Party Wall Agreement


When dealing with a party wall and managing the process you have to follow, there are a lot of different terminologies and phrases that you’ll have to understand to avoid any confusion. Among key documents such as Party Wall Notices and Awards is a thing called a Party Wall Agreement. 

For many, the term Party Wall Agreement can be one of the most difficult to define, and that’s because it’s often used interchangeably with many other terms. This is because a Party Wall Agreement is a much looser term than some of its counterparts and describes many different things. In most cases, A Party Wall Agreement is a concept more than an actual piece of official documentation.

Here’s a bit more information on a Party Wall Agreement.

In this guide

What is a Party Wall Agreement?

If you want to complete structural work on a party wall, you must get permission from your neighbour before you start. This is because a party wall is technically shared between you and your neighbour, so it’s their property too, and they need a say in what happens to it. 

Due to the Party Wall etc. Act 1996, last amended in 1996, you must do things more formally than just knocking on their door and asking. Instead, you need to follow an entire process and specific rules if you’re planning on working on a party wall. Getting a Party Wall Agreement is just one of the many outcomes of following the process. 

In short, a Party Wall Agreement is a written document signed by you and your neighbour that states what work is permitted. This document should include the address of both properties, details of what parts of the building and wall are being worked on, the proposed timeline, and permitted working hours. As well as all this, there needs to be a declaration that the agreement follows the Party Wall etc. Act 1996, and it’s best to ensure that there’s a sentence or two clearly stating that the adjourning neighbour agrees to the work.

There is no set rule on what a Party Wall Agreement should look like. It can be an individual document created bespoke for this purpose or a signed and agreed-to Party Wall Notice. That latter point is why many firms also call a Party Wall Notice a Party Wall Agreement, as they become the same if the work is agreed to. You must first send a Party Wall Notice to get a Party Wall Agreement. 

You send this document to your adjourning neighbour to inform them that you plan to complete work on the wall. This notice outlines your plans and should be as detailed as possible to avoid confusion or unclarity. When your neighbour receives your Party Wall Notice, they have 14 days to respond. They can either agree to the work, reject it, or suggest an amendment where they suggest additional work to be done alongside what was originally proposed. 

If your neighbour agrees to the notice, you can draft a Party Wall Agreement, either using the Party Wall Notice as a template or creating a new document that clearly states the minutia of the proposed work. If your neighbour disagrees with the notice, it will dissent, resulting in you needing a Party Wall Award. 

Many people wrongly use the terms Party Wall Agreements and Party Wall Awards interchangeably. It’s key to know that there’s a difference. Both documents provide details of what work is permitted, but how they’re created is virtually the opposite. If the work is agreed to, the neighbours can collaborate to create a Party Wall Agreement, which essentially acts as a contract of what is allowed and can be used as evidence if either party doesn’t follow it. You don’t need a party wall surveyor to create a Party Wall Agreement. 

A Party Wall Award is a document created by a party wall surveyor and is exclusively used to settle disputes if a neighbour has rejected the work. When creating a Party Wall Award, the party wall surveyor will assess the properties and use their findings and guidance from the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 to make their decision as impartial as possible.   

When do you get a Party Wall Agreement?

Before working on a party wall, you must get a Party Wall Agreement or Award. If you don’t, your neighbour can sue you for damages and take you to court, which can be expensive and time-consuming. 

You’ll always have to send a Party Wall Notice first to get a Party Wall Agreement. A Party Wall Notice is a crucial document in the party wall process and kicks off the entire procedure. You should ensure you take time drafting your Party Wall Notice, as having a good one improves the chances of your neighbour agreeing to your work. You’ll only get a Party Wall Agreement if your neighbour is happy for the proposed work to go ahead. If they reject it, then you’ll need to get a Party Wall Award instead. 

Consider a Party Wall Agreement as the best-case scenario after sending a Party Wall Notice. Having one means you can start working on the party wall without spending time and money working with a party wall surveyor to conclude a dispute. On the other hand, a Party Wall Award is more official and is used to lay down the rules of what is allowed between two disputing neighbours. 

As Party Wall Agreements indicate a positive relationship with your neighbour regarding your proposed work, you can expect to get these documents created much quicker than a Party Wall award – which can take around four weeks. This is because once a notice is sent, your neighbour only has 14 days to respond. So, if they were to agree with your work, they would have to send their reply within this two-week timeframe. If it takes longer to get a response, then you should prepare yourself for having to settle a dispute by getting a party wall surveyor.

Party Wall Agreement FAQs

Both documents detail what is allowed to happen to a party wall, and either is required for you to start working on a party wall, but there are key differences. A Party Wall Agreement is issued when both neighbours agree to the proposed work of a party wall and there is no dispute. A Party Wall Award is given when an agreement can't be reached, and a party wall surveyor is needed to step in and use their impartial advice to state what is allowed.

A Party Wall Agreement and notice are technically different documents; however, a Party Wall Notice can become an agreement if it's been signed. A notice informs your neighbour of the work and starts the party wall process. As a notice usually contains many details about the proposed work, it makes an excellent document to use as an agreement. You can also draft a bespoke agreement, making it separate from a Party Wall Notice.

When drafting a Party Wall Agreement, there are no strict rules on what needs to be included, although the more detailed it is, the better. This is because if you start doing something not mentioned in the agreement, your neighbour can dispute it. 

A good Party Wall Agreement will include personal details like both property owners' addresses and information about what kind of work is being done, the areas the work is being done to, the timescale of the work, and permitted working hours. 

Do note that you should also declare that the agreement is adhering to the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 and have in writing that your neighbour agrees to the work when they sign the document.

You legally need permission to work on a party wall before you commence. This can come as a Party Wall Agreement or A Party Wall Award and depends on how your neighbour responds to your notice.

You do not need a party wall surveyor if your neighbour agrees to your Party Wall Notice. This is because there is no dispute for them to resolve. Instead, you and your neighbour can work together to create a final document that includes all the details and rules surrounding your proposed work. 

You can use a surveyor to help create a quality Party Wall Agreement if you're worried you may miss something essential. 

You'll have to pay for a notice if you require a surveyor to issue an Award, as you need to cover their fees for surveying the area. You'll have to pay less if your neighbour agrees to the notice. 

Not all work to a party wall needs an agreement. Only work that the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 covers need a prior agreement before work can start. This includes structural things like changing the thickness of the wall, building on it, or removing parts of the wall. 

If you plan on making cosmetic changes to the wall, such as putting up shelves or painting it, you don't need to get a Party Wall Agreement. 

No, a Party Wall Agreement needs to be a written document. This is because a verbal agreement has no evidence and can't be traced back. 

The Party Wall etc. Act 1996, which is the legislation that requires you to get a Party Wall Agreement before work, covers all of England and Wales. So, if you're in these regions, you need to get an agreement. The act doesn't cover Scotland or Northern Ireland; common law is used to resolve party wall issues in these parts.

Your agreement needs to include some crucial elements; otherwise, it won't be valid. An essential part is a declaration that the adjourning neighbour agrees to the work. This needs to be clear, as it prevents them from going back on their word in the future. You should also include a sentence stating that the work follows the Party Wall etc. Act 1996, as that legislation needs to be followed with everything you do to a party wall.