Party Wall Disputes

(Last Updated: 09/05/2023)
4 min read
Key Takeaways
  • When trying to carry out works on a party wall, you need to inform the Adjoining Owner
  • If the Adjoining Owner opposes this, you can instruct a surveyor to draft a Party Wall Agreement
  • Should this agreement fail, your party wall dispute will go to court

Once you acquire a new property, it is natural you would want to turn it into your own. This includes redecorating and making any necessary renovations. However, it is not always as simple. In the case of party walls, you have a duty to inform the Adjoining Owner, the one you share a wall with, that you intend to carry out works. You need to give this notice at least two months in advance.

Once you serve your notice, your neighbour can either:

    Express their consent in writing
    Object to it
    Do nothing

What happens if Neighbour doesnt agree to party wall?

If your neighbour does not agree with the works, you can either try to discuss and come to an agreement or start a dispute. Party wall disputes are defined under the Party Wall Act 1996 as either:
  • when an adjoining owner does not agree within 14 days to your proposed works involving a party wall; or
  • when that owner wants remedy for suffering loss or damage resulting from the works (even if they originally agreed to them.)

How do I dispute a party wall?

Before starting a dispute, the Act dictates that you can resolve this by appointing a surveyor to draft the terms of a party wall award, which is also known as a party wall agreement. You can either choose the same impartial representative for both sides or get separate surveyors.

The adjoining owner may well have agreed to the choice of agreed surveyor – and this is inherently sensible for minor projects – but a dispute still has to be resolved, which is the reason why the surveyors agree a party wall award and serve it on the owners.

The dispute essentially represents the adjoining owner, ensuring that their interests are looked after by someone who not only understands construction matters, but also has expertise in the Party Wall Act.

What happens if I don't respond to a party wall agreement?

The adjoining owner doesn't have to do anything to register a dispute. If they do not respond to Party Structure Notices and Notices of Adjacent Excavation within 14 days, a dispute is automatically assumed in the eyes of the law.

How long does a party wall dispute take?

The adjoining owner can instruct their own surveyor or consent to the appointment of an agreed surveyor within the fortnight period but they do not have to be hasty. Once this period has passed, they have to be sent a further letter asking them to instruct a party wall surveyor within 10 days or otherwise have one appointed on their behalf by the person planning the works.

Once a dispute has arisen, the two parties involved, in legal terms, change from being clients (of surveyors) to ‘appointing owners’. The latter term is used to reinforce the idea that the surveyors must act impartially. However, prior to the dispute, a surveyor can serve a party wall notice on behalf of the person planning works because at that stage, it is unknown whether the adjoining owner will consent or not.

Consent, of course, negates the need to either have a party wall award, or to appoint a party wall surveyor.

What is awarded in a Party Wall Award?
The surveyor/s can decide on any matter concerning the works which the neighbours cannot agree on. Where work is yet to be carried out, an award can rule on the extent and timing of the works and any additional works required.

In the case of loss or damage suffered by the adjoining owner, the surveyor/s can rule on the level of compensation that must be paid to them. The owner of the building carrying out the works generally has to pay for the costs of the surveyor/s making the award but this too is up to the surveyor/s.

Frequently Asked Questions
Andrew Boast of Sam Conveyancing
Written by:
Andrew started his career in 2000 working within conveyancing solicitor firms and grew hands on knowledge of a wide variety of conveyancing challenges and solutions. After helping in excess of 50,000 clients in his career, he uses all this experience within his article writing for SAM, mainstream media and his self published book How to Buy a House Without Killing Anyone.
Caragh Bailey, Digital Marketing Manager
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Caragh is an excellent writer in her own right as well as an accomplished copy editor for both fiction and non-fiction books, news articles and editorials. She has written extensively for SAM for a variety of conveyancing, survey and mortgage related articles.

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