What Is the Purpose of Party Walls in Multi-Unit Buildings?

If you are thinking about purchasing a residence in a multi-unit building, such as a condominium or rowhouse, you are likely to encounter at least one party wall. A party wall is a divider that straddles the property line between two or more dwellings.

Unlike the rest of your property, the party wall in your new home is likely to have at least two owners. That is, you are apt to own one side of the party wall, while your neighbor owns the other side of it. While this may make you feel uncomfortable, party walls are common in Georgia and across the country.

What do party walls do?

The obvious function of a party wall is to separate your home from your neighbor’s house. If your party wall is a fence, that may be about all you need to know.

On the other hand, if your party wall is structural, you and your neighbor must keep it in good condition.  According to state building codes, party walls may also act as fire barriers that prevent flames from spreading to adjoining units.

How do you know your responsibilities?

You may have a legal obligation to maintain your side of the party wall. If you are buying a property with a party wall, there is likely to be an existing party wall agreement you must follow.

This agreement tells you what you must do to maintain the wall. It may also limit your options for renovating or updating your property. Finally, your party wall agreement may include a process for resolving wall-associated disputes with your neighbors.

Ultimately, reading through and understanding the party wall agreement before closing must be part of the due diligence you perform when purchasing a home in a multi-unit building.

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