Homeowner's Guide To Party Walls, Fences, Rights of Way, Water and WastePipes

Introduction To ... Party Walls - Fences - Rights of Way - Water & Wastepipes.

When someone buys a semi-detached or terraced property they are aware that there is a party wall between the attached properties and tend to put up with any noise emanating from their next-door neighbour's home. However, when an extremely large crack appears in one of the party walls that affects the structure of both properties, do they know what their legal obligation is as far as who is responsible for correcting the problem?

When a property is purchased, the new owner's solicitor dealing with the conveyancing will no doubt have made them aware of which boundary fences they are responsible for maintaining and whether there are any rights of way either through or very close to the property. The new occupant probably doesn't give much thought to the fences until either a gale blows down one of the fence panels or it needs painting at which point they start to think about whose responsibility it is to buy a new panel or get the paint brush out. It may not be until they see a party of twenty ramblers casually walking through the field that they own at the end of their garden that they even consider the implications of rights of way.

One of the last things that someone moving into a new property will think about is what their legal obligations are as far as who is responsible for dealing with any issues concerning the pipes that supply water to the home or the waste pipe along which the sewage is taken away from the house. It isn't until they are digging a deep hole in the front garden to put in a tree and their spade cracks open a pipe resulting in water gushing out that they panic and wander what to do next and who will have to pay for the damage.

So, hopefully, the homeowner will find the following information useful and know exactly what their legal obligations are in respect of the above.

Introduction to Party Walls

A party wall could either be the shared wall that is situated between neighbouring semi-detached or terraced properties that separates the living accommodation but it could also be a party fence wall that is built between neighbouring gardens.

The Party Wall Act 1996 ensured that property owners had set procedures to follow should they wish to carry out any building work that involved a party wall or party fence wall. Therefore, if someone wishes to undertake work to a party wall or any work that will impact on a floor or ceiling, written notice must be given to the neighbours either living in the property that is attached or above or below it. If the neighbour is a tenant then notice must also be given to the landlord. Of course, it would be preferable if a discussion took place with the neighbour before any written communication.

The act does not cover such minor items as the fitting of wall sockets, plastering or screwing in shelves. It is designed to cover things that could affect the loading or structural integrity of the wall such as inserting a damp proof course, underpinning or rebuilding a party wall, excavating foundations or building a new party fence wall.

Written agreement from the neighbour must be forthcoming before any work can start. In the event of a dispute, a surveyor(s) must be appointed to determine a remedy between the parties and will prepare a Party Wall Agreement which details who, amongst other things, is responsible for the cost of the works and, if necessary will request that the contractors carrying out the work be given access to the party wall from both properties. For more on Party Walls Visit My Property Guide

Fences and Rights Of Way

Legally, a person is responsible for the boundary as indicated by an inward facing "T" mark on the boundary line highlighted on a set of Title Deeds. Boundary fences are a frequent cause of dispute between neighbours most commonly due to someone erecting a fence that encroaches by a few inches into the neighbouring garden.

Should the above occur, the offender should be instructed to correctly reinstate it. If they were to decline to do so then the other party has the right to remove the fence.

Rights of Way

There are many different types of rights of way but the most common are footpaths and bridleways that have been freely available for the public to enjoy for many years. People can use footpaths whilst bridleways can be used by people, horses and cyclists. A list of these is retained by the local council.

Legally, these can cross private land and people using them must not deviate from them. However, although the landowner cannot block a right of way, he or she does have the legal right to divert the right of way given to the public but must clearly sign post the route. For more on Rights of Way Visit DirectGov

Water and Waste Pipes - Your Responsibilities and Obligations

Hidden in the ground under a homeowner's drive, garden or paths are the water and waste pipes that are vital to the occupants of the property. One connects to the water mains pipe in the street that delivers fresh water to a home whilst the other flushes wastewater into a sewer.

The homeowner is responsible for maintaining the water pipe between the boundary of their property and the home. Beyond the boundary, it is the responsibility of the water authority. The wastewater leaves the house through a private drain and the homeowner is responsible for maintaining it until it either joins up with a pipe that serves in excess of one home or once it reaches the boundary of the property when it becomes the responsibility of the water authority.

So, if the homeowner were having an extension built and that required the water and waste pipes to be moved it would be their responsibility to arrange for the work to be carried out and cover the cost of doing so.

Hopefully, the above will prove as a useful guide.

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