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Planning an excavation? Don’t dig yourself into a hole!

Party Wall Act: the rules on excavations

 

When carrying out alterations to an existing property or building a new one, you may need to notify your neighbours in accordance with The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 (the Act).

For those who have not come across the Act before, simply put, it is a piece of legislation which enables owners of property to:

  • build new walls or structures near to, or on a boundary
  • carry out works to a wall built on the line of junction between the lands of two owners (such as a shared wall between attached properties)
  • excavate near to neighbouring structures.

Under the Act, if certain criteria are met, the person carrying out any of the above works (the building owner) will need to notify their neighbour(s) (adjoining owner(s)) to gain the right to undertake the work.

This article  will focus on when a notice will need to be served relating to excavations.

Excavating near to an adjacent structure, for example to lay foundations for an extension, may affect its stability. The potential for affecting the stability of the adjacent structure is determined by many variables which include the depth of the excavation and the distance between it and the adjacent building or structure.

There are two main types of excavations which would require notification to be served on an adjoining owner:

  • excavations within 3 metres of a building or structure of an adjoining owner and lower than the bottom of their foundations; and
  • excavations within 6 metres of a building or structure that will cut a line drawn downwards at 45 degrees from the bottom of their foundations, from a point in line with the outside face of their building or structure

Notices in respect of excavations which meet the above criteria must be served 1 month prior to carrying out the work and is usually undertaken by a surveyor appointed by the building owner. Upon receipt of the notice an adjoining owner can either:

  • consent to the work
  • dissent and appoint the same surveyor as the building owner
  • dissent and appoint their own surveyor

If the adjoining owner consents, the work can proceed after 1 month from the date of the notice, or earlier by agreement. In the event of either dissent response, the surveyor or surveyors will agree an award to determine, among other things, when and how the excavation can be carried out.

The terminology of the Act is sometimes seen as contentious where an adjoining owner ‘dissents’ to works proposed by their neighbour. However, it is commonplace for this to be done even if they are happy with the proposed works in principle, it is merely a person ensuring the interest in their land is protected.

At Howe Chartered Surveyors we can be instructed by the party carrying out the work to review their proposals and serve the requisite notices if required, or by a party who has received a notice.

If you have any questions relating to this and would like to discuss it with a member of our team, please feel free to call us and we can advise you on all aspects of the Act.

by Steven McDonnell – Party Wall Specialist

For more information call 020 3102 7701 (St Pauls, London), 01277 223594 (Shenfield, Brentwood, Essex) or email info@howecharteredsurveyors.co.uk