It is almost 18 years since the Party Wall etc Act 1996 came into force in the majority of England and Wales and yet still we frequently come across many people who are largely unaware of the nature and extent of works that typically, may fall subject to the Act and thus, require service of written Notice on the adjoining property owner(s) before commencing works.
When that comment is applied to members of the general public it is perhaps understandable, but we still find that we far too frequently have to make that criticism about individuals (and also companies) who are actively involved in the design and construction of building works (especially domestic projects).
In the perception of the customer these individuals and companies might be expected to have a reasonable working knowledge – or at the very least a good awareness of – most if not all of the technical and legal matters that pertain to their building project – and that would include the Party Wall etc Act 1996.
But in far too many instances they frankly do not…..
As an example:-
The most recent “hot topic” insofar as works falling subject to the Party Wall Act is concerned relates to the notion of what constitutes “cutting into a party wall”?
Section 2(2) of the Act states that “…A building owner shall have the following rights….(f) to cut into a party structure for any purpose (which may be or include the purpose of inserting a damp proof course)…”
Ever since the Act came into force surveyors have been debating what “cutting into the party structure” actually includes and perhaps more importantly, what it does not include.
It has long been held to be the case that removing wall plaster from a party wall does not fall subject to the Act; however, a decision by a Judge in the Central London County Court in 2013 determined that the removal of wall plaster using mechanical tools would constitute cutting into the party wall, whereas if the plaster was so old and dilapidated that it could be prised away using a putty knife or similar then it would not fall subject to the Act.
How many builders out there are aware of this comparatively recent development in the interpretation of the law?
Does anyone else have any experiences or comments they wish to share on this subject?