On 10 March 2016 the Department for Communities and Local Government approved the first amendment to the Party Wall etc. Act since it was enacted in 1996.
The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 (Electronic Communications) Order 2016 – which comes into effect on 6 April 2016 – amends section 15 of the Party Wall Act to provide for service of notices, awards and other documents by email and other electronic means of communications.
The new section 15(1A) provide that notices or “other documents” (which will include awards, accounts, requests to act effectively etc.) may be served “by means of an electronic communication” where the recipient has stated that they are willing to accept document by means of an electronic communication.
“Electronic means of communication” is defined as:
“a communication transmitted (whether from one person to another, from one device to another or from a person to a device or vice versa) either by means of an electronic communications network or by other means but while in an electronic form”.
This will include obvious means of communication like fax (do people still use fax?) and email but might also include social media such as Facebook or Twitter.
It is unclear what will comprise a statement of willingness to accept a document by electronic means of communication. It might be sufficient for an email address or twitter handle to be set out on headed notepaper or within an email signature, as that information is provided with the express intention to use those means for communication.
Until further clarification is provided the safest course of action is only to serve documents by electronic means of communication where there has been an express statement by the recipient that they are prepared to accept service of documents by electronic means of communication.