The difference between fences and party fence walls.
Definition of a party fence wall.
A party fence wall is a wall which stands on the land of different owners and is used for separating adjoining lands but does not form part of a building. If the wall is only on the land of one owner it is not a party fence wall under the Party Wall etc. 1996 Act.
If you wish to carry out certain work to a party fence wall then you must serve notice on the adjoining owner the same as you would if you wanted to do work to the party wall separating your houses. However, not all work to a party fence wall is notifiable as it is on a party wall, so you should seek advice first to confirm if you need to serve notice.
You cannot demolish a party fence wall unless your neighbour agrees but you can repair or rebuild it and the cost is usually split between both owners of the wall.
An ordinary garden fence is not covered under the Party Wall Act.
Normal fences made of timber or concrete posts and timber panels do not come under the 1996 Act. Your deeds may state that the fence to your property is a 'party fence' but this has a different meaning and is unconnected with the 1996 Act. Usually this means that the fences are maintainable by both owners and it follows that the fences are also erected on the boundary.
How to decide if you have a party fence wall.
How do you know if you have a party fence wall or boundary wall? If you live in a semi-detached house and the centre of the wall is also the centre of the two adjoining properties it is most likely to be a party fence wall. You can take measurements fairly easily to check this.
If you live in a detached house, then you would need to look at your and your neighbours deeds for help.
Failing that you would need to engage a boundary surveyor, a specialist trained Chartered Surveyor. It is not the job of the party wall surveyors to determine boundaries and they can only act on what the parties have already agreed the position of the boundary is.
Slightly confusingly, the Act refers to a '...boundary wall, being a party fence wall...'. Technically, under the Act, a party fence wall can also be a boundary wall by the fact it sits on the boundary.
In reality, a boundary wall can also sit on just one owner's land and define the boundary line.
Where the wall is completely on your land, the outer face of the wall that faces the adjoining owner usually marks the boundary line. In these circumstances you at liberty to do what you want as this is your wall and your neighbour has no right to touch it, not even to knock a nail in.
Get advice about the notice you have been served from a Party Wall Surveyor: