In England and Wales, where an individual plans to carry out work or alterations on or in close proximity to a boundary well, known as a “party wall”, they must notify their adjoining neighbours.
Definition of party wall
A party wall is any wall that abridges the boundary line between two properties. This can occur with an internal wall between two adjoining buildings, or a wall between two properties.
Obligation to notify
The obligation to notify is triggered when an occupant wishes to perform work or alternation on a party wall. Work or alternation can encompass drilling into the wall, increasing or decreasing its height, constructing a wall or replacing a wall. Conversely, there is no obligation to notify for superficial changes, such as installation of electrical wiring, painting or adding fixtures such as shelves.
If the anticipated work triggers the notification obligation, at least two months’ notice must be provided to adjoining occupants. Upon receipt of notice, neighbouring occupants have three options:
- provide written consent;
- refuse consent; or
- serve a counter-notice upon the occupant wishing to carry out the works for additional works to be carried out in tandem.
If consent is given, it must be provided within 14 days. If the neighbouring occupant provides a counter notice, it must be done within 30 days. It is imperative to note that the occupant seeking to carry out the works or alterations can only do so with affirmative consent. A lack of response is insufficient.
If neighbouring occupants cannot agree on alterations, both parties must obtain a surveyor, either jointly or independently. The surveyor(s) will then determine an “award”, which is a legal document recommending what work or alterations should be carried out, and which occupants should be liable for costs.
An award can be appealed within 14 days of receipt to the relevant county court.
Generally, the occupant wishing to carry out the work or alternations bears the burden of the costs. An exception exists where the works were necessary as a result of the occupant neighbour failing to uphold their obligations for repair. If the neighbouring occupant requires further works to be carried out to their benefit via counter notice, they will be required to reimburse the occupant performing them.
Liability and access
When embarking on works or alternations, an occupant must take care to avoid damaging their neighbours’ property or causing unnecessary inconvenience.
Provided they are given at least 14 days’ notice, a neighbouring occupant must allow access to workers and surveyors on their property within reasonable working hours.
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Boundary disputes are very common occurrences, and it is highly advisable to consult a Property Solicitor in order to avoid unnecessary expense and time consumption should a dispute end up in court.
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