Resolving party wall disputes doesn’t need to be a morning-after headache

Occasionally building works and development on a boundary between properties in different ownership create an open invitation to numerous and much-reported arguments and disputes.  

Party walls are shared walls separating buildings such as semi-detached and terraced houses. A floor separating two flats is a party structure. You must notify your neighbour if you are planning any extension or major structural alterations. 

Zah Azeem, Partner at Wimbledon based surveyors Scrivener Tibbatts, a national party wall dispute specialist, explains: “A loft extension, for example, will likely mean that supporting steels will have to be inserted into the party wall to support the new structure. The building owner is entitled to do this, but he must give his neighbour formal and due notice.  

“An adjoining neighbour is allowed by law to appoint his own surveyor in order to protect his interests, but in many cases neighbours can appoint an agreed surveyor who will act impartially for both parties and draws up an award specifying the works to be carried out.” 

The Party Wall Act 1996 is the primary piece of legislation that protects you and your neighbour.  As the explanatory brochure explains the link The Party Wall Act 1996 was passed to help resolve party wall disputes and to protect the owner of the neighbour’s premises. Party wall disputes are not necessarily acrimonious, often they can arise simply because the property owner fails to respond. 

According to The Party Wall Act, there are three types of party walls: 

  • A wall that stands on the lands of more than one owner and forms one part of a building. 
  • A wall that stands on the lands of two owners without being a part of a building on the land. 
  • A wall that is on the land of one owner. It is being used by two or more owners to separate their buildings. 

A dispute may arise due to failure to comply with the party wall Act. If the Building owner is in dispute with the adjoining owner, the building owner cannot begin any work until the dispute is resolved. If you have not already discussed the work with your neighbour, doing so at this stage could help to resolve the dispute.  

Consult the RICS Consumer Guide to Party Walls for details of legal rights and requirements when considering work to party walls, and also Pyramus & Thisbe Club, the organisation for professionals specialising in party wall matters. 

Zah concludes, “Always do your research to ensure the surveyor you’ve appointed really has lots of experience of this work. As an experienced party wall surveyor, our colleague Dominik Neyerlin MRICS – can help minimise delays with architects and builders by ensuring that the correct notices are served on time and that accurate awards are made. 

“Sometimes it is not possible to resolve the party wall dispute without involvement of impartial surveyor. Disputes may arise by external effects like disturbances or extra noise. If there is a doubt, then consult your expert surveyor.” 

If you would like to discuss something related to a valuation please contact Zah via email at or call 020 8947 7040.