If you intend to purchase a condo, rowhouse, apartment or office complex, you are undoubtedly going to have to deal with party walls. These are simply the shared walls between two or more units that have separate owners or renters. In most cases, party wall agreements apply to these shared walls.
A party wall agreement outlines the rights and responsibilities of the shared wall’s owners, often those living or working on each side of the party wall. The agreement may also cover adjacent barriers, such as a fence that saddles the property line.
The nature of party walls
While some may be nonstructural, many party walls are essential for the stability and overall condition of the entire space. Often, these walls are fire barriers that prevent flames from spreading to adjoining units or properties. Your party wall may also include a sound barrier to keep noise pollution from entering your neighbor’s space.
Specifics of party wall agreements
If owners do not maintain party walls properly, the entire structure may be at risk for collapse or other costly damage. To avoid a catastrophe, the party wall agreement typically assigns responsibility for both ongoing maintenance and repairs to the party wall. It may also limit what each owner may do with the party wall and address who pays for what.
While any legally binding contract with your neighbors is likely to place restrictions on the way you use your property, you may have few options for refusing a party wall agreement. If you live in an HOA, the party wall agreement is probably standard. Of course, if you are drafting a party wall agreement for the first time, you and your neighbors can probably have some back-and-forth negotiations.
Ultimately, party walls and the agreements that govern them are common aspects of multi-unit structures. Just as with other real estate documents, knowing the technical details of your party wall agreement may help you minimize future conflict with your neighbors.