Section 8 of the Party Wall Act confirms a right of access over a neighour’s land although it comes with 2 important qualifiers; the work being undertake must be ‘in pursuance of the Act’ and the access must be necessary.
‘In pursuance of the Act’ simply means that it must be one of the types of work described as being notifiable in sections 1, 2 & 6. That would include such tasks as excavating the foundations to a new party wall, constructing that party wall or demolishing and rebuilding an existing party wall. There are other works close to the boundary for which a building owner may like to have access, such as raising a wall at the boundary, but the Act grants no such right.
Agreeing what is ‘necessary’ can be more problematic but shouldn’t be. Simply put, if the works can be completed without access, even if it adds to the cost of timescale, the right will not be available. A simple example would relate to the construction of a rear extension with a flank wall at the boundary – it might suit the building owner to leave a hoarding in place for the whole duration of the work as it effectively enlarges the site and provides a useful space for storing materials but that it not acceptable. The work requiring access should be prioritised so that the adjoining owner get their garden back as soon as possible and do not suffer unnecessary inconvenience.
Access is subject to 14 days notice in writing although that can be shortened by agreement – there’s no reason why that notice cannot be served in advance of the award being served so that the works (and the associated access) can commence immediately.
The terms of access will generally be agreed between the surveyors and confirmed in the party wall agreement. Typical safeguards include the erection of a safety/security hoarding, the protection of paving and the temporary relocation of plants.
Where there is a right of access under the Act it is unlawful for the adjoining owner to prevent that access and the provisions included in the Act to ensure that the right of access is not frustrated are unusually forceful – section 8 confirms that should access not be granted the building owner (or his agent/workmen) may ‘ … if accompanied by a constable or other police officer, break open any fences or doors in order to enter the premises’.
This article was provided by the party walls team at Peter Barry Chartered Surveyors. If you are in the London area and have a question relating to access for party wall works or any related matter you can contact them on 020 7183 2578 or by email and receive up to 20 mins free advice.