Compare & Save on Your Property Survey Today

Speak to a RICS Surveyor and save up to 70% today!

Compare My Move Fact-Checking Standards

The Compare My Move team follows strict guidelines to ensure that every piece of content is accurate, trust-worthy and adheres to the highest standard of quality. Each article is expertly reviewed by members of our author panel before being published to promote accurate and quality content.

All Compare My Move articles adhere to the following standards:

  • Expertly reviewed - Our articles are reviewed by an industry expert with in-depth knowledge and experience of the article topic.
  • Data supported - All statistics, research and data must link or reference to the original source.
  • Accuracy - All research and data are taken from high-quality, trustworthy and authoritative sources.
  • Quality checked - Our content writers ensure every Compare My Move article is written to the highest of standard.

Do You Need a Party Wall Agreement?

Zenyx Griffiths

Written by Reviewed by Mike Ashton

15th Apr 2020 (Last updated on 30th Nov 2021) 16 minute read

A party wall is usually a wall or structure on the boundary of two separate properties which are owned by different people. A party wall agreement - properly called a party wall award - is made in respect of those two owners regarding notifiable building work that might affect the adjoining neighbour.

The Party Wall Act, which regulates building works close to adjoining neighbours, also applies to excavations close to nearby structures (even if these are not actually on the boundary), to ‘party structures’ separating flats, and other related work.

If you are a property owner who wants to carry out work which is notifiable under the Party Wall Act then you may need a party wall award. This guide will help you understand what a party wall agreement or award is, what it includes and how you should obtain the necessary permissions to carry out the work you require.

This article will cover the following:
  1. What is a Party Wall Agreement?
  2. When Would You Need One?
  3. How Much Does a Party Wall Agreement Cost?
  4. Obtaining Permission
  5. Serving a Party Wall Notice
  6. Common Mistakes When Serving a Party Wall Notice
  7. Gaining Assent From Your Neighbour
  8. Can Your Neighbour Refuse?
  9. What Happens if You Proceed Without a Party Wall Agreement?
  10. How to Maintain Good Relationships With Your Neighbours
  11. Do You Need a Party Wall Surveyor?
  12. Do You Need a Party Wall Agreement for an Extension?
  13. Read Our Other Guides

What is a Party Wall Agreement?

Covered by the Party Wall etc. Act 1996, a party wall agreement covers certain shared walls, buildings, structures or garden boundary walls between two properties, as well as constructing new walls and carrying out excavations near a boundary. It is a legal award made by surveyors on behalf of you and your neighbours regarding any notifiable building work that might affect your neighbour’s buildings or property.

Not only does it cover alterations that may directly affect these structures, but it can also cover the effect of excavations within six metres from the boundary, if the neighbour’s property might potentially be affected.

The award will usually contain information about what notifiable work can be done, how that work should be done, any responsibilities to control and reduce risk, and any repairing or compensation provisions if any damage is caused by the work. There may also be a third surveyor named in the document, who can act as a further mediator to settle any disputes that may arise.

A party wall agreement or award might include:

  • How the proposed work should be carried out
  • A ‘schedule of condition’ recording the adjoining properties’ condition before the work begins. This may also include photos as evidence.
  • Details of the contractor's public liability insurance.
  • What the authorised works are, complete with references to relevant architectural and engineers drawings.
  • The Any time limit for constraints on the notifiable work and also the suggested any controls on working hours.
  • The surveyors’ costs for making the award. This will usually be covered by the neighbour completing carrying out the building work.

Many of these documents will be presented in the format set out by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), the Faculty of Party Wall Surveyors (FPWS) or other professional body.

Compare and Save on Your Move

Save 70% off the Cost of Your House Move Today!

When Would You Need One?

You may need a party wall award when carrying out construction or alterations involving:

  • Work affecting a wall shared with your neighbours
  • Work carried out on a floor or ceiling shared by a neighbouring property
  • Building atthe boundary of an adjacent property
  • Excavating within six metres of a nearby building or structure
  • Repair work on a party wall or spouts, pipes, sewers, drains, wire conduits, flues, chimney stacks, eaves or troughs used in common with neighbours.

This means that you may need a party wall agreement for work that includes loft conversions, the insertion of damp proof courses and also if you’re digging new foundations such as underpinning, piling or building an extension.

Whenever you’re planning future work to add value to your home, make sure you research whether you’ll need to serve a party wall notice beforehand so you can send the appropriate notice well before the work begins.

How Much Does a Party Wall Agreement Cost?

The cost of a party wall agreement can vary significantly depending on the nature, complexity and risk of the work, the cost of the surveyor(s) appointed, and the responses and co-operation of your neighbour to the notice.

As a start, the party wall notice itself can cost from around £30 if you use a surveyor to prepare and serve it, or you can do it yourself for free.

Next, a condition report (or ‘schedule of condition’) might be required by a neighbour as a condition of their consent before any notifiable work begins. This involves the party wall surveyor (or surveyors) inspecting and recording the condition of any relevant parts of the neighbour’s property, if they think it could be affected or damaged by the building work.

The schedule of condition is usually a good idea to have done as it provides useful evidence if a dispute over damage occurs later on, and is often helpful to protect both owners from any unfair claims. A condition report might cost around £400-£500 plus VAT for typical domestic work.

If the neighbour dissents or fails to respond to the notice, the dispute will require a formal party wall agreement (or ‘party wall award’). The cost of these can vary greatly, but a typical award for a simple domestic extension or roof conversion might be around £800 - £2,000 plus VAT, but will usually include the cost of the schedule of condition above.

It is important to remember that the homeowner proposing to do the work is usually responsible for all the surveyors’ reasonable costs in making the award - including their neighbour’s - if the neighbour chooses to appoint their own surveyor. Neighbours should always think carefully whether they are happy to use the single ‘agreed surveyor’ route wherever they can, which can significantly reduce costs for the building owner and should nearly always be appropriate for normal domestic work.

Obtaining Permission

Before the notifiable work can start, you may need a written party wall agreement from any neighbours who might be affected. You will first need to serve a party wall notice before any notifiable work begins and detail, in writing, all the work to be carried out. You must give at least two month’s notice for any work to be carried out on the party wall, and one month’s notice for most other work.

Your neighbour will then have 14 days to respond. If they confirm agreement to the work in writing within this time, you will not need any further party wall agreement and you can continue with the work when the notice period has expired, or earlier if your neighbour agrees (in writing) that you can start earlier.

If your neighbour either dissents to the notice, or does not agree to the works in writing within 14 days, they are considered to have dissented to the work, and the dispute process will commence. This means that both neighbours must appoint a party wall surveyor to settle the difference by serving a party wall award, which will authorise the necessary works and detail how the necessary works must take place.

Both neighbours can either appoint their own surveyor to act independently for them, or can agree on a single surveyor to act impartially for both sides. It should be noted that a party wall surveyor is not the same as a property surveyor. A party wall surveyor can be anyone who is not a party to the work involved, meaning the homeowners cannot represent themselves. The party wall surveyor should have good knowledge of construction and should be well versed in party wall procedures.

Compare and Save on Your Move

Save 70% off the Cost of Your House Move Today!

Serving a Party Wall Notice

You can serve a party wall notice for free if you use the appropriate forms, or you can instruct a surveyor to serve it. Fee rates vary, but many party wall surveyors charge anywhere between £150 and £200 per hour. There will usually be a letter of acknowledgement included with the notice that the neighbour should complete and return.

The notice must describe the work that is being planned. You can find example notices within The Party Wall Act booklet or you can use a simple party wall notice template tool. Within the notice you must include:

  • The details of the relevant properties affected
  • The names and addresses of the neighbours involved
  • The date of the party wall notice was served
  • The date the work will begin
  • A description of the work planned

You must give at least two months written notice for work to a party wall, or one month’s notice for excavations and new walls at a boundary.

You do not need planning permission to serve a party wall notice, but you should separately make sure you have all necessary planning and building regulation approvals for the planned work.

Your neighbours have 14 days to respond to the notice, either to confirm their agreement or dissent to the proposed work. If they agree, the notice is usually valid for one year and the work must begin within this time. A dissent (or no response) means you are now in ‘dispute’, or a difference has arisen. When this occurs, both neighbours must either agree to jointly appoint a single party wall surveyor to settle the difference by serving an award, or each neighbour must appoint their own surveyor, and the two surveyors will settle the matter between them.

If you do not serve a party wall notice and begin work without your neighbours’ consent, they can apply to stop the work through a court injunction until the necessary notices are served and the work is settled by surveyors. This is usually expensive and disruptive and should be avoided.

Different Types of Party Wall Notice

There are several types of party wall notice that can be served and you should be clear on exactly what notice(s) must be served. The different types of notice include:

  • Party Structure Notice - this is for alterations that directly affect a party wall. It includes common building work such as cutting in holes, inserting beams, cutting in flashings, removing chimney breasts, injecting damp proof courses, raising and lowering walls, altering chimneystacks, underpinning and excavating to a party wall and raising fire partitions within a roofspace.
  • Notice of Adjacent Excavation - this is for when you plan to excavate within three or six metres of the shared boundary, depending.
  • Line of Junction Notice - this type of notice is for the construction of a new wall adjacent to, or astride, the boundary.

Common Mistakes When Serving a Party Wall Notice

To help you through the process of obtaining permission, try to avoid these rather common mistakes:

  1. The issuing of the notice may be intimidating if it is merely paperwork dropped through a neighbour’s door without warning - so a friendly, preliminary chat is always recommended.
  2. Not providing sufficient notice.
  3. Not informing all the affected neighbours. Those living in a terraced house will have to inform neighbours on both sides. You will also have to inform the freeholder and, if you’re living next to any tenanted properties, you may have to inform each tenant affected. If you need to check property ownership, you can do so by using the Land Registry.
  4. Not providing enough detail about the work to be carried out.
  5. Not including plans and sections for notices of adjacent excavations. It’s usually a good idea to include architects and engineers plans for most other work, wherever you have them.
  6. Serving the wrong type of notice.
  7. Assuming that all building projects only need one form of notice. Some may need more, and served to each neighbour affected.

Compare and Save on Your Move

Save 70% off the Cost of Your House Move Today!

Gaining Assent From Your Neighbour

Now that the notice has been served, all adjoining neighbours have 14 days to respond. If the response is positive, your neighbours have consented and agree to the proposed work.

When consent is given, it must always be given in writing. The homeowner who served the notice usually then has one year to begin the work described in the notice.

If you’re given assent after serving the notice, there is no party wall dispute so no need to appoint a surveyor or have a party wall agreement. You should instead take dated photographs of the party wall on your neighbour’s side and take note of any cracks or defects. Copy both of these documents as a precaution.

However, you can still hire a RICS surveyor a few weeks before work begins if you feel the need to, or if your neighbour requests this as a condition of their consent. They will assess the property and prepare a schedule of condition to reduce the risk of future disputes. Many neighbours will be happy to agree to the work, provided a schedule of condition is taken by an RICS surveyor before the works commence.

Who Pays for the Work?

Whoever served the notice will usually have to pay for the building work they require to the party wall.

The adjoining neighbours may have to pay a share of the cost if the work needs to be completed because of any defects or lack of repair. If anyone wants additional work to be completed to benefit themselves, then that person will usually have to pay for it.

A party wall surveyor may have to be appointed if the parties can’t agree on costs and a dispute arises.

Can Your Neighbour Refuse a Party Wall Agreement?

If your neighbour dissents after being served the notice, then a difference (or ‘dispute’) is considered to exist and a party wall award is officially required to settle the matters in dispute. A neighbour is also deemed to have dissented if they do not reply in writing within the 14 day notice period.

If this happens, both the homeowner and the neighbour must appoint a surveyor to settle the matters on their behalf. Each neighbour can appoint their own surveyor, or they can jointly appoint a single ‘agreed’ surveyor to represent both neighbours impartially. . Party wall surveyors’ fee vary, but are typically between £150 and £200 per hour within London and a little lower outside of London.

The surveyor (or surveyors) will then produce the party wall agreement or award, authorising what work may be carried out, and will usually include a schedule of condition of the neighbour’s property before the works commence.

What Happens if You Proceed Without a Party Wall Agreement?

It is not a criminal offence not to serve notice, but your neighbours can take civil action against you and an injunction can be issued to stop any further work until a party wall agreement is arranged, which will usually delay progress and add cost.

This will usually increase your project’s costs and the builder you’re working with may be entitled to compensation for the delays and disruption. They could also grow impatient and continue with other work until the party wall agreement is complete, meaning the work could be further delayed as you wait again for your builder to complete other projects before he can return to finish yours.

Compare and Save on Your Move

Save 70% off the Cost of Your House Move Today!

How to Maintain Good Relationships With Your Neighbours

Party wall works can occasionally trigger disagreements between neighbours so it’s important to maintain a good relationship with them throughout the process. Don’t forget to keep their needs in mind when discussing the proposed plans.

Before the party wall notice is formally served, it’s usually good to have a chat about it with your neighbours first. Party wall notices can seem very official and sometimes intimidating, so it’s better to discuss the process with them informally beforehand.

Make sure they know they can always talk to you about any issues or concerns. Show them the drawings and plans for the work, have a cup of tea, open a clear line of communication, and listen to their concerns. Don’t act cold towards them, even if they reject the plans, and be open to talking and negotiating. You can often accommodate their wishes or concerns with a small modification to your plans.

Don’t forget to provide them with the contact details for your surveyor and building company. They may ask for these for extra reassurance and so it’s important to comply.

Do You Need a Party Wall Surveyor?

If your neighbour responds positively to the notice and the work can commence with their permission, then you won’t need to appoint a party wall surveyor to prepare an award, but your neighbour may request a schedule of condition in exchange for giving their consent.

Even if your neighbour consents to the work you are still responsible for any damage caused by the notifiable work. You must either make the necessary steps to fix any damage caused as a result of the work, or agree a reasonable compensation sum so your neighbours can make the repairs themselves if they wish. It is usually wise to inspect and take photos of the relevant areas with your neighbour before the work begins, to ensure there’s evidence that could help to settle any disputes later on.

Many people still like to appoint a surveyor to prepare a record of the neighbour’s property to ensure there’s an independent professional report that can be used as evidence if a dispute should arise later.

However, if your neighbour does not consent to the notice then you must obtain a party wall award to authorise the necessary work and settle the disputed matters. Both parties may require their own surveyor, but an impartial agreed surveyor should always be considered wherever possible.

If your neighbour does not respond to your notice within 14 days of you serving it, you must formally notify them that you are now in dispute and that they must appoint a party wall surveyor. The costs of an award varies considerably depending on the circumstances of each case, but a typical party wall award might cost around £1,000, with hourly rates for surveyors potentially being as high as £200.

Do You Need a Party Wall Agreement for an Extension?

If it’s clear that the work required for the extension might affect or compromise the wall shared with your neighbour, then you will require a party wall notice to be served thus possibly requiring a party wall agreement. This is also the case if you’re considering a loft conversion or other work to a party wall or shared chimney.

If you’re proposing to excavate within 3 metres of a neighbouring building and expect to excavate below the likely depth of their foundations, you will again have to serve a party wall notice. Any work that could affect a shared wall will require a notice to be served. However, it’s important to note that a party wall could also include garden walls built along the boundary.

If you’re ever unsure of whether you require a party wall agreement, it would be wise to ask a professional party wall surveyor or architect for further advice.

Read Our Other Guides

For more information, take a look at the Party Wall Central website. This completes our home improvement guide. We have a range of guides in our series. To learn more, take a look at our area guides.

Zenyx Griffiths

Before Compare My Move, Zenyx once wrote lifestyle and entertainment articles for the online magazine, Society19 as well as news articles for Ffotogallery.

Mike Ashton

Reviewed by Mike Ashton

Director, Cambridge Building Surveyors

With over 20 years of experience in the property surveying industry, Mike Ashton is now the director at Cambridge Building Surveyors.

Compare and Save on Your Move

Save 70% off the Cost of Your House Move Today!