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The Party Wall Act
If you're working on the adjoining wall between two semi's and
doing much more than putting up shelves or letting in sockets,
then the Party Wall Act 1996 almost certainly applies to your project.
Don't fret, however, the Party Wall Act actually makes things easier, by giving you rights to undertake work, as well as obligations to your neighbours.
A no-jargon guide to the Party Wall Act
When does the Act apply?The act applies to the wall between two semi-detached houses - even where this is a full two bricks thick. Forget the idea that you own one side and your neighbours the other. In Law, you both own the whole wall.
The Act also applies to a garden wall that stands astride the boundary (though not a fence) and a wall built up to the boundary line (many houses are built up to the boundary like this).
In terms of what work justifies the use of the Act, well that's a matter for interpretation. You can safely assume, the following works wouldn't fall under the intended scope of the Party Wall Act:
What does the Act do?The Act was largely introduced to keep party wall disputes out of the courts. It creates a process that resolves all but the most serious differences of opinion, without recourse to the judiciary. It gives you rights to work on the wall and have access to both sides of the wall as necessary. It gives your neighbours the right to be informed 2 months prior to work being undertaken and the means to dispute your plans on reasonable grounds.
The most important thing the Act does, is provide a legal process that anyone can follow - there's no need for legal representation! To stay on the right side of the law and retain important rights, such as rights of access, you only need follow the process.
If you are on good terms with your neighbours and/ or the work is comparatively straightforward, you may not even need to employ a surveyor. You may still need to involve your local Council's Building Control department, however, and often this will help reassure adjoining owners that your plans / works are sound.
Where there is a dispute, it's surveyors and not solicitors who decide how and when the work can be carried out and who is going to foot the bill, through a legally-binding decision called an Award.
Page 2: Party Wall process
Page 3: Other rights and recourses
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