5 common confusions about the Party Wall Act

The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 has been around for more than 20 years but it can still be confusing to many Building Owners. This is why a Party Wall Surveyor are usually put in place to ensure the Building Owner is compliant with the rules of the Party Wall Act. 


The Party Wall Act covers various work that is going to be carried out directly to an existing Party Wall or Party Structure. It also covers the following:

- New building at or astride the boundary lines between properties

- Excavations within 3 or 6 metres of neighbouring buildings or structures depending on the depth of the hole or proposed foundation.

- Work may fall within more than one of the above categories and involve different types of building and structures.

Here are some of the common confusions about the Party Wall Act:

1. The biggest misconception people have is not getting official consent if their neighbour has given permission. Official consent cannot be given unless the Party Wall Act is served even if you have the most wonderful neighbours. Verbal consent will not be sufficient, you will need to serve the Notice. After this, they will be given a two week period in which they are able to confirm their consent in writing. For example, if you are extending the rear of your home and there is no Party Wall agreement for rear extension in place, you will have no security against any damages that might occur. The Party Wall Surveyor will not be able to help because the works commenced without the agreement.

2. Some people believe that the act doesn’t apply to any extension on your own land - another common misconception. Section 6 of the Party Wall Act states that even if the build is within your own grounds, the Act will recognises that this can bring potential damage to your neighbour’s foundations. To make sure that you are covered within the Party Structure Notice[FA1] , you must be excavating within 3 metres of your neighbours foundations. This can be extended to 6 metres if you find that the foundations are deep such as Piling.

3. Another common confusion is that your neighbour can refuse access to the work. If however, you have the served the correct Section 1 Notice then you have the necessary permission to then enforce your right with the help of either a community support or other police officer. You are able to remove any fences or doors in order to enter the premises. You will not have to go through the courts.

4. Some people believe that if the neighbour hasn’t replied then they are free to start their loft conversion. There is a 14 day period for the neighbours to consent to the works. If they still don’t reply then they are deemed to have dissented and must appoint a Party Wall Surveyor. If they fail to do that then the Party Wall agreement loft conversion must be overseen by someone the Building Owners appoint on their behalf.

5. There is belief that you can produce a retrospective award if works have gone ahead without notice, this is a common confusion. There are cases where work has been granted retrospectively but it is down to the surveyor’s opinion and subject to agreement by both parties. If neighbours cannot agree then it can be escalated and settled in court, although, this is costly.

Are you confused about the Party Wall Act? Need help with the Party Structure Notice? Contact us to find out more and get assistance with all your Party Wall issues in London.

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