Rights of Access and The Party Wall Act

Saturday, 30th March 2024 | by: Justin Burns

Building owners often complain about delays and additional expense caused by the party wall act but there are benefits and the most obvious is the right to access adjoining properties where such is necessary to undertake the works. The alternative would rely on the owners coming to an agreement and any surveyor that has been tasked with negotiating a licence for access knows how difficult that can be.

The right of access is confirmed on Section 8(1) of the Act:

A building owner, his servants, agents and workmen may during usual working hours enter and remain on any land or premises for the purpose of executing any work in pursuance of this Act and may remove any furniture or fittings or take any other action necessary for that purpose.

I’ve underlined the wording that clarifies the prerequisite for access.

The right is only to undertake works that fall within the scope of the Act. Works that fall within the scope of the Act are defined in Sections 1, 2 & 6 of the Act. A building owner cannot serve notice relating to work that does not fall within the scope of the Act just because they’d like access.

An example would be raising the flank wall of a house as part of a hip to gable type loft conversion. It cannot be done safely without access but because the wall being raised is neither a new or “party” it falls outside of the Act. In such a scenario, the building owner must request access from their neighbour and, should they agree, it’s likely to be conditional upon a formal licence being drawn up by a surveyor at the expense of the building owner.

Section 8(1) also makes clear that the access must be ‘necessary’. Necessary is not the same as “quicker” or “cheaper” so if there’s a way of completing the work without access, and without therefore causing inconvenience to the adjoining owner, it should be considered.

An example would be excavating for new foundations close to the boundary with an adjoining property. As the work is all on the building owner’s land, it should be possible to complete it without access. It may mean that parts of the trench will need to be dug by hand, or that a particular type of mini digger will need to be used but because it’s possible, it should be considered as Section 7(1) of the Act confirms that the adjoining owner should not suffer unnecessary inconvenience.

Any disputes relating to rights of access must be determined by appointed surveyors.

This is the first in a short series of posts relating to damage claims under the Act which I’ll index below as they are uploaded.

  1. Rights of Access and the Party Wall Act (this post)
  2. Notice of Access Under the Party Wall Act.
  3. Safeguards During Access Under the Party Wall Act.
  4. Compensation for Access under the Party Wall Act.
  5. Access for Surveyors under the Party Wall Act.
  6. Problems Arising from Access under the Party Wall Act.

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 01799 543532 or via email.

Call Now Button