Maintenance of an Exposed Party Wall

by The Party Wall Surveyor


This relates to 2 commercial properties, an open depot owned by my family and a single storey office block owned by another company. Our property has a tenant on a long term full repairing lease and we understand the office block is also rented.

We understand that in the late 90’s, prior to our ownership, our site underwent extensive renovation and development. Part of this work involved the demolition of a brick built shed, the back wall of which was also the external side of the back wall of the above mentioned office block. The roof of the shed adjoined the back edge of the office thereby affording the office building a high degree of protection from the elements. This is an unusual arrangement but had been in place for many years prior, apparently with the agreement of all parties.

The shed on our site was demolished, including removal of the roof, and a new single story workshop was constructed approx. 1.5m away from the back wall of the office. This section of wall now forms a small part of the boundary line between the two properties. We understand that a party wall agreement was entered in to at the time of the development work and any necessary works were undertaken to ensure the office wall was waterproof. Indeed, we are not aware of any problems during the ensuing period. Unfortunately, we do not have a copy of the PWA.

However, we have recently heard from the current owners of the office block via their solicitor that damp is now penetrating the wall in question and that we are being held responsible on the grounds that as the current owner (although not the owner who did the work) we are responsible for removal of the shed and its roof and this action has led to the damp problem. We have made them aware that the roof and shed were removed more than15 years ago.

Therefore we would like to know if the original PWA has any relevance in this situation and, if so, is there a register of all party agreements available from which we could obtain a copy. As a final point, do you have an opinion as to who might be responsible for the damp problem.


First of all, there is no central record of party wall agreements.

Regarding the current problem, I can’t see how you would be responsible for the damp issue unless it’s being caused by something that is happening on your side of the wall (such as bridging of the damp-proof course).

It’s most likely that the affected wall was a ‘Type B’ party wall and as such your predecessor will have had to serve notice when it was exposed to the elements by demolition. The award will have included a provision for permanently weather-proofing the exposed wall to protect it from the elements (in accordance with section 2(2)(m) of the Act). Once it was no longer enclosed on your side it was no longer a party wall and your liabilities ceased (beyond fulfilling the provisions of the award).

If it is a ‘Type A’ party wall the same weather-proofing requirement would have applied when it was exposed but it will remain a party wall. However, the costs of maintaining a party wall (see section 2(2)(b) of the Act) are apportioned according to the ‘use made’ (see section 11(5)) and as the wall is now only being used by your neighbour they would pay 100% of the costs.


My mother’s neighbours are intending to extend their property.  They have served a party wall notice.  If my mother agrees to the extension without the need for a party wall survey, is she still protected by the Act if something goes noticeably wrong?


The short answer is ‘Yes’. The case of Onigbanjo vs Pearson confirmed that even if an adjoining owner consents to a party wall notice they do not lose any of their rights including the right to appoint a surveyor if a dispute arises later in the process, for example, over the cause of or cost of making good damage. 

If your Mother does intend to consent she might want to make it conditional on the building owner paying for a surveyor to record the condition of her property prior to works commencing. Without that schedule of condition it will be difficult to differentiate between existing and new damage.


I have just received a notice from my neighbour to say they have applied to the Council to start works for a side return extension. I own a one-bedroom flat next door and will never be able to extend in the manner they intend because of the configuration of the flat. I am concerned that their extension will reduce severely the amount of light to my kitchen and bedroom. What is the best way to deal with this? They have proposed a surveyor, but surely I should get my own? Can one ever stop works? Can one get compensation?


You will not be able to use the Party Wall Act to stop the work. If you are concerned you should comment on the planning application – the planning department should have written to you about the proposals and invited your comments. If the injury to your light is severe a claim may be successful but broadly speaking the planning office use similar criteria to assess applications.

The Party Wall Act does allow for a single surveyor to act for both owners – they are referred to as the Agreed Surveyor. You are also entitled to appoint your own separate surveyor and their reasonable fee will be paid by the Building Owner. It just depends on whether you think you can trust the proposed surveyor to Act impartially as they are obliged to do under the Act – I would suggest that you give them a call for an initial chat and then make a decision.

The party wall act does make provision for compensation but it is relatively rare with residential extensions as the surveyors can only award such where there is a quantifiable loss. From the brief description you provide of your neighbour’s proposed works I think it unlikely that the surveyor(s) would be justified in awarding compensation.


I have recently been considering extending the side of my kitchen, the current structure being a standard single storey extension at the rear of a 1920 terraced house. I wondered if it was possible to incorporate the existing brick party wall as part of the new side wall of the kitchen to maximise space, and what this would entail; what permissions are needed? Does the wall need to be strengthened if I intend to increase it’s height (by approx 1 metre)? What damp proofing will be required to bring the wall in line with current building regulations?


If the existing wall is what is referred to as a Party Fence Wall (a shared boundary wall) in the Party Wall Act then you have a right to raise it and enclose upon it with your extension (Section 2(2)(a)). Your architect will need to advise you on how the wall will have to be upgraded to meet current Building Regulations but I can tell you from experience that most people decide to re-build the wall in this situation – you also have a right to do that under Section 2(2)(l) of the Act.

You will need to serve a Party Structure Notice on your neighbour explaining what you intend to do and when work is due to commence.


As well as applying to raise his roof, my neighbour has also applied to build a corner conservatory alongside our common boundary. In fact the planning application plans show the rear wall of this lean-to extension as constituting the 6ft garden wall between us – plus another 6ft on top, but only along his half. However, I don’t think he owns any of it. As far as I am aware (and I’m in the process of retrieving my deeds to check) the wall stands entirely on my property and the face on the other side forms the boundary. In this situation, does my neighbour have any right to build on top of the wall? Furthermore, can he even use it as part of a structure on his side?
If he concedes the wall is mine and chooses to build an independent structure on his side is he still required to give me notice under the Party Wall Act? It would clearly help, as dissenting – as you suggest for the other work – would be a useful ploy here as well.


If the existing wall is yours then your neighbour has no right to raise it for his use and would require your consent. If he were to build a new wall alongside it on his own land then it would not be notifiable under Section 1 of the Act as the line of junction has already been built on. It would be notifiable under Section 6 if the foundations to the new wall were deeper than those to your existing wall – it is likely that they will be if the new wall was part of a conservatory rather than just a boundary wall.


I am building a rear ‘side return extension’ to my Victorian end of terrace property. The new wall and subsequently foundation of my extension will be within 3m of the corner of my neighbours property, however my new foundations will be bearing above the foundations of the neighbours house. I am assuming therefore that there is no requirement for me to serve a section 6 notice in respect of that particular part of their property.

However the extension wall will also run adjacent [approx 1m apart] from the masonry boundary wall separating our two gardens. I cannot find specific reference in the party wall act guidance notes in respect of excavating in close proximity of a party fence wall. The only reference I seem to find to party fence notices seems to refer to building up to or bearing on to the party fence wall.

Do I therefore need to treat the party fence wall as a ‘party wall’ and serve a section 6, or ‘3 meter notice’ relating specifically to the party fence? As it is reasonably fair to assume that the new foundations will be deeper than the foundation supporting the party fence wall.


The party fence wall will be classed as a structure under the Act so you should serve a Section 6 notice if you will be excavating within 3 meters of it and deeper than the base of its foundations.


We had started to work on a party wall agreement with our neighbour, as it appeared that we would be digging foundations for a new single storey extension deeper than current building foundations. We would be within 3 metres of the neighbours house.

However, we found that the soil conditions were so poor that we would have to go down almost 1.8 metres. This was not acceptable to us and our structural engineer came up with an alternative of building a 1 metre wide foundation, at the same depth as existing building foundations. This negated the need for a party wall agreement.

The neighbours part wall surveyor is now trying to charge us for almost £1000 for 6 hours work. We have seen no work from him, apart from emails, so cannot verify what he has done. He has also made no attempt to agree his charges with our party wall surveyor.

What steps can we take to dispute / agree his charges? We are prepared to make a payment to him, but not for the amount he claims.


On the basis that he acted in good faith the Adjoining Owner’s surveyor is entitled to charge for the work he has done up until the point that you withdrew your notice or informed him that your works will now not fall within the Act.

The amount is something that should be agreed with your surveyor. To have accumulated 6 hours on his time sheet I would expect the Adjoining Owner’s surveyor to have gone a fair bit down the road to agreeing an Award, probably including a visit to site, so you surveyor should be able to verify that. If there is any doubt he can request a copy of his time sheet.

I would not advise you to pay the bill until it is agreed by your surveyor. If the two surveyors cannot agree the matter can me referred to the Third Surveyor that they would have selected once their appointments had been confirmed.


My house was built (about 25 years ago I think) up against my neighbours Victorian house, hence his gable end abuts mine (my  roof is higher) and there is no party wall as such. There is no gap front or back and his roof is lower than mine with stepped flashing chased into my gable wall brickwork. My neighbour has applied for consent to raise his roof line (to enlarge his attic accommodation), though it would still be lower than mine.

Am I right to assume that there is no party wall – legally speaking – given that each house is virtually freestanding, and would it nevertheless be covered by the Party Wall Act? If not, who owns the stepped flashing and can my neighbour remove it from my wall without my permission or insert one with our permission? If he needs my permission and I don’t give it what are his options?


From your description there is no party wall although the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 doesn’t just relate to party wall (that’s the etc. bit). As your house was built later presumably the builder got your neighbour’s consent to dress a flashing on to his roof covering.

Regarding the proposed work – raising the line of his roof and cutting the flashing in at a higher level is covered by the Act; Section 2(2)(J). Because it is a right given by the Act he doesn’t need your permission but he does need to serve a Party Structure Notice. Upon receipt of the notice you can dissent and appoint a surveyor if you are concerned about the works – it won’t stop the work going ahead but does mean that a Party Wall Award will be produced by the appointed surveyor(s) before it commences. Your surveyor’s reasonable fee will be paid by your neighbour.


We currently live in an old terrace cottage and our neighbour is considering building an extension . The neighbouring property was built after the terrace was completed and you can still clearly identify the old cornerstones to our property and where theirs continues, I presume that this identifies the wall as a ‘Type B’ Party wall (covering the entire gable end of the terrace) .

However our neighbour owns roughly 2 foot of land overlapping the cornerstones (on plan there is a clear step between our building and garden). We would like to know if possible whether our neighbour is able to build right up to the boundary and attach to our wall?


If I’m picturing what you describe correctly then the answer is no – you neighbour would not have the right to enclose anymore of your wall than is enclosed by the existing building – only the area that is currently enclosed is a ‘Type B’ party wall. You could allow it but you would be within your rights to request compensation for allowing the use of your wall.


I signed a party wall agreement allowing my neighbour to carry out a loft conversion and put in 3 steels.  What I did not know is that the wall in the loft is single skin.

The properties are terraced with a cavity wall to ground and first floor (which is a skin of bricks his side and a skin my side), however once you get into the roof space there is only a single skin of breeze blocks which was added years after the properties were built.  When in my loft, you can see right into the cavity of the 1st and ground floor, so you could almost say the breeze blocks are his side of the cavity for the floors below. 

My neighbour has put in the 3 steels and I can see all three of them in my loft space, one of them overlapping by some distance.  Is this single skin of wall in the loft classed as the party wall whereby he should only have gone 50% into the breeze blocks from his side?  Or is it the case that because the 1st and ground floor are double skin, his side of the party wall is classed as the full depth of the breeze blocks his side of the cavity for the floors below.


It appears that approximately half the thickness of the party wall was raised in the past by the owner of the adjoining property – the raised section is still a party wall even though it is thinner than the original party wall below. Presumably you could do the same on your side of the party wall if you wanted to convert your loft in the future.

Your neighbour does have the right to use the full thickness of the party wall to support his beams. It is considered good practice to only use half when the wall is thicker but he would not have had that option in this case as the beams require a bearing of at least 100mm.

Technically the beams can extend to the outside face of the original party wall although there is no structural benefit in doing that. If they extend beyond the thickness of the party wall below that is a trespass and you should request that they are cut back.