A party wall is a common wall that straddles 2 parcels of land with the boundary passing vertically and longitudinally through that wall. Party walls are typically found dividing terrace houses. The owner of one terrace house owns one side of the wall up to the boundary and the owner of the other terrace house owns the other side.Each building is entitled to be supported by the whole wall and the wall is protected by cross easements benefitting and burdening both owners. The easements entitle the owners of each side of the wall to the ongoing structural stability of the wall. The easements don’t make the person who has the benefit of the easement the owner of the land.
If you’re unsure your property shares a party wall, you should obtain a title search and deposited plan from NSW Land Registry Services. These can be obtained from one of the information brokers identified on the NSW Land Registry Services website.
The website also provides useful information with regards to party walls and cross easements.
Party walls and development applications
The City of Sydney encourages all applicants to discuss their proposals with their neighbours before making a development application. Where a development involves works on a party wall or works which rely on a party wall for lateral or vertical support, the City of Sydney encourages applicants to obtain party wall consent from their neighbour. This consent is distinct from land owners’ consent and is not a formal requirement for a development application.
All development applications must be made by the owner of the land to which the application relates, or by a person with the written consent of the owners of the land. Land owners’ consent for the lodgement of a development application is only required from a neighbour where the development proposed straddles the property boundary.
If written landowners consent is not provided at the time of lodgement the determination of the application may be delayed.
Where it’s unclear from the application how the development may impact on the party wall, the applicant will be asked to provide clarification and adjoining land owners’ consent from the adjoining neighbour will be required where necessary.
Where development is proposed that involves works adjacent to or to a party wall, the City of Sydney will typically impose conditions on any consent requiring that all works are carried out within the boundary of the land, that a dilapidation survey be carried out and that certification is provided by a structural engineer as to the structural stability of the party wall.