Question: According to my deeds, the wall separating my garden from my neighbour's garden is a "party wall". It is in a terrible state and I would like to get some repairs done. I don't want to have to pay the entire bill, so how should I approach the problem?
© Merrily Harpur (harpur.org)
Answer: As with most issues to do with neighbours, the best approach is to start by discussing the matter with the people next door. You may be able to agree to secure quotes, or if the work requires it, to instruct a surveyor to advise you both. You can also agree how the costs will be divided between you.
However, if you cannot reach an agreement, the Party Walls Act 1996 provides a mechanism for giving you the authority to carry out most works you may wish to undertake.
It begins by you serving a "party structure notice" on your neighbour, which sets out your proposed works. Your neighbour can consent to this, but most likely if you are going down this route there is already some disagreement. The Act provides for surveyors for each owner (and a third surveyor if necessary) to discuss the issues, determine what works should be done and how the costs will be divided.
Once that award is made, you can carry out the works. You will be limited to the works authorised by the award, so it is important to be accurate in the notice you serve on your neighbour.
Make sure you instruct a surveyor as soon as it is apparent that agreement cannot be reached and that you need to serve a notice, and make sure you engage someone who is knowledgeable about party walls.
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Fiona is a partner in the property team at Thring Townsend Lee & Pembertons Solicitors www.ttuk.com.