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What is the Party Wall Act 3 Metre Rule?

Adele MacGregor

Written by Reviewed by Mike Ashton

6th Jun 2023 (Last updated on 16th Feb 2024) 5 minute read

If you are looking to have work done which involves excavation, you need to consider the party wall “3 Metre Rule”. The Party Wall etc Act 1996 covers various party wall-related work. This includes excavations within 3 or 6 meters of neighbouring buildings, depending on the depth.

The 3-meter rule means notice must be given if you plan on excavating deeper than a neighbour’s foundation within 3 meters of any part of their property structure. You must provide notice in writing. In response, adjoining neighbours must provide written consent before work can take place. If issues or a dispute arises, a surveyor will likely be required to draw up a Party Wall Award to settle the matter.

Be aware that the Party Wall Act does not apply in Scotland or Northern Ireland. Instead, common law will apply when it comes to shared walls.

Below we review the rules for excavation near neighbouring property under the Party Wall Act. This includes notifiable works and notice periods. We will also look at when you will need a surveyor and how much it might cost.

  1. Can I Excavate Near My Neighbour?
  2. When to Serve a Notice?
  3. Do I Need a Party Wall Surveyor?
  4. How Much are Party Wall Surveyors Costs?
  5. Find a Party Wall Surveyor

Can I Excavate Near My Neighbour?

Providing you follow the Party Wall etc. Act 1996, excavation near adjoining owners’ buildings and land is possible. You will, however, need written permission for certain works.

Section 6 of the Act covers excavation near neighbouring buildings. Under this, you must formally notifty any adjoining owners if you plan to excavate for a new building structure within:

  • 3 meters of any part of a neighbouring building or structure where any part of the work would go deeper than the neighbour’s foundations.
  • 6 meters of any part of a neighbouring owner’s building or structure where any part of the work will meet a line drawn downwards at 45 degrees in the direction of the excavation from the bottom of the neighbour's foundation.

Excavation work may be needed for a range of reasons. For example, you may need to build on or from a party wall for an extension. In addition to adhering to the Party Wall Act, you should also ensure you have the necessary Planning Permission or Building Regulation Approval.

If an extension is being built, the proposed foundations will usually need to be a minimum of 1m deep. If nearby properties are pre-1950s, it is likely they may have shallower existing foundations. With this in mind, it would be worth consulting with a surveyor to ensure the Party Wall Act is adhered to. In some cases, a “trial pit” is dug to ascertain the existing footings.

For more information see: What is a Party Wall Agreement?

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When to Serve a Notice?

A Party Wall Act Notice is essentially seeking consent from your adjoining neighbours. It should be served a month before work starts at a minimum. In some cases, two months’ notice will be required.

There are three notice types which include:

Section 1 – Line of Junction (one month’s notice)

Section 2 – Party Structure Notice (two months’ notice)

Section 6 – Adjacent Excavation (one month’s notice)

For work involving excavations, Section 6 - Adjacent Excavation will be required. This is sometimes referred to as an 'excavation' or 'adjacent excavation' notice.

The notice must be in writing and delivered in person or by post. It can be sent electronically if the recipient agrees to this. The homeowner can do this, which wouldn’t incur a fee. However, you may wish to hire a surveyor to write and send the notice.

To be valid, the notice will also need to include a section drawing. This must show the depth of the proposed excavations and where they would be in relation to existing property.

Be aware that a Party Wall Notice is not the same as a Party Wall Award. An Award, also referred to as a Party Wall Agreement, must be drawn up by a surveyor.

Do I Need a Party Wall Surveyor?

Depending on the planned works, you may need to hire a party wall surveyor. As stated above, you may wish to enlist the services of a surveyor to send the initial notice.

If your neighbour rejects or ignores your notice, a surveyor will be required to guide you through the dispute resolution procedure. You may also need a surveyor if your neighbour responds with a counter-notice.

A surveyor can assess existing structures, foundation levels and the proposed work. They will then draw up a Party Wall Award, which acts as a legal document. This outlines what work can take place and the obligations the homeowner must meet.

It will also set out who pays for the party wall surveyor and other costs regarding the proposed works.

If you have been served notice from a neighbour about excavation work, you can hire your own surveyor. They would work with the homeowner’s surveyor to come to an agreement.

Be aware that you cannot act as your own surveyor in a party wall dispute. If no dispute arises there is no requirement under the Act to appoint a surveyor.

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How Much are Party Wall Surveyors Costs?

In the UK, a party wall surveyor can cost around £1,000 on average. Surveyors often charge an hourly rate, which is currently on average between £90 and £450.

Be aware that costs may be higher in more affluent areas and large cities such as London.

Fees will also depend on the surveyor you use and what they charge. It will also depend on how long it takes to draw up the Party Wall Award and how long they spend assessing your case.

It is usually the homeowner planning the building works that pays for the surveyor’s fees. This is the case whether there is a single agreed surveyor or if the adjoining owner hires their own surveyor. Who is responsible for paying will be outlined in the Party Wall Award.

To read more see: How Much are Party Wall Surveyor Costs?

Find a Party Wall Surveyor

One of the best ways to find a party wall surveyor is by comparing local surveyors with Compare My Move. This allows you to read reviews, compare costs and review the experience of surveyors in your area. We can match you with up to 6 RICS or RPSA party wall surveyors.

By using a qualified surveyor, you can ensure that correct procedures are followed. We only take on the highest quality surveyors and have a strict verification system. This way you know you are only matched with the best in the business. All partners are monitored by our dedicated Partner Support Team to ensure they continue to meet our high standards.

Adele MacGregor

Having worked at Compare My Move for over five years, Adele specialises in covering a range of surveying topics.

Mike Ashton

Reviewed by Mike Ashton

Director, Cambridge Building Surveyors

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

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