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Last edited 21 Jan 2021
Party wall and boundary disputes
 What is a party wall dispute or boundary dispute?
Boundaries are generally set by determining features such as a fence, wall, hedge, driveway, tree, post or even a stone marker. However, over years of changing property owners and occupants, boundaries can be moved, diverted, adjusted and even overgrown.
While the legal boundary line will always be indicated on the Land Registry Title Plan, often these will be to a very small scale, usually 1 to 1,250. In practice, this means that when a surveyor attempts to determine the boundary line using Land Registry Title Plan scale, there can be as much as a one metre-wide uncertainty.
The Party Wall etc Act 1996 was passed to prevent party wall disputes and to protect the owners of the neighbouring premises. It sets out an owner’s obligations and responsibilities for the work that may have an effect on other people's property. It provides a framework to prevent and resolve the disputes with regards to the boundary walls, party walls and any type of excavation near the neighbouring buildings.
- A wall that stands on the lands of more than one owner and forms one part of a building.
- A wall that stands on the lands of two owners without being part of any building on the land.
- A wall that is on the land of one owner, however, it is being used by two or more owners to separate their buildings.
 Reasons behind party wall disputes
A dispute may arise due to failure to comply with the Party Wall etc. Act. For example, you may send a written notice to the owner of the adjoining property 2-12 months before starting any type of work on the wall. The neighbour is supposed to provide written consent to the work outlined on the notice within 14 days. You are in deemed to be in dispute if your neighbour fails to do this.
A party wall dispute may not always be acrimonious. A property owner may fail to respond to a written notice due to various reasons. Your neighbour also has the right to legally dispute a notice in order to ensure that this work has no adverse effect on their interests and to avail the legal protection of an award.
 Preventing party wall disputes
The current occupier of a property may not be its legal owner. Therefore, it is prudent to use the ‘HM LAND REGISTRY ONLINE SEARCH’ to access a ‘title register’ or ‘title summary’, as it enables you to find the legal owner of any property before sending a notice.
Discussing your plans with the owner of the adjoining property is the easiest way to resolve any party wall dispute. It is important, to be honest about how this work may affect the property and the measures that you are willing to take to mitigate this effect and/or to rectify any damage. Your neighbours may have a few concerns and/or some specific conditions that you may address during the discussion.
The owner of the adjoining property may dispute the notice in order to have a better understanding of your plans. It is possible to avoid any dispute if you are clear about your plans from the beginning.
You cannot begin any work on the party-wall until the dispute has been resolved and you have received written consent from the owner of the adjoining property. If you fail to reach an agreement with your neighbour or fail to persuade them to sign the consent form, then it is prudent to contact an independent party-wall surveyor who can draw up an impartial settlement.
It is possible to appoint anyone as a party-wall surveyor if this individual is not a party to the matter. However, it is important to appoint someone who has in-depth knowledge regarding the details of the Party Wall etc Act and who understands the details of the construction. It is prudent to appoint an experienced surveyor who can help you and your neighbour reach an agreement and let you maintain cordial relations with them.
You and your neighbour have the liberty to appoint one surveyor (agreed surveyor) to impartially represent the interests of both parties or may appoint separate surveyors (individual surveyors) for both parties. In the second scenario, two individual surveyors work together in order to reach an impartial award that is fair to both parties. However, it may become necessary to appoint a third surveyor if individual surveyors fail to reach an agreement.
- Details of the construction work and when or how this work is going to be performed.
- Details of the present condition of both adjoining properties.
- Details of how to share the cost of the planned work and have shared benefits for both owners.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Adjoining buildings definition.
- Appointing consultants.
- Basement excavation.
- Building an extension.
- De minimis.
- Derogation from grant.
- Line of junction notice.
- Load-bearing wall.
- Party structure notice.
- Party wall surveyor.
- Preventing wall collapse.
- Responsibility for boundary features.
- Right of support.
- Statutory approvals.
- Statutory authorities.
- Wall types.
- What approvals are needed before construction begins.
 External references
- Department for Communities and Local Government guidance on party walls.
- The Act in full.
- Chliaifchtein v Wainbridge Estates Belgravia Ltd 2015.
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