Safeguards During Access under The Party Wall Act

Saturday, 11th May 2024 | by: Justin Burns

Section 8(1) of the Act confirms that the right of access provided by the Act only applies where it is ‘necessary’ so the best way for surveyors to safeguard adjoining owners and their properties is to not confer a right of access where it does not exist. And remember, “necessary” is not the same as convenient or less expensive.

Beyond that, owners and surveyors should be guided by section 7(1) of the Act:

A building owner 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.

*they didn’t know any better in 1996.

Let’s look at some practical examples of how the inconvenience caused to the adjoining owner can be minimised during the access required on two of the most common residential extensions.

Ground Floor Extension with a Wall at the Boundary

The first step will be to clear the areas of access as far as possible. Where items are portable, such as flowerpots etc. they should be temporarily moved to another part of the garden. The building owner’s team should be ready to assist with this task if required.

It is also possible to move small plants and party wall awards will often include a requirement for the building owner to engage a gardener to pot up and reinstate such upon completion of the works. Larger plants, bushes and trees are more of a challenge. If they can be pruned and the adjoining owner is agreeable, that should be undertaken by the building owner’s gardener if required but otherwise it will be a matter of carefully tying them back as far as possible to achieve the access required.

It is possible to construct a wall ‘overhand’ (meaning from one side) but it will affect the finish and the building owner should not be denied their right of access. The adjoining owner must be compensated for any loss or damage suffered as a result of the access but the priority should be to avoid such damage.

Once the area has been cleared, a sturdy hoarding should be erected to ensure that the adjoining occupiers are not exposed to a building site and that their property remains secure. This will typically be formed from plywood and should be positioned to provide a reasonable working space while minimising inconvenience.

Finally, the surface of the area of access should be protected from damage and this is normally done with plywood sheeting to prevent impact damage laid over polythene to avoid staining.

Raising a Party Wall at Main Roof Level

Most loft conversions incorporate a rear dormer set back from the boundary but, if the building owner wants to maximise their internal space and can get the necessary planning consent, they have a right to raise the party wall and that will require access.

The simplest way to limit the inconvenience caused to the adjoining owner is to design the scaffold without uprights on their land. This can be easily achieved by extending a cantilevered platform over their land at the approx. level of the eaves.

It’s not recommended to stand directly on a roof covering, even if it is concrete tiles, so some method of spreading the load will be required to reduce the risk of damage. The choice is generally between a bespoke roofing ladder or plywood sheeting with battens attached to provide a footing. If the roof covering is felt, I will include a clause requiring it to be swept off prior to access so that any existing debris does not cause a puncture mark.

If the height of the raised wall is greater than can be reached from the surface of the adjoining owner’s roof, a scaffold platform will be required but that should not take any bearing from the adjoining structure.

In the next part of this short series of posts I’ll look at the payment of compensation relating to access under the 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 01223 620755 or via email.

Call Now Button