Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Party Wall Definition:

A partition wall; a dividing wall which separates two adjoining real properties.

Related Terms: Fence

Backman and Thomas write:

"A party wall is defined as a wall constructed next to or directly astride the boundary line between adjoining properties. Usually the wall will be built so it is equally or only partially on the land of each neighbor. Less often, the party wall will be constructed so it is completely on the property of only one of the parties.... The party wall replaces the function of two walls that would otherwise be required were the adjoining landowners to separately build their own structures."

In Sproule, the Court adopted these words to define a party wall:

"... a wall which ... is unquestionably a party wall because it separates one building from another...."

party wallIn Watson v Gray, the British court wrote (Justice Fry):

"The words party wall may be used in four different senses. First, as meaning a wall of which the two adjoining owners are tenants in common ... and that is possibly the primary meaning of the phrase. Secondly, as meaning a wall divided longitudinally into two strips, one belonging to each of the neighbouring owners.... Thirdly, as meaning a wall which belongs entirely to one of the adjoining owners, but is subject to an easement or right in the other to have it maintained as a dividing wall between the two tenements; and fourthly, as meaning a wall divided longitudinally into two moieties each moiety being subject to a cross easement in favour of the owner of the other moiety."

These words were adopted by the Supreme Court of Canada in Lewis.

In 1911, in Roche, Justice Boyd wrote:

"One definition of a party wall is a wall which belongs entirely to one of the adjoining owners, subject to an easement or right in the other to have it maintained as a dividing wall between the two tenements."

The Building Code of Ontario (2009) at §1.4.1.2, defines a party wall as:

"Party wall means a wall that is jointly owned and jointly used by two parties under an easement agreement or by a right in law, and that is erected at or upon a line separating two parcels of land each of which is, or is capable of being a separate real estate entity."

In American National Bank and Trust Company of Chicago, Justice Lewe of the Illinois Appellate Court adopted these words in the opinion of the Court:

"Land covered by a party wall remains the several property of the owner of each half but the title of each owner is qualified by the easement to which the other is entitled of supporting his building by means of the half of the wall belonging to his neighbor....

"Such being the tenure by which the wall is held and owned, it seems logically to follow that either owner may, at least upon his own land, do anything with the wall, or make any use of it, which does not interfere with or impair the enjoyment of such easement by the other owner.

"A more succinct statement of the rule is .. 'each is possessed in severalty of his own soil up to the dividing line and that portion of the wall which rests on it....' (T)he conclusion seems inescapable that each party wall owner may use its side of the wall for any purpose as long as the easement of support is not harmed or impaired."

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