If you are thinking about purchasing a condo or duplex, you probably already know you are going to share a wall with at least one neighbor. While this wall may simply be a divider, it may also provide structural support to the entire building.
Party walls are shared walls between two or more units with separate owners. If either you or your neighbors do not keep the party wall in good condition, everyone’s property value and safety may be on the line. A party wall agreement outlines all owners’ responsibilities.
Party walls come in a seemingly endless variety of types. In duplexes and rowhouses, these walls often have additional insulation to minimize noise between units. They may also act as fire barriers to keep flames from spreading to adjoining properties. Furthermore, a fence that straddles the property line may be a party wall.
Party wall agreements
Traditionally, each property owner owns the side of the party wall that touches his or her property. Because it may be easy for one owner to weaken or destroy the wall, party wall agreements aim to preserve the condition of the party wall and the entire structure. If you are buying a unit in a building that has a homeowners’ association, there is a good chance a party wall agreement already exists.
If the party wall agreement is no longer meeting your needs or the needs of your neighbors, you may be able to modify it. The existing agreement may even include a provision for doing so. It may also have a process for resolving disputes.
In theory, party wall agreements safeguard the property rights of all parties. If a neighbor or anyone else violates the party wall agreement, though, you may have to take steps to protect both your property and your legal rights.