Party Wall Act - Advice

24 Aug 2009
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United Kingdom
Hi all

Well I am having some trouble here regarding the Party Wall Act - and whether or not the works I am proposing will require notices to be served under the act or not. I have spoken to a number of surveyors now recommended by RICS - some suggest the works would require notification - others suggest not. I have also contacted the Faculty of Party Wall Surveyors who suggested I contact a surveyor taking be back to square one! Does anyone know who the definitive authority on this would be?

I have enclosed a plan below detailing the works which are under question - the plan hopefully speaks for itself. The nearest point to any neighbouring building from the proposed is 3250mm (proposed garage wall to existing neighbouring garage wall) so as I understand it this falls outside of the PWA due to the distance being over 3 metres.

The boundary between my neighbours land & my land is formed by a wooden fence supported by concrete posts. Being a wooden fence it is not covered by the PWA and no notice is required.

The conflicting advice centres around the rear boundary wall. This single-story freestanding brick wall continues from my land across to my neighbours land and forms the boundary between our land & the rear entry.

In the Communities & Local Government publication THE PARTY WALL etc. ACT 1996: EXPLANATORY BOOKLET if this wall would be considered a party wall I suspect this would be defined as a party wall (party fence wall) type a:

Party wall type (a)

A wall is a "party wall" if it stands astride the boundary of land belonging to two (or more) different owners.

Such a wall:

is part of one building (see diagram 1), or
separates two (or more) buildings (see diagram 2), or consists of a “party fence wall” (see diagram 3).

A wall is a "party fence wall" if it is not part of a building, and stands astride the boundary line between lands of different owners and is used to separate those lands (for example a garden wall). This does not include such things as wooden fences.

I have underlined above the contentious point. As I see it this wall does not separate the land between myself & my neighbour - instead it forms the boundary between my property & the rear entry - and the boundary between my neighbours property & the rear entry.

Some surveyors are suggesting just that - others are suggesting it would all within the act but have failed to explain why. Sigh....

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Some surveyors will say it comes under the Act, for obvious reasons.

But why fret about it? Just build it - nothing's going to happen.
It may be a party fence wall between you and whoever owns the land in that rear entry, depending on where the property boundary lies.

It is not a party fence wall between you and your neighbour.

But as Tony says, just do it
I think the guidance is reasonably clear on this. If I understand the information you've provided correctly then I can't see why the Act would be applied in this instance. Is there any possible way in which the work you're doing could have any impact upon your neighbour's/shared structure? If not, just get on with it.
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I just wanted to follow this up with my experiences having spoken to quite a number of PWA surveyors, building control, a man who is said to be 'the authority' on the PWA in the UK & others. I have never come across such opposing views on what was I thought a fairly simple case in relation to the act. From those wanting to charge £500+ to serve notices to those who state it's a toothless tiger and a useless piece of legislation in place to make people money - to those who were adamant I didn't need to serve any notices. One thing is for sure - clarity there is none.

I've included another plan detailing the point of disagreement. As I see it my neighbour's rear brick wall is classed as a structure under the act - and my wanting to excavate / build within three metres of that structure with the potential to excavate lower than its foundation would require me to serve a notice - which on balance I've decided to do.

My current neighbour has no issues with the proposals - and using the template letters costs nothing more than printing the paper.

But goodness me what a mess the PWA act is IMO - based purely on my experiences of course....

Looking at your plan it becomes clear - the Act would apply to the brick boundary wall.

But the costs would obviously be out of all proportion to the cost of any minor repair to the wall which might be necessary, if at all. As you have reached agreement with the neighbour, then fortunately no need to spend £££ on a surveyor.

(there was a case highlighted on another forum about a year ago, where an obstructive and difficult neighbour insisted on the full works of the Act, in order to 'protect' a decrepid, rotting old timber shed; the householder spent IIRC about £2K on PWA surveyors, and said it would have been cheaper to buy the neighbour a brand new shed).
Hi Tony

Well I like yourself are at odds with someone who is a 'leading light' on the PWA in the UK. I will not name names - but I have been told by many a surveyor that if he says it will not come into play - it will not come into play. It just serves to augment my point that it's all a bit of a mess really...

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