Can I Build Up To My Neighbour’s Wall or Fence?

To a certain extent, being able to build on your property is completely your choice. If you want to put a shed up, or make alterations to your property, you are free to do that as you wish.

However, when the wall or fence of your neighbour is involved, things become a little bit more complicated. This is why the Party Wall Act 1996 was put into place.

Basically, if you want to be able to build up to the wall or fence of your neighbour, you may have to seek permission in certain situations. Let’s take a look at what we know about this particular topic, and what you should be aware of.

Can I Build on my Property?

If the area you wish to build on is entirely your own, then you are free to do whatever you please. If you own the property, there are no limits on the type of alterations or modifications you can make to it, it’s only when it begins to stretch onto the property wall or fence of your neighbour that you have to consider legal intervention.

Building up to the property of your neighbours wall or fence is fine so long as you start and finish before the boundary line. The boundary line, known sometimes as the line of junction, is what separates your property from the property you share with your neighbour. If you move past that line, then you are technically building on property which is owned by you and your neighbour, that you will need to seek permission in accordance with the Party Wall Act.

Seeking Permission

It is very important that you seek permission for anything that you intend to do when it comes to the party wall that is shared by you and your neighbour. If they do not approve, you will have to make modifications to the drawings and plans that you have set out, so it’s very important to get this permission.

Usually, this means that you have to go through the legal process, by interacting with your neighbour and serving the notice, in accordance with the Party Wall Act.

By now, you probably understand how this all works and what it means, and it is very important to take a look at all of the different options that are available to you, in order to find exactly what will work.

Serving Notice

Legally, you are required to serve notice on your neighbour that you intend to carry out works either close to, or stradling the boundary/line of junction.

If you are proposing to build upto the line of junction but will be keeping everything on your property then your neighbour will not be given an option to dissent to the works however if you are planning to straddle the boundary your neighbour can dissent and a party wall award will need to be prepared.

Please be aware that in ALL cases where you are building close to the line of junction and you are proposing excavations within 3m of your neighbours building and the excavations will be deeper than their foundations then an separate party wall notice will need to be served for the excavation works regardless of whether the excavations are all on your property or not.  

Doing this therefore will require you to file all of the correct paperwork, and serve notice legally in accordance with the act. You should be aware that your neighbouring owner has 14 days to contest this or agree to things, and then a final 10 days if they do not communicate after that period.

If you have served a notice proposing to straddle the boundary and your neighbour has dissented then generally speaking, it’s often easier (and way cheaper) to just change the drawing slightly to be back across the boundary line, thus removing the oprion for your neighbour to dissent.

This is all well and good if you have adequate time and resources to make these changes of course.

However, if you absolutely have to straddle the boundary then you will need follow the protocols within the Party Wall Act to do so.

What If You Are Proposing To Carry Out Works To An Existing Wall?

At the end of the day, you cannot just simply start performing alterations on party walls without consulting anybody first.

This wall is half owned by your neighbour and they have every right to know what you are proposing to do to the wall. 

They also have a legal right to contest what you plan to do, as they are in part ownership of the wall with you.

Another thing to take into account is that even if the existing wall is built solely on your land, if this wall supports a roof structure on BOTH sides it automatically becomes a party wall at that moment.

This is something worth considering if you have an existing wall and your neighbour asks if they can use it to support a leanto roof.

If you are already using it as a leanto of your own, then the very second that your neighbour adds a roof then that existing wall becomes a Party Wall under the Act.

Any future work that you decide to do to the wall in the future will require their consent under the party wall act.

You would also have lost that tiny parcel of land beyond your wall and upto the original line of junction to your neighbour.

Therefore If build your own wall up to the boundary line, but not crossing it, then what happens inside that area is technically your business. However, if you allow your neighbour to support a roof onto the wall it will automatically become a party wall and therefore much more complicated should you ever wish to demolish it or alter it in any way.

If your neighbour does request use of an existing wall on your land then you can request a payment in which to do so.  The fee is generally calculated at a percentage of what the wall would cost to build and there are provisions in the Party Wall Act to cover this.

The Party Wall Act has been designed to make sure that you can carry out alterations when you want to, so long as you follow the correct legal procedure, and have the resources required to dispute any challenges.

Final Thoughts

So, when it comes to building up to the fence or wall of your neighbour, you can only do things on your own if you are at your side of the boundary line (provided it does not involve excavating any holes for foundations etc that will be deeper than a foundation on any of your neighbours buildings that are within 3m.  This includes any garages and outbuildings that are within 3m – something many people overlook, often at great cost!

Functionally, this is the point where you have to start working within the Party Wall Act wherever you wish to make change.

Once your neighbour begins to register a formal dissent of what you intend to do, you will have to start following legal processes.

You can do whatever you need to do to make things work, because you have a lot of different choices in terms of what you do and how you wish to move forward. It’s easy to get involved with a multitude of different options, but you have to think about all of the different choices.

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