Section 20 – Interpretation

Party Wall etc. Act 1996

(1) In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires, the following expressions have the meanings hereby respectively assigned to them—

“adjoining owner” and “adjoining occupier” respectively mean any owner and any occupier of land, buildings, storeys or rooms adjoining those of the building owner and for the purposes only of section 6 within the distances specified in that section;

A Rent Act protected tenant is not an adjoining owner (Frances Holland School v Wasseff). Next-door tenants may be “adjoining owners” even if they only rent a handful of rooms (Fillingham v Wood)

“appointing officer” means the person appointed under this Act by the local authority to make such appointments as are required under section 10(8);

“building owner” means an owner of land who is desirous of exercising rights under this Act;

If the building owner’s property is sold, beneficial rights (such as the right to receive compensation) are transferred to the new owner (Mason v Fulman Corporation) but liabilities, such as for the removal of support, are not transferred and remain with the original building owner (Selby v Whitbread & Co). However, benefits are only transferred on the sale of a freehold, not on the grant of a lease (Re: Stone & Hastie)

It seems that you do not have to own any part of the wall to be a “building owner”; whether it is a party wall seems to be a question of user rather than title (Knight v Pursell). “Building owner” means all of the joint building owners together, not just one of them (Lehmann v Herman). A landlord that grants a tenant a licence to undertake works to a party structure is not “desirous of exercising rights” and is therefore not a building owner (Loost v Kremer).

“foundation”, in relation to a wall, means the solid ground or artificially formed support resting on solid ground on which the wall rests;

“owner” includes—

(a) person in receipt of, or entitled to receive, the whole or part of the rents or profits of land;

A freehold owner that is only in receipt of a peppercorn rent may not be an owner for the purposes of this sub-section (Evelyn v Whichord).

(b) a person in possession of land, otherwise than as a mortgagee or as a tenant from year to year or for a lesser term or as a tenant at will;

(c) a purchaser of an interest in land under a contract for purchase or under an agreement for a lease, otherwise than under an agreement for a tenancy from year to year or for a lesser term;

“party fence wall” means a wall (not being part of a building) which stands on lands of different owners and is used or constructed to be used for separating such adjoining lands, but does not include a wall constructed on the land of one owner the artificially formed support of which projects into the land of another owner;

“party structure” means a party wall and also a floor partition or other structure separating buildings or parts of buildings approached solely by separate staircases or separate entrances;

“party wall” means—

(a) a wall which forms part of a building and stands on lands of different owners to a greater extent than the projection of any artificially formed support on which the wall rests; and

(b) so much of a wall not being a wall referred to in paragraph (a) above as separates buildings belonging to different owners;

Two independent walls that touch, but are not bonded, are not a party wall (Thornton v Hunter). Where two or more terraced or semi-detached houses are built together, and sold off separately, the law will presume the wall dividing them is a party wall built equally on land belonging to both parties (Wiltshire v Sidford).

A “type-b” wall is only a party wall to the extent that it is enclosed both sides. The parts of the wall that do not separate two buildings are not party walls, and the building owner cannot do any works to those parts under the Party Wall Act (Knight v Pursell). This includes a type-b parapet (London, Gloucester & North Hants Dairy Company v Morley and Lanceley).

If there is evidence of common user of a wall the law will presume, unless there is contrary evidence, that it is a party wall in equal ownership of the parties (Cubitt v Porter). It is possible for one party to obtain adverse possession of  a party wall formerly in equal ownership (Prudential Assurance Co v Waterloo Real Estate Inc).

“special foundations” means foundations in which an assemblage of beams or rods is employed for the purpose of distributing any load; and

“surveyor” means any person not being a party to the matter appointed or selected under section 10 to determine disputes in accordance with the procedures set out in this Act.

Being the project architect does not prohibit a person from acting as surveyor (Loost v Kremer)