Providing Real SolutionsSince 1999
Brent D. Ratchford photo

Understanding the importance of a party wall agreement

On Behalf of | Mar 14, 2024 | Real Estate Disputes |

Americans are living closer together than ever – not just in urban areas, but in many suburban areas as well. That means the walls that separate our properties can have a big effect on our quality of life – and can be the source of serious disputes. These common or shared walls between two separately owned properties are often known as “party walls.” They can be outdoor walls that separate two single-family houses or interior walls that separate two condominiums or townhouses. Oftentimes, they separate two businesses – whether in a strip mall or commercial high-rise.

Contrary to popular belief, a party wall doesn’t have to be precisely on the boundary line between two properties. Sometimes, they’re located completely on one side of this line. In these cases, the other property owner still has the right to use their portion of the wall, usually via an easement clause in the party wall agreement (PWA).

A lot of disputes over party walls can be prevented with a PWA. In some cases, mortgage lenders even require one. However, many homeowners don’t consider a PWA (or even know what they are) until a dispute arises.

What’s commonly included in a PWA?

There’s no one-size-fits-all language for a PWA. It depends in part on the type of property involved, where the wall is with respect to the boundary, whether it’s an interior or exterior wall and more. However, PWAs commonly address matters like the following:

  • Who is responsible for maintaining the wall or how responsibility is shared
  • How repair or replacement expenses are shared
  • What type of alterations require both parties’ permission
  • What the consequences are for breaching any terms of the PWA

Some PWAs come with the property and transfer to new owners. In other cases, a PWA may be specific to the current owners only. If you’re considering buying a property, it’s important to know whether there’s a PWA in place that transfers with ownership and what the terms are.

If you’re negotiating a PWA or being asked to agree to one, it’s critical to ensure that it’s legally valid. Otherwise, there’s little point to it, since it likely wouldn’t hold up in court if there was a dispute.

Whether you’re reviewing a PWA as a prospective new homeowner, your neighbor is violating the terms of your PWA (or accusing you of violating them) or you’re creating one, it’s wise to have experienced legal guidance. This can help you better protect and assert your rights.


FindLaw Network