Is Widening an Opening to an Internal Wall Covered by the Act?

by The Party Wall Surveyor

Question

We have produced some basic layouts for the client and they have found a builder themselves to do the works. The property is a flat in the semi- detached house. The flat is at the ground floor with the neighbours living at the first and second floors. 

The contractor has raised an opening to an internal wall slightly higher than the existing- but there has been a pre-existing opening in that place. Is there a party wall issue? It is something has not really crossed out minds naturally as the works are so simplistic in nature, there are no structural engineers involved and it is client managed. But in order to protect the client, would you say a notification or anything else they should do as a precaution right now?

Answer 

When considering internal changes to a flat it’s best to consider the Party Wall Act in terms of internal structures i.e. where are the party structures in relation to the change? As the change is to an internal wall within a ground floor flat in this case, the only relevant party structure is the one above i.e. the ceiling/floor structure that divides the clients’ flat from the flat above. You then need to review section 2 of the Act (the part that deals with party structures) and consider whether the changes affect the party structure in any of the ways described in that section. 

Looking at the photos that you sent, the new opening does not appear to extend all the way up to the party structure (the ceiling). The work would not therefore be covered by the Party Wall Act. 

The only other point to bear in mind is the lease terms, all leases include an alteration clause i.e. a clause requiring the freeholder’s consent for material changes. It may be worth checking the wording of that clause to see whether this change is covered. If it is the client would have to apply for a Licence to Alter. That is generally done in advance but can be done retrospectively.