Q: What is a party wall?
A: A party wall is a common wall shared by two adjacent buildings. Party walls are very common in New York City.
Q: How do I know if a wall is an independent wall or party wall?
A: A deed, survey, construction drawings or physical examination may be used to determine whether a wall is an independent wall or a party wall.
Q: My neighbor is doing work on or near a party wall. Should I be concerned?
A: An owner who is concerned about the structural integrity of a party wall during construction can seek the advice of a licensed structural engineer. The engineer may review the construction drawings, any underpinning plans, shoring plans, structural calculations, and perform a physical examination of the wall in order to make a recommendation as to whether any further work is warranted.
Q: What is Party Wall Monitoring?
A: In order to monitor the structural integrity of a party wall and adjacent walls during construction, a structural engineer may recommend a party wall monitoring plan. Such a plan may include vibration sensors, crack gauges, target surveys and other tools used to monitor the structural integrity of the party wall and adjacent walls. The technology for these devices has improved substantially over the years and modern devices can include remote/wireless real time monitoring where appropriate. Target surveys can be used before, during and after construction to determine whether the wall has experienced any movement.
Q: Do I need to hire an attorney?
A: Party Walls often straddle a property boundary. The neighbors’ rights and obligations vis-a-vis the party wall are established either under common law or under a party wall agreement in the title. An attorney can review the title, survey and case law and advise a property owner regarding their rights and obligations. Construction projects are also regulated under local and State building codes and local zoning codes. An attorney can help a property owner understand the permitting process, legal framework and lay out options for how to proceed.
Q: What happens if my neighbor and I cannot agree on the scope of monitoring?
A: Each situation is different. In the event that two neighbors cannot agree on whether monitoring is warranted, or the scope of the monitoring, it may prove useful to have a qualified third party make a recommendation. If the engineers disagree, the attorneys may be able to negotiate a solution. Because most construction projects are time sensitive, contacting an attorney early in the process can save time down the road.
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The Law Offices of Keith R. Betensky, Esq.
The Empire Building
26 Village Green, Suite 4
P.O. Box 22
Bedford, New York 10506-0022