The Party Wall Act is a difficult piece of legislation for the uninitiated and increasingly we are finding that people are serving their own notices only to discover that they are invalid and as a result this can cause significant delays to their work.
We therefore wish to offer some helpful advice as to what makes a valid notice under the Act and of course if you have any queries or concerns we are always happy to discuss the matter further with you directly.
Party Structure Notice
If your property is semi-detached or mid-terrace you will share what is known as a party wall with your neighbour. This is the wall between you both and is defined as ‘party’ when the boundary sits within it.
If you wish to undertake work to this wall you will need to serve what is known as a Party Structure Notice. Such works will include cutting into the wall to insert a steel which is normally the case for a loft conversion, raising the wall often again for a loft conversion or a rear extension or underpinning the wall as in the case of a basement.
You are not allowed to undertake this work until you have served a valid notice upon your neighbour and dealt with their responses. The notice need not be overly complicated however the act states that it must include certain integral pieces of information to be valid otherwise it is not worth the paper it is printed on!
Somewhat confusingly a Party Structure Notice is dealt with broadly under section 2 of the act whilst the information on what makes the notice valid is dealt with under section 3. Verbatim this section reads:
Party structure notices
Before exercising any right conferred on him by section 2 a building owner shall serve on any adjoining owner a notice (in this Act referred to as a “party structure notice”) stating—
the name and address of the building owner;
the nature and particulars of the proposed work including, in cases where the building owner proposes to construct special foundations, plans, sections and details of construction of the special foundations together with reasonable particulars of the loads to be carried thereby; and the date on which the proposed work will begin.
A party structure notice shall—
be served at least two months before the date on which the proposed work will begin;
cease to have effect if the work to which it relates—has not begun within the period of twelve months beginning with the day on which the notice is served; and is not prosecuted with due diligence.
In short there are four items which need to be included in the notice; the name of the person undertaking the work (the Building Owner) and the name and address of the Adjoining Owner; a description of the works; a date; confirmation that works will not start until two months have elapsed.
A party structure notice need not have any drawings to validate it despite common belief.
Adjacent Excavation Notice
Where your property does not join your neighbours however you are digging within 3 m of their property and lower than their foundations you are required to serve and Adjacent Excavation Notice under section 6 of the Act. This section also applies where you are digging deep foundations within 6 m of your neighbours usually piles however this will be discussed in more detail in a later blog.
Section 6 of the Act states:
In any case where this section applies the building owner shall, at least one month before beginning to excavate, or excavate for and erect a building or structure, serve on the adjoining owner a notice indicating his proposals and stating whether he proposes to underpin or otherwise strengthen or safeguard the foundations of the building or structure of the adjoining owner.
The notice referred to in subsection (5) shall be accompanied by plans and sections showing—
the site and depth of any excavation the building owner proposes to make;
if he proposes to erect a building or structure, its site.
Under this section less guidance is supplied in terms of text within the notice however and adjacent excavation notice must be accompanied by a site plan preferably showing the adjacent properties and certainly showing the location of the proposed excavations as well as section drawing through the proposed foundation. In broad terms the best guidance would be to follow a Party Structure Notice however you need only give one month’s notice to validate the paperwork.
Notices under the act can be a confusing prospect and therefore it is our professional opinion that this should be left to qualified party wall surveyors in order to avoid any undue delay to your scheme. Should you invalidate the notice unwittingly you could be in a position where a few weeks have gone by and you are in fact no further through the process. If in doubt give The Hopps Partnership a call and we can provide you with free advice at the outset.