There are two different types of boundary walls. Type 1 is built entirely on one side of the boundary, while Type 2 straddles the boundary between two properties with one half on each side. This guide deals with Type 2 boundary walls.
This information only applies in Scotland.
If you live in a semi-detached house or a flat, you will share a wall with your next-door neighbour or the flats either side yours. In the case of detached houses, it is quite likely that you will have a wall or fence that marks the boundary between your property and your neighbour's. This guide gives an outline of the rules on what changes you can make to boundary walls, who will have responsibility for carrying out repairs, and how disputes can be settled.
Types of boundary walls
Maintenance of boundary walls
Each neighbour has a duty in the common interest to make sure that the boundary wall is maintained. Owners will often be free to make agreements between themselves on what work should be carried out and who should pay for it, and it is common for these arrangements to take the form of real burdens. These are obligations that are written into the title deeds that tell owners what their responsibilities are towards neighbouring properties. Concerning a boundary wall, there might be a real burden stating that the neighbours will pay a half share each for any repairs.
Making alterations to a boundary wall
Neighbours aren't permitted to make any alterations that will have an impact on the structure of the wall as a whole. Provided that alterations don't damage the stability of the boundary wall, they will generally be allowed. The standard rule is that the neighbour who is making the alterations will have to pay for them.
Tenements (Scotland) Act 2004
There are a particular set of rules for flats contained in the Tenements (Scotland) Act 2004. Within this piece of legislation, there is the ‘Tenement Management Scheme', which sets out how decisions are made on repairing or altering the building and who should cover the costs.
This is especially important when title deeds don't lay anything down or have gaps which could lead to some problems when trying to make decisions with other owners in your tenement. For example, a title deed may not:
- explain how decisions should be made
- describe all the common areas
- give a share of costs that adds up to 100%
Where this is the case, you and the other owners can revert to the Tenement Management Scheme, which helps fill gaps in title deeds and makes flat owners' responsibilities clearer.
The tenement is divided into ‘sectors'. Each flat is one sector, as is the close or lift and any other space within the building, such as a cellar. The boundary between sectors is in the middle point of the wall that separates them.
The Tenement Management Scheme
The Tenement Management Scheme covers parts of the building that are defined as ‘scheme property'. These are essential parts that need to be maintained to ensure the building as a whole is safe and stable, such as the foundations, the roof and load-bearing walls, and areas that are commonly owned such as the close.
If you and the other owners cannot decide on if and how certain maintenance should be carried out, the Tenement Management Scheme explains how an agreement should be reached. Decisions about carrying out work on these areas are considered ‘scheme decisions' and can be made by a simple majority of the flat owners, with each property representing one vote.
All of the owners must have a chance to cast their vote. Once a decision has been reached, every flat owner must be notified. Anyone who objects to the decision can appeal to the Sheriff Court.
When this type of work is being carried out, the cost must typically be shared between all of the flats in the building. However, there are certain exceptions:
- where the work involves a part of the tenement that isn't used by everyone, only the owner(s) of the flat(s) involved should pay
- where the floor area of the biggest flat is more than 1.5 times the floor area of the smaller flat, the repair costs should be split so that the owner of the larger flat pays more
For more information see the Scottish government's guidance. If you need help with a party wall matter or dispute, you can find a surveyor using the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors’ (RICs’) Find a Surveyor service.