

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.

You must get your neighbour's agreement before you can start any building work such as:

  • Extensions
  • Damp proofing works
  • Some internal refurbishment
  • Structural alterations

In some cases, excavating or constructing foundations for a new building within three or six metres of neighbouring properties will also need written agreement.

You must find out whether that work falls within the scope of the Act. If it does, you must serve the statutory notice on all those defined by the Act as adjoining owners. (Remember that reaching agreement with adjoining owners on a project that falls within the scope of the Act does not remove the possible need for planning permission or building regulations approval.)

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