Party Wall
May 1, 2024

Common Misconceptions about the Party Wall Act

Despite being relatively straightforward, people still find the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 confusing. As leading party wall...

Despite being relatively straightforward, people still find the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 confusing. As leading party wall surveyors in London, our panel finds that it is helpful to take a moment and dispel some of the most common myths and misconceptions. Here are explanations for a few: 

1. Refusal of Neighbour’s Access Fallacy:

Misconception: “I can stop the building owner from carrying out works.”

Clarification: section 8 of the Act handles access allowing a 14-day notice period for specified works if needed; even forcing access with a police officer if necessary.

2. Consent Without Notice Fallacy:

Misconception: “My neighbour has consented so I do not have to serve a Party Wall notice on them.”

Clarification: consent under the Act is only valid after serving notice; even if your neighbour indicates consent you must still serve notice within statutory requirements as per section 3(1) of the Act.

3. Commencing Work After No Reply Mistake:

Misconception: “I can start work because the adjoining owner did not reply.”

Clarification: the time period under section 5(2) is for them to either consent or dissent; if they do neither then they are deemed to have dissented and appointed surveyors must be agreed by law.

4. Retrospective Award Validity:

Misconception: “You can still produce an award after the building works have been completed without notice.”

Clarification: The Party Wall etc Act (1996) does not provide for retrospective notices or awards. Legal redress would be sought in court if neighbours can not agree on unnotified works which would fall back on common law.

5. Extension on Own Land Exemption:

Misconception: “My extension will be entirely on my land so the Act is irrelevant.”

Clarification: section 6 of the Party Wall Act deals with adjacent excavations. If you are digging within 3-6 metres of an adjacent structure or a shared structure, and deeper than its foundations, the Act applies. The application of the 3 metre rule or 6 metre rule depends on the type of foundation being installed (the latter is more applicable to pile foundations).

6. Works Coverage Assumption:

Misconception: “The Party Wall Award covers all works.”

Clarification: the Act specifies rights and works under sections 1, 2 and 6. Only works relating to the Act can be determined by appointed surveyors.

7. Boundary Encroachment Prevention:

Misconception: “I can stop the building owner from encroaching over the boundary with their foundations.”

Clarification: Building Owners are allowed to project their foundations over a boundary if necessary; this is best resolved by agreeing a new party wall or insisting on eccentric foundations.


Understanding these subtleties ensures compliance with the Party Wall Act and prevents confusion that may lead to disputes or legal implications. If you have any more questions please get in touch so we can put you in contact with a party wall expert.