Whether you are looking to buy a residential property or a commercial one, you might have to deal with a party wall or two. Party walls are unique, as they tend to sit on top of property lines. This means each party wall might have at least two owners: you and your neighbor.
As you might suspect, party walls can be sources of contention. They can also restrict what you can do with your property. Fortunately, many party walls come with existing party wall agreements. These agreements tell all owners about their wall-related rights and responsibilities.
Your party wall agreement
If you are buying a unit in a multi-unit building, part of your pre-closing due diligence should be obtaining the party wall agreement. This agreement might be full of legalese, though, so you probably want to have your real estate attorney review the document.
It is not uncommon for party wall agreements to have alternative dispute resolution provisions. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, these negotiated provisions outline a process for resolving disputes outside of a courtroom. As such, your party wall agreement might limit your options for dealing with future disagreements with your neighbors.
If you do not like some or all of an existing party wall agreement, you might be able to modify it. Still, if the agreement passes from one owner to the next, you might have to obtain some buy-in from other owners. This can be difficult, of course.
Ultimately, if the party wall agreement is not beneficial to you, you might have little choice but to walk away from the purchase and look for a different property.