THE Party Wall etc Act 1996 provides a framework for preventing and resolving disputes in relation to party walls, boundary walls and excavations near neighbouring buildings.

A party wall includes a wall forming the boundary partition between two properties or gardens, whether it is on land belonging to one or the other neighbour, or is a jointly owned wall.

While you have the right (under the Act) to carry out certain works to a party wall, if you want to exercise those rights then you must give notice to neighbour of the proposed work. This might be:

- building a new wall on or at the boundary

- cutting into a party wall

- making a party wall taller, shorter or deeper

- removing chimney breasts

- knocking down and rebuilding a party wall

- or digging below the foundation level of a neighbour’s property

The notice procedure requires you to give full details of the proposed work, and the proposed start date. Notice must be given at least two months before the work starts.

The adjoining owner should then respond either consenting to the works or objecting. However, if they do not respond at all within 14 days, then a dispute is deemed to have arisen in the same way as if they had objected. The adjoining owner may serve a counter-notice setting out modifications or additional work they require.

If there is a dispute, the Act requires the parties to either jointly appoint a surveyor, or each appoint their own surveyor to draw up an “Award” which is basically an agreement regarding the extent of the work and how and when it will be carried out.

If you fail to give notice under the Act, the adjoining owner could try to stop to work by seeking an injunction against you. The best advice is to discuss any proposed works informally beforehand, and come to an agreement with your neighbour.