The Party Wall Act and its implications for landlords

Bradley Mackenzie, owner of surveying specialists, Stokemont, covers the Party Wall Act, highlighting everything you need to know about this often overlooked, but vital-to-understand piece of legislation.

Related topics:  Landlords,  Educational Article,  Party Wall
Bradley Mackenzie Owner of Stokemont
28th July 2023
Summer houses 123

The learning objectives for this article are to:

  • Understand the basics and key information contained in the Party Wall etc. Act 1996
  • Recognise and understand the responsibilities of landlords under the Party Wall etc. Act 1996
  • Identify the potential legal and financial implications arising from the failure to adhere to the Act

The Party Wall etc. Act 1996, often known more simply as the 'Party Wall Act' (or ‘the Act’), is a key piece of property-related legislation in England and Wales.

The Act is designed to regulate and provide guidance for preventing and/or resolving disputes that arise between neighbours sharing a 'party wall' or a boundary.

It may not be immediately obvious how this legislation relates to landlords, but when understood and applied correctly it will help prevent costly disputes and contribute to a harmonious landlord-tenant relationship. Understanding the Act may also make it easier for you to buy and sell properties in the future, and limit your risk when purchasing a property that has had work done which could have impacted a party wall.

At its core, the Party Wall Act outlines the rights of a property owner to carry out certain works on their property which might have an impact on an adjoining property or shared boundary (works which may impact what is known as the ‘adjoining owner’).

A 'party wall' can include a shared wall between two houses, the dividing partitions within a building, or even a garden wall. The Act also covers excavations within certain distances of neighbouring properties.

The Act requires that anyone wishing to undertake work which may impact a party wall must give the adjoining owner adequate notice in advance. The length of the notice required will vary depending on the nature of the work, but it generally ranges from one to two months.

If the neighbour consents to the proposed works, then it can proceed as planned. However, if they dissent (or do not respond at all), a dispute is said to have occurred. Following any dispute both parties must appoint a chosen party wall surveyor, or agree on a single one (the ‘agreed surveyor’), to resolve the dispute.

As a landlord, understanding your responsibilities under the Party Wall Act is critical, especially if you plan to undertake any construction or renovation work on your property that could impact an adjoining one.

If a landlord fails to serve the correct notice or does not comply with the Party Wall Act when carrying out the works, they may face legal action from affected neighbours, leading to financial penalties and delays in the construction work.

Moreover, the Act will also apply if the landlord's tenant wishes to carry out work that may impact an adjoining building owner.

Even though it is the tenant wishing to undertake the work, as the property owner the landlord must serve the required notice to the adjoining owner(s) and take the primary role in any party wall-related procedures.

The landlord also has a role to play in the selection of surveyors if a dispute does arise. Both the person doing the work and the adjoining owner(s) can each appoint a surveyor, or they can agree to appoint a single Agreed Surveyor.

The surveyor's role is to objectively resolve the dispute in the best interests of both parties. Keep in mind that this does not mean that they must take the side of the landlord/property owner hiring them.

It is common for the costs of the agreed party wall surveyor(s) to fall under whoever instigated the party wall procedure, since more often than not the works will be for the benefit of the property owner carrying them out.

Non-compliance with the Party Wall Act can have serious legal and financial implications, so it is always important to comply with the Act when carrying out any party wall-related works.

Failure to serve a notice, or the carrying out of work which is in violation of the Act, can lead to an injunction being served, halting the work until the necessary steps under the Act have been taken and any disputes resolved. This can lead to significant delays and increased costs, particularly if contractors have been hired and cannot proceed as scheduled.

If damage does occur to a neighbour's property as a result of any work, and it was carried out without complying with the Act, the adjoining owner may have grounds for a claim in common law nuisance or negligence. This could result in financial liability for the cost of repairs and even associated legal fees.

The main takeaway is that compliance with the Act provides added protection for landlords.

The Act stipulates that any work undertaken should not cause unnecessary inconvenience and that if damage is caused to the adjoining building the person carrying out the work is required to make good on that damage at their own expense.

A party wall award, prepared by the appointed surveyor(s), will usually include a schedule of the condition of the neighbouring property before works begin, providing a clear benchmark to measure if any damage has occurred.

While the Party Wall Act might seem daunting at first, it is essential legislation for landlords to understand.

By providing a clear framework for carrying out construction work near or on shared boundaries, it aims to reduce disputes and protect all parties involved.

Landlords must be aware of their responsibilities under the Act, and be prepared to manage any disputes effectively and within the legislation's guidelines.


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To recap, this article has helped you...

  • Understand the basics and key information contained in the Party Wall etc. Act 1996
  • Recognise and understand the responsibilities of landlords under the Party Wall etc. Act 1996
  • Identify the potential legal and financial implications arising from the failure to adhere to the Act
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