Notice of Access under The Party Wall Act

Saturday, 13th April 2024 | by: Justin Burns

In the previous post, we looked at the rights of access enjoyed by building owners where such was necessary to undertake works falling within the scope of the party wall act. Unsurprisingly, that access is subject to conditions and the most significant of those is the requirement to serve notice.

The requirement is confirmed in Section 8 sub-sections 3 & 4:

(3) No land or premises may be entered by any person under [the sub-section that confirms the right] unless the building owner serves on the owner and the occupier of the land or premises —

(a) in case of emergency, such notice of the intention to enter as may be reasonably practicable;

(b) in any other case, such notice of the intention to enter as complies with subsection (4).

(4) Notice complies with this subsection if it is served in a period of not less than fourteen days ending with the day of the proposed entry.

The emergencies referred to in clause 3(a) are not common (the one that comes to mind is damage to a utility) so in all normal circumstances the notice must be served at least 14 days in advance. The inclusion of the line “ending with the day of the proposed entry” confirms that the notice must include the date when access is intended to commence but, due to factors such as the weather, that can be difficult to predict. Owners will therefore take a common-sense approach and that works well as long as there is good communications between them. The alternative would be for the building owner to commence access on the prescribed date, simply to comply with the notice, and then incorporate unavoidable delays into their programme.

The Act does not state that any dispute arising must be resolved before notice can be served so the building owner need not wait for the award to be agreed. However, work cannot commence until the award has been served so they should seek reassurance from their appointed surveyor regarding timing.

Section 8 makes no reference to the duration of access, but the building owner should be guided by Section 7(1) which confirms that he “shall not exercise any right conferred on him by this Act in such a manner or at such time as to cause unnecessary inconvenience to any adjoining owner or to any adjoining occupier”. Any disputes relating to the duration of access should be determined in accordance with Section 10 (by appointed surveyor(s)).

You’ll note that Section 8(3) and 7(1) both refer to the adjoining owner and occupier. The occupiers’ rights must be respected in exactly the same way as their landlord. In practice, the adjoining occupier is not generally notified separately from their landlord but it would be prudent for the building owner to request that they are made aware when serving notice.

Finally, the Act does not include a prescribed form or template for serving notice of access so, as long as the required information is included, a simple letter will suffice.  The rules relating to the service are the same as those which must be followed when notifying and adjoining owner of proposed works.

In the next part of this short series of posts I’ll look at the typical safeguards which should be put in place when a building owner accesses their neighbour’s property.

If you live in the Cambridgeshire or north Essex area and require advice relating to rights of access under the party wall act, or any other aspect of party wall procedures, you’re welcome to contact us on 01223 620755 or via email.

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