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Party walls: resolving and preventing disputes

At Lewis Nedas, we are property law experts. From drafting and negotiating leases to conducting complex conveyancing transactions, our team is on hand to assist you. We are also specialist litigators and therefore well placed to prevent and resolve contentious issues arising in relation to property law. One particular area of law in England and Wales which often causes significant disputes is the law relating to party walls.

Below we offer guidance on party wall disputes and how to resolve and prevent them. If you want to discuss any of the issues raised here, please contact one of our team today. We will put you in touch with one of our specialists who will guide you through the process, allowing you to continue with your planned works.

What is a party wall?

A party wall is a wall defined in the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 as:

“(a) a wall which forms part of a building and stands on lands of different owners to a greater extent than the projection of any artificially formed support on which the wall rests; and
(b) so much of a wall not being a wall referred to in paragraph (a) above as separates buildings belonging to different owners.”

The Act also uses the term ‘party structures’. Under the Act, party structures mean a party wall and also a floor partition or other structure separating buildings or parts of buildings approached solely by separate staircases or separate entrances.

You should proceed carefully when carrying out any construction work, and speak to a solicitor about whether the work you are undertaking is covered by the 1996 Act. The reach of the Act is quite broad and it is therefore important that you seek advice to check whether the work you are doing falls within the scope of the Act.

If you plan on carrying out certain work on a party wall, you will need to inform the other adjoining owners. The process for doing this is set out in the 1996 Act. Again, in order to understand the work that falls within the scope of the Act, it is vital that you speak to a qualified solicitor who can advise you on whether you will need to comply with the terms of the Act. While you may think the work is simply superficial, this may not be the case. It is crucial that you seek expert legal advice as soon as possible and long before commencing any work.

In the event that your work falls within the terms of the Act, you must serve notice on the adjoining owners two months before starting your planned work. The notice should be in writing and can be prepared by a representative on your behalf, such as a solicitor. The relevant parties may consent or they may refuse to consent – and this is usually where disputes will arise.

How to prevent and resolve disputes

In the event that the relevant parties consent, you are unlikely to experience any issues. However, if they withhold consent, you must understand how to resolve the dispute.

One very simple way to avoid the refusal of consent and any potential dispute is to talk to your neighbours well in advance. By explaining clearly what you intend to do and discussing any concerns they may have informally, you may be able to reassure them and resolve any issues early on. Having an open and frank discussion about the intended scope of the work is often the best course of action.

However, if you are in a situation where consent is not given following the service of a notice, the Party Walls etc Act 1996 sets out the way forward to deal with the dispute.

Section 10 of the Act deals with the resolution of disputes. To resolve the dispute, either both parties will agree in the appointment of one surveyor (known as an “agreed surveyor”) or alternatively each party will appoint a surveyor and they shall then select a third surveyor (known in the Act as “the three surveyors”). All appointments of surveyors are to be in writing. If one party will not appoint a surveyor then the other party can appoint a surveyor on their behalf. The agreed surveyor or the three surveyors are then responsible for settling the matter by determining an “award”. This may include determining if you have the right to carry out the work and how and when any work should be carried out. If you disagree with the award it can be appealed to the County Court within 14 days. The County Court can then rescind or modify the award.

Get in touch

Our team of expert property solicitors understand the difficulties that come with being involved in a neighbour dispute. We are expert negotiators and mediators and will work hard on your behalf to prevent and resolve any issues that arise. We can offer you expert advice at the beginning of the process to prevent disputes. We can advise on whether your works fall within the scope of the Act and who you must serve notice on if so.

We also understand that sometimes disputes are inevitable. We are happy taking on the day to day administration of a party wall dispute – including liaising with surveyors and any other professionals involved

At Lewis Nedas, our team of Property Solicitors have extensive experience in all areas of commercial and residential property law. To speak with one of our Property Lawyers, please contact us on 020 3811 3589 or complete our online enquiry form.

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