Because space is at a premium in New York City, party walls are common. These are simply the walls that often straddle property boundaries and form a barrier between two separately owned units or structures. Usually, two separate property owners own a single party wall.
Common law or a party wall provision in a property’s title dictates each owner’s rights and responsibilities with regard to the property wall. If a neighboring property owner is renovating or otherwise working on or near a party wall, party wall monitoring may be necessary.
The nature of party walls
Because they divide two independently owned structures or spaces, party walls are often load-bearing. If the party wall falls into disrepair or sustains damage, both structures may be at risk of collapse or other damage. Consequently, keeping the party wall in tip-top shape is in both property owners’ interests.
The danger of construction
If either property owner weakens the party wall, the other may lose value. Still, when trying to maximize space, property owners may seek to reduce the size of party walls, add additional weight to them or make other construction-related changes. Arranging for party wall monitoring may put the adverse property owner’s mind at ease.
The importance of wall monitoring
With party wall monitoring, a structural engineer inspects the party wall for signs of distress. Then, engineers affix sensors, lasers, guages or other monitors to the wall. If these devices detect stress, cracks or other damage, they send an automatic alert. After construction finishes, a structural engineer may inspect the wall again.
Ultimately, if party wall monitoring or an inspection reveals a property owner has damaged the party wall or compromised its integrity, the other owner may need to explore legal options, such as litigation, arbitration or mediation.