Party Wall Act - Damage to Neighbours Property

A party wall is a wall that separates the land of two different Owners, and sits astride the boundary between those two properties, to a greater extent than a projecting footing. .

A Party fence wall could be a masonry garden wall between back gardens owned by different Owners

An example of a party wall is a structural wall in your property, where your neighbours house also shares the same wall, for example, if you live in a semi-detached property. The boundary line between two properties however is often not defined, when being dealt with by Party Wall Surveyors, and it is not their role as Party Wall Surveyors to state where the exact boundary is, between two properties.

If you want to carry out significant work or construction to a party structure, or party fence wall, or excavate to prescribed distances and depths measured horizontally from the party wall / party fence wall, under the Party Wall etc., Act 1996, you must inform the adjoining owner in writing at least two months before the work is due to start.

It’s not unusual when this type of project is being carried out for a party wall surveyor to be employed by one or both sides, i.e. the instigator of the building works, and the recipient(s) of the Party Wall Notices. This is an independent professional who will look at the project and then produce a party wall agreement.

You can reach an agreement with your neighbour to have the work carried out without employing Party Wall Surveyors, but you cannot force them to respond in a certain way, to a written party wall Notice, if the law allows them to appoint a Party Wall Surveyor of their own choosing, for instance .

However, if you are worried that the building work might cause damage, then having a party wall award in place means that you have a defined scope of proposed works, and a defined dispute resolution procedure, if any issues crop up.

Part of the wall surveyors job is to produce a schedule of condition which sets out what the condition of a room, structure or area is like before any work (covered by the Party Wall Act) begins. By thoroughly describing the visible walls, floor and ceiling finishes, it gives the adjoining property owner legal protection in the event of property damage. It also lessens the risk of spurious claims of damage being made by the Adjoining Owner(s).

The Schedule of Condition

Party wall surveyors, whether employed by the adjoinding owner or the person undertaking the proposed building work itself, will produce a schedule of condition which gives a full and accurate description of the surrounding area where the building project is to be carried out.

For example, they may look at the surrounding walls of the property itself to check if there is any damage that needs to be noted down. This will often involve the agreed surveyor taking photographs of the party wall, or the area being looked at, such as abutting walls or ceilings

It’s not uncommon for an adjoining owner to think that crack or other damage in the property was caused by the Party Wall Act related works when, in fact, it was noted in the original schedule of condition. In that way, it also acts as protection for the building owners who are carrying out the work.

Who is Responsible for Party Wall Damage?

Party wall works can often cause physical damage to the adjoining property, to surface finishes, or sometimes also to walls and floors. According to the Party Wall etc., Act 1996, the person undertaking the building work is responsible for either compensating the relevant Adjoining Owner or repairing any damage that was caused to the adjoining owner’s property, which was deemed to have been caused by undertaking works covered by the Party Wall Act

If you, as an Adjoining Owner, do not allow reasonable access to your property for the purposes of compiling a Schedule of Condition, you would find it almost impossible to substantiate any claims of damage to your property.

In normal circumstances, the party wall surveyors will examine the property again after the work has been completed and make note of any damage that is likely to have occurred during the works that are described in the Party Wall Award They will base their post – works inspection on the original party wall agreement and schedule of condition. The adjoining building owners do not need to take separate legal action, as the dispute resolution process for dealing with damage is set out in the Party Wall Act.

An adjoining owner can, if they suspect that damage has been caused during the project, call the party wall surveyor in to check the property before the building work is completed. This may be the case if the damage is likely to worsen or has the potential to cause harm to residents. It is comparatively unusual for the level of damage to warrant a property needing to be decanted of its residents

Party Wall Act – Damage to Neighbours Property, Harding Chartered Surveyors
Party Wall Act – Damage to Neighbours Property, Harding Chartered Surveyors

Party Wall Damage Compensation

There may be several reasons that the party wall damage has occurred. It could be due to Contractor negligence such as drilling into a party wall or poor on–site practice. There may be no definable reason as to why the damage has occurred and sometimes there is no obvious cause, for the damage found.

The adjoining owner will have a couple of options if there is party wall works related damage. They can either ask for the builders who have undertaken the work to put the damage right or they can get their own builder in and ask to be compensated. It is important that an Adjoining Owner does not spend money on any works that they expect to recoup from others, without discussing the matter first, with the relevant people, be they property Owners, or the Party Wall Surveyors

Damage to the adjoining owner’s property can range from cracks to wall plaster to broken windows. One remedy is to get the builders already working on the project for the ‘Building Owner’ to put things right. This can, however, depend on how professional or adept you think the company or individual is. If you think they might be the right entity for the work hiring a new builder and seeking payment from the building owner may be the better option. You can seek a ‘payment in lieu’ of the Building Owner making good your property. The sum of money that is paid would either need to be agreed between Owners, or by the Party Wall Surveyors acting on their behalf.

One of the key issues with the party wall agreement is how compensation is gauged. It’s not unusual if payment is asked for, that the party wall surveyors will estimate the extent of the damage and make a recommendation based on the industry standard and their own experience. Current material and labour costs can also be a factor, as can the pre – existing condition of the Adjoining Owners property, before the works commenced, next door.

Should I Have Insurance for a Party Wall Agreement?

Liability for damage runs from the Building Owner who is carrying out the work to the Adjoining Owners. The remedy can either be achieved through repairs by the Building Owner or by providing compensation, known as a ‘Payment in Lieu.’

But what if you are the Building Owner, the damage was caused by your builder and you want to recover the costs from them?

This might be the case, for example, if the builder has been careless, perhaps causing damage to areas like plasterwork or windows in the adjoining property. You may indeed need to prove contractor negligence or responsibility in this case. It’s worth checking whether the builder you are using has insurance in place to cover this eventuality.

Under common law, they are duty-bound to have protection in place. The party wall award may include a clause that the building owner should employ a builder that has adequate insurance. It’s worth asking your builder to provide evidence of their insurance before you employ them.

You may also be able to obtain what is called non-negligent insurance cover but this can be complicated and may well have a range of different clauses that mean you can’t claim for just anything. Specialist advice should be sought about this.

The Adjoining Owner may request that the instigator of the Building Works puts monies aside in Escrow, to cover eventualities such as damage.

It may be feasible to obtain specialist ‘Party Wall’ related insurance policies. These are not a ‘one size fits all’ solution, and we recommend you seek the advice of an Insurance Specialist, if it is something that is suggested to you.

Party Wall Surveyor Quotation


When it comes to party wall agreements, it’s preferable to make sure that a full schedule of condition is prepared beforehand, if feasible, if access is made available.

This gives everyone a clear idea of what state the property is in before work commences. If damage occurs, it’s then a matter for the party wall surveyors to assess this and recommend how this will be rectified.

With our professional help, you can simplify the process of altering a party wall while complying with the law and minimising the risk of disputes and costly setbacks. We can help leaseholders, homeowners, landlords and investors save time, money and effort, and we always provide free quotes up front.
If you want to learn more about party wall matters and how our services benefit you, then call us today on 020 3598 6730 to speak with a London-based RICS chartered surveyor directly.