The Party Wall Act

By: Matthew Pearce, Party Wall Surveyor, Pearce and Pearce Surveyors Ltd

The Party Wall Act (or “The Party Wall etc. Act 1996” to give it its proper name) is a highly intricate area of property and construction law, made more complex as it is left primarily to you, the general public, to know where and when to apply it. It is a legal requirement of all home-owners in England and Wales to comply with the Party Wall Act when undertaking certain types of alteration works (both domestic and commercial). Those that don’t, quickly find that not serving properly prepared notices under the Party Wall Act leads to heightened neighbourly friction, unlawful works and difficulties in ultimately selling the house, even several years after the work is complete.

By means of a simple explanation, the Party Wall Act applies when:

  • you are building or altering a property in close proximity to, or directly attached to, neighbouring buildings.
  • in the case of ground floor extensions, it is proposed to excavate within 3 metres (and more rarely within 6 metres) of neighbouring properties.
  • in the case of loft conversions, the property being converted is attached to a neighbouring property, either being semi-detached or terraced.
  • work is being done to a Party Floor ie. a floor/ceiling shared by two different properties eg. Flats.
  • you are building astride the boundary

The Party Wall Act applies even if Planning Permission (or a Certificate of Lawful Development) is granted from the relevant Local Authority. This will apply for nearly all residential extensions (however small) in most areas in England and Wales.

This is where one common misconception concerning construction regulations derives: that many feel that as they have local authority planning or building regulations permission they do not need party wall clearance. This is not the case as many people may require multiple legal permissions such as Local Authority permission, Party Walls, building control, Listed Building Consent etc. in order to undertake alteration work.

The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 was put in place to safeguard the interests of those undertaking certain types of building work and the properties of their adjoining neighbours. The purpose of the Party Wall Act is to protect both the owner undertaking the works (called ‘the building owner’), mainly by making a record of the condition of neighbouring property before the builders arrive, whilst also protecting their neighbour’s (called ‘the adjoining owner’) rights in the event of damage occurring. It also provides a legal framework for preventing and resolving disputes if damage is alleged.

A Party Wall surveyor can help in the preparation of the relevant notices and handling any dissent, recording pre-construction condition, agreeing these with the adjoining owner’s surveyor and making or agreeing an ‘Award’ (the document you will need in order to lawfully carry out any building work affecting your neighbours under the Party Wall Act).

The Notice generally includes plans and sections showing the proposed works and may need to include a description of any protective measures being proposed during construction. The Notice period varies from one month to two months depending on the nature of the work being proposed. The notice lasts for 12 months so it is generally a good idea to serve this when you are ready to start your work.

Access to undertake works under the Party Wall Act, is permitted under section 8 of the Party Wall Act. The Building Owner must serve 14 days’ written notice on the neighbour in order to obtain access and access should be “within normal working hours”. Access cannot be refused by the neighbour (“Adjoining Owner”) and refusing or obstructing access, where it is permitted under s. 8 of the Party Wall Act, may be an offence under s. 16 of the Party Wall Act.


Still have questions? Further information can be found here