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What’s a Party Wall?

A party wall is a common wall between attached dwellings in condos, attached villas, and townhouses.  There are three main sources that establish rules and responsibilities pertaining to shared walls.  If the governing documents of the association don’t cover party walls in-depth, you may need a party wall agreement.  If no such agreement is in place, common law will dictate who is responsible for repairs.

Party Wall Legal Requirements

2018 Florida Statute 481.203 establishes architectural guidelines for party walls:

(a) Such wall shall provide not less than 2 hours of fire resistance. Plumbing, piping, ducts, or electrical or other building services shall not be installed within or through the 2-hour wall unless such materials and methods of penetration have been tested in accordance with the Standard Building Code.
(b) Such wall shall extend from the foundation to the underside of the roof sheathing, and the underside of the roof shall have at least 1 hour of fire resistance for a width not less than 4 feet on each side of the wall.
(c) Each dwelling unit sharing such wall shall be designed and constructed to maintain its structural integrity independent of the unit on the opposite side of the wall.

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Establishing Rules & Responsibilities for Shared Walls

So you purchase a townhouse and an issue arises with your party wall.  Maybe there are structural issues,  a leak,  faulty wiring that poses a fire risk, or even a colony of bees that decided to take up residence in the shared wall.  Who is responsible for the cost of repairs?  There are three main sources that establish party wall rules and responsibilities.   HOA governing documents, party wall agreements, and common law.

HOA Governing Documents are a good place to start.  If your townhouse is governed by a condominium association, it is likely that partition walls will be considered as part of the common areas.  This would make the association responsible for repairs.  If your townhouse is in a planned development that grants fee-simple ownership, the homeowners will probably be responsible for repairs.  This is a general rule of thumb, but there are exceptions.  Before committing to a purchase in a townhouse community, be sure that you review the rules and responsibilities pertaining to shared walls.

Party Wall Agreements are necessary when the HOA governing documents are vague or fail to address party walls.  Party Wall Agreements generally cover:

  • Responsibilities for repair & maintenance
  • Rules for structural changes
  • Who is responsible for expenses not covered by insurance if the wall is destroyed by fire or other casualties
  • Weatherproofing
  • Arbitration

Common Law will determine rights and responsibilities if the governing documents don’t address the shared wall and there is no party wall agreement in place.

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