Back to News

Party Wall Disputes  

Disputes over Party walls, while similar to boundary disputes, differ in that they concern physical bricks and mortar walls, rather than a fence or a hedge, which may act as a de facto boundary between plots of land.

A Party wall is a wall that makes up a part of a building and either:

  1. Sits across a boundary (to a greater extent than merely its footings or foundations), or;
  2. Stands wholly on one owner’s land but separates buildings belonging to different owners. Only the part of that wall that is used by both buildings forms the Party wall. Anything above, below or to the side of that jointly used part is not a Party wall to that extent

The most common example of a Party wall would be the dividing wall between semi-detached or terraced properties, but also floors and ceilings within flats.

The Party Wall Act 1996 (PWA) provides to building owners a framework that manages how building owner who shares a boundary with an adjoining owner can carry out works on the Party wall.

The PWA affects any building owner that wishes to:

  • Work on existing Party walls or structures
  • construct a new wall or structure at the boundary line with an adjoining property, or
  • excavate within three or six metres of an adjoining building or structure (depending on the depth of the works)

The PWA provides building owners the right to work on Party walls that would otherwise be a trespass to neighbouring property, or would risk liability for the tort of nuisance. It also gives certain protections to adjoining owners, creates a dispute resolution method and apportions costs in certain cases.

How does the process work?

When a person intends to do work (known as the building owner), they must first serve a notice on the affected neighbour (known as the adjoining owner). The contents and length of this notice will differ depending on the type of works involved.

The process then allows, in most cases, for the adjoining owner either to give their consent or raise an objection. In most cases if there is an objection, or in the absence of a response, a dispute resolution mechanism applies. This requires surveyors to be appointed to examine the proposed works, consider any objections, and to make an award. The award will set out the works that the building owner can do to the Party wall, any conditions that apply to the works, and will determine any other matters raised by the parties.

Rights of the adjoining owner

If you are served a notice by the building owner there are a number of options available to you. They are

  • The right to raise a dispute and appoint a surveyor to determine the dispute
  • require reasonable measures to be taken ensure the protection of their property from foreseeable damage or for security purposes
  • request the works not cause any unnecessary inconvenience
  • be compensated for any damage and/or loss
  • ask the building owner to add additional works to the programme. These can include a requirement to maintain the existing height of a wall that the building owner is proposing to lower, or to increase the depth or strength of any ‘special foundations’. Plans, sections and particulars of the works must be included with the notice

However, the adjoining owner cannot prevent the building owner form completing the works within the constraints of the PWA.

If work is started on the Party Wall without any notice being issued, then the adjoining owner has the right to make an application to court to obtain an injunction to pause, and potentially reverse the works.

Notice Periods

When giving notice to complete works on an existing Party walls the building owner must give the adjoining owner two months’ notice prior to starting any works, unless prior written consent is obtained. The adjoining owner can then:

  • respond giving consent within 14 days of receipt,
  • serve a counter notice within one month of service of the notice, or
  • decline or take no action, which will be seen as raising a dispute if there is no response within 14 days of service of the notice

What if I am not in agreement with the proposed works?

If the building owner and adjoining owner enter into dispute, under the PWA the dispute process is straightforward. The parties will need to instruct either one jointly agreed, or two separately appointed, surveyor(s). The surveyor will then consider the situation as a whole and make an award, which binds all parties. This award will contain conditions that both parties must abide by.

Should either Party not agree with the award they can appeal the Award. This must be done though the County courts, with the appeal being made within 14 days of the award. The court will either uphold, rescind or modify the award.

It is important with PWA disputes to act quickly and obtain timely legal advise. The notice periods for opposing any notice, or award, is small and if left to expire you could be left in a situation in which you are unable to challenge works being done on the Party wall.

If you have a concern over your neighbours work on a Party wall, or your neighbour is opposing you intended works, the Litigation team at Mercers will be able to advise you on the option available to you and help guide you through the process.    

Article written by Edward Capstick – Litigation Solicitor

Our Services

Mercers are a team of client-focused experienced solicitors working on behalf of private and business clients.

Trust & Estate Disputes icon

Trust & Estate Disputes

Whenever disputes occur Mercers specialist Trusts & Disputes department take a pragmatic, cost-effective approach whilst providing expert advice on all matter of Contentious Probate and Court of Protection matters.

Litigation & Disputes icon

Litigation & Disputes

With our experience of mediation and litigation we can help whenever contentious residential property, landlord and tenant, professional negligence, commercial debt and trust & estate disputes occur.

Private Client icon

Private Client

The experienced team at Mercers help Private Clients with all aspects of inheritance planning including Wills, Probate, Lasting Powers of Attorney, Inheritance Tax Planning and Trust & Estate administration.

Residential Property icon

Residential Property

Mercers offers a comprehensive conveyancing service. We specialise in residential property sales, purchases and refinances.

Notary Public icon

Notary Public

One of Mercers Associates, Sarah Crowther, offers a specialist Notary Public service, usually needed when people are relocating overseas and documents or copies of documents require a notarised witness.

Contact Us

Talk to a Mercers expert today

Contact Us