The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 provides a framework for amicably preventing and resolving disputes between neighbours in connection with party walls and structures, boundary walls and excavations near neighbouring buildings.

The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 grants extensive rights, which do not exist within common law, to Building Owners undertaking certain construction work as defined within the Act. It legally obliges Building Owners to serve a formal Notice on Adjoining Owners before starting any works, allowing the Adjoining Owners to seek professional representation by appointing a Party Wall Surveyor, if they so wish.

The Party Wall Company provides a flowchart guide showing how the Party Wall process works for both Adjoining Owners and Building Owners. Please take a look or download it for free:

Impartial Information

The Department for Communities and Local Government produce a free Explanatory Booklet on the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 which we often recommend as a good source of impartial information.  Please download a copy below.  You can also download the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 here.

The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 (Explanatory Booklet)The Party Wall etc. Act 1996

How The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 Works

  • In simplistic terms, the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 can be split into two stages; firstly the Notifying Stage and secondly, if required, the Disputed Stage.  The first stage is where the Building Owners have a legal obligation to serve a formal Notice detailing the proposed works upon the Adjoining Owners.  If the Adjoining Owners are satisfied that the Building Owners’ proposed works will be of no inconvenience or, pose no threat of damage to their property, the Adjoining Owners only need to confirm, in writing, that they consent to the works and the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 could end there.  The second stage would only be triggered if the Adjoining Owners had any concerns relating to the Building Owners’ proposals or chose to ignore the Notice served by the Building Owners.
  • A dispute would then be deemed to have arisen and, the framework provided by the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 enables a resolution so that the Building Owners could undertake works whilst providing protection to both parties.  At the point of a “dispute” having arisen, both the Building Owners and the Adjoining Owners have to appoint a Party Wall Surveyor to proceed with resolving the dispute.  This could be via separate surveyor appointments or, by agreeing to a single surveyor, called the Agreed Surveyor.

    Party Wall Surveyors are duty bound to administer the Act impartially as they are, in essence, representatives of the Court. Prior to any dispute arising, Building Owners and Adjoining Owners do not necessarily require the services of a Party Wall Surveyor. However, The Party Wall Company are often commissioned to provide advice on the Act and to serve the relevant Party Wall Notices, ensuring they are legally valid. Once appointed, the Surveyors will consider the proposed works and agree a Party Wall Award which would detail the building works and how they should be undertaken. The rights granted within the Party Wall Award are subject to the Building Owners making good any damage or, the payment of damages in lieu of making good.

Building Owners planning to carry out any of the works defined within the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 have a legal obligation to serve written Notice on any Adjoining Owner who may be affected by the Building Owners proposed works. There is no official template for a Notice. However, sufficient detail of the proposed works, legal names of all Owners, and when the proposed works will commence are all critical to ensure the validity of the Notice.

The case of Lehmann vs Herman (1993) shows the importance of serving a valid Notice.  Mr and Mrs Lehmann and Mr and Mrs Herman owned adjoining properties.  Mr Herman wanted to repair the Party Fence Wall that divided the two gardens and served a Notice on Mr and Mrs Lehmann.  However, as Mr Herman only served the Notice in his name, Mr and Mrs Lehmann refused to accept the Notice as being valid and argued that as both Mr and Mrs Herman would be regarded as Building Owners under the Act, Mrs Herman should also be included on the Notice.  The dispute ended up in court and the judge agreed with the Lehmanns that the Notice was invalid.
A Party Wall Award is a legally binding document between Building Owners and Adjoining Owners, which has been agreed by the appointed surveyor(s), authorising the execution of building work in accordance with the Act.  An Award will also state details of: how the works are to be undertaken; working days and times; measures required to protect the Adjoining Owners property from damage and unnecessary inconvenience; and make provisions for making good or the payment of compensation should damage be caused.  A Schedule of Condition survey of the Adjoining Owners property, although not a specific requirement of the Party Wall etc. Act 1996, is customary and forms a reference document within the Award.  The purpose of a Schedule of Condition survey is to provide a written and photographical record of the condition of the building prior to any works commencing.  The schedule is then referred to should any damage come to light during or after completion of the works.


The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 is a totally separate piece of statute legislation to the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 or the Building Act 1984.  Therefore, if your planned works would be deemed notifiable under the Party Wall Act then yes, you would have to follow the procedures set out within the Act.  No Local Authority permission or approval would eliminate the legal obligation to serve a Party Wall Notice upon your neighbour(s).
The Act does cover “Party Fence Walls” which are deemed to be a wall of solid structure that sits astride a boundary and not being part of a building.  Therefore, any works to such walls that would be deemed notifiable under the Party Wall Act would also apply to Party Fence Walls.  Timber fencing, pre-cast concrete posts with infill panel fencing, etc would not be deemed to be a Party Fence Wall, whether astride a boundary or not.