How to serve a Party Wall Notice – What is required of a valid notice? When should they be served and to who?

The Party Wall etc Act 1996 allows notices to be served by Building Owners, but it is vital that the notices contain the correct information, are served in sufficient time and to the correct recipients. Without a valid notice, all subsequent action under the Act may also be invalid, so it is crucial this stage is handled correctly. Our senior party wall surveyor, Michael White, explains types of work that are notifiable and what is required of a valid notice…..

The serving of valid notices is a key requirement of the Act and, without it, no further action is under the Act is possible. A notice is the starting point from which everything else follows. It is therefore crucial to ensure that notices are valid, served at the right time, to the right recipients and cover all items of the notifiable work.

Notices are required when the Building Owner proposes to carry out work under sections 1, 2 or 6 of The Act. As a result, there are 3 types of notice that may have to be served upon an adjoining owner to make them aware of intended work. The Act sets out the detail that should be included in a notice and the requirements vary slightly for each type.

Line of Junction Notice (Section 1)

Served under section 1, a Line of Junction notice covers two distinct tasks:

  1. The construction of a new wall built upto a boundary.
  2. The construction of a new wall built astride a boundary.

The notice period is one month.

The section 1 notice must indicate the Building Owners desire to build. It is also a requirement that the notice describes the intended wall. The requirements are set out in sections 1(2) and 1(5) of The Act.

If the adjoining owner does not respond to a section 1 notice relating to a neighbour’s intentions to build a new wall up to the boundary, the work can commence when the notice period has expired (note: this is in contradiction to section 2 and section 6 notices, whereby a deemed dissent occurs if the Adjoining Owner fails to respond to a notice).

The building owner may place any necessary footings and foundations (with the exception of reinforced foundations known as ‘special foundations’) under the adjoining owner’s land provided that it is necessary.

The building of a new wall astride the boundary is the only type of work covered under the Act which the adjoining owner can prevent. If the adjoining owner does not respond in writing within 14 days, the building owner will have to build the new wall entirely on his side of the boundary line. Again, the building owner may place any necessary footings and foundations (with the exception of ‘special foundations’) under the adjoining owner’s land.

Party Structure Notice (Section 2)

Party Structure Notices are served under section 3 of the act but cover works described in section 2. They cover alterations that directly affect the party wall and may include (but are not limited to) the following items of work:

  1. to underpin, thicken or raise a party structure or a party fence wall
  2. to make good, repair, or demolish and rebuild, a party structure or party fence wall
  3. to demolish a partition which separates buildings belonging to different owners
  4. to cut into a party structure for any purpose
  5. to cut away from a party wall, party fence wall, external wall or boundary wall any footing or any projecting chimney breast, jamb or flue
  6. to cut away or demolish parts of any wall or building of an adjoining owner overhanging the land of the building owner or overhanging a party wall
  7. to cut into the wall of an adjoining owner’s building in order to insert a flashing or other weather-proofing

The notice period for a section 2 notice is 2 months.

Section 3(1) sets out the information needed within the section 2 notice for it to be regarded as valid:

3(1)        (a)          the name and address of the building owner;

(b)          the nature and particulars of the proposed work including, in cases where the building owner proposes to construct special foundations, plans, sections and details of construction of the special foundations together with reasonable particulars of the loads to be carried thereby; and

(c)           the date on which the proposed work will begin.

Notice of Adjacent Excavation (Section 6)

Notices of Adjacent Excavation are concerned with works notifiable under section 6 of the Act. There are two types of excavations that are covered under section 6:

  1. Excavating within 3 metres of the adjoining building and to a depth lower than the bottom of the foundations
  2. Excavating within 6 metres of the adjoining building, if any part of that excavation intersects with a plane drawn downwards at an angle of 45 degrees from the bottom of the adjoining foundations, taken at a line level with the face of their external wall.

The notice must contain the same information as a Party Structure Notice. In addition, section 6(5) requires a statement as to whether the Building Owner proposes to underpin or otherwise strengthen or safeguard the adjoining owner’s foundations. Section 6(6) also sets out that notices must be accompanied by plans and sections showing the extent of the proposed excavation.

Serving Notices

Notices may be served in the following ways:

  1. Delivered to the Adjoining Owner(s) in person
  2. Sent via post
  3. Sent via email if the adjoining owner has confirmed a willingness to receive the notice electronically.

In instances that the name of the Adjoining Owner is not known, the notice may be addressed to “The Owner”, adding the address of the premises. In this case the notice must be served in person and hand delivered to a person on the premises. If the adjoining property is unoccupied, the notice should be fixed to a conspicuous part of the premises.

Counter Notices

Having been served a valid notice, the Adjoining Owner may serve a counter notice on the Building Owner stipulating certain conditions required for the benefit of the Adjoining Owner. The Counter Notice should set out what additional or modified work the Adjoining Owner would like to be carried out, and should be accompanied by all necessary particulars.

Section 4(3) sets out that the requirements contained within a counter notice must be complied with unless the works required would:

  1. Be injurious to the Building Owner
  2. Cause unnecessary inconvenience to the Building Owner
  3. Cause unnecessary delay in the execution of the works

A counter notice must be served within one month of the service of the original notice. If the Building Owner does not respond a counter notice within 14 days, then a dispute is deemed to have arisen and should be dealt with under the provisions of section 10.

About the author:

Michael White has been working in the construction industry for 18 years and is a Chartered Building Engineer (C.Build.E) and a fellow of the Chartered Association of Building Engineers (FCABE). He is also a fellow of the Faculty of Party Wall Surveyors (FFPWS) and a member of the Pyramus & Thisbe Club.

Michael has a first class honours degree in Building Surveying from the University of Reading and now practices as a Party Wall Surveyor and Building Engineer. He is one of two directors at White & Lloyd Ltd, a chartered construction consultancy based in Thames Ditton, Surrey.

The practice is accredited by the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) and regulated by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

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