The very first step in the process is to establish whether your proposed works fall within the scope of the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 and, if so, which adjoining owners are affected.
Sections 1, 2 & 6 of the Act set out an owner’s rights but those rights are only exercisable if the necessary party wall notices are served, let’s look at each of them in turn:
Section 1 – New Walls at the Boundary
This section of the Act is only relevant to ground based extensions and specifically if part of the boundary wall to that extension is constructed either up to or astride a boundary. A new wall astride the boundary is a party wall and can only be built with the express consent of the adjoining owner (this is different to demolishing a shared garden wall and re-building it as a party wall which is a right provided by section 2(2)(l) of the Act – see below).
If the new wall is set back from the boundary, even by a couple of inches, this section of the Act will not be invoked – while that might avoid the need to serve notice (although section 6 of the Act may still apply – see below) it also means that the building owner would have no right of access over the adjoining owner’s land.
Notice would need to be served on any owner, freehold or leasehold, whose demise ran up to the relevant boundary.
Section 2 – Work Affecting Existing Party Structures (and adjoining owners’ walls at the boundary)
Party structures are structures that divide the properties of different owners and include party walls, party fence walls (i.e. garden walls) and floor/ceiling structures. The following are the most common types of work covered by this section alongside the name of the relevant paragraph:
2(2)(a) – Underpinning or raising a party wall or party fence wall.
(b) – Repairing a party structure
(f) – Cutting in to a party structure e.g. to insert beams, padstones, flashings or fixings.
(g) – Cutting elements away from a party structure such as a chimney breast or an internal wall.
(j) – Cutting in to an adjoining owners’ wall, which is positioned at the boundary, to insert a flashing.
(l) – Demolishing a party fence wall and re-building it as a party wall
(n) – Exposing a party wall to the elements.
Notice will need to be served on any adjoining owner, freehold or leasehold, whose demise includes the affected section of wall.
Section 6 – Excavation Close to a Shared or Adjoining Structure
If the proposed work includes foundations within 3.00m of a shared or adjoining structure it is likely to fall within the scope of this section of the Act. There is one other criteria, the proposed excavation must be to a greater depth that the base of the foundations to that shared or adjoining structure although that will generally be the case if it was built before the 1960s.
The notifiable distance increases to 6.00m for very deep foundations, such as piles, but those are not as common as trench fill mass concrete foundations.
Notice would need to be served on any owner, freehold or leasehold, whose demise included the shared or adjoining structure.
If you live in the Cambridgeshire or north Essex area and are in any doubt whether your proposed works are covered by the Act you are welcome to contact the author of this post on 01223 620755 or via email.