If you’re planning on carrying out an extension or conversion on your property, then you very well may need to get familiar with the Party Wall Act of 1996 and what it entails. This regulation applies to any building work which may affect the boundary wall or party wall you share with your neighbour. Even if you’re not working on the party wall directly, you may still need to get permission before going ahead.
If you live in London then it’s quite likely that you live in a terraced or semi-detached property, with a party wall separating your property from your neighbour’s. What the Party Wall Act does is assure that any building work carried out by you or your neighbour does not negatively affect the structural integrity of the other’s property. The last thing you want is a nasty dispute on your hands and going through the right channels to ensure the Party Wall Act requirements are met prevents just that.
Which walls are classified as ‘Party Walls’?
A party wall can be any wall used to separate one landowner’s land from another’s. This can include partial walls such as garden walls or ‘party structures’, which applies to floors and ceilings separating flats. The following are the 3 most common elements falling under the act:
- Boundary walls dividing semi-detached and terraced houses
- The floors and ceilings between flats
- Garden walls (not including wooden fences)
What building work does the Party Wall Act cover?
Some of the most common types of work covered by the Party Wall Act include the following:
- Building a new, or knocking down and rebuilding an existing party wall.
- Increasing or decreasing the height or thickness of the party wall.
- Underpinning on a boundary.
- Installing a damp-proof course or flashings.
- Having to cut into a shared wall in order to accommodate new support beams for a loft conversion.
- Having to raise the party wall in order to allow for a certain type of loft conversion build.
- Extending above any storey which lies on a boundary.
- Building a new wall for a wrap-around or side-return extension.
- Removing chimneys from a party wall.
What work don’t you need to tell your neighbour about?
Luckily you won’t need to get permission all work you plan on carrying out. If it’s something cosmetic and does not put the structural integrity of your neighbour’s property at risk, then you can go ahead without consulting them. Minor works such as plastering and drilling to install shelves or electrical outlets are not covered by the Party Wall Act.
If you’re planning for a loft conversion or loft extension
Due to the nature of the work and scale of some designs, it is very likely that you will require a party wall agreement. Especially if you live in a semi-detached or terraced house.
Giving your neighbour the Party Wall notice
You are required to give your neighbour at least 2 months notice before commencing any work (and one month’s notice for excavations). It is generally a good idea to go and speak to your neighbours in person before sending them a written letter of notice. This makes communication a little easier and will allow you to overcome any potential concerns or disputes early on, including avoiding unnecessary surveyor’s fees.
More information on sending notice letters can be found here, along with useful notice letter templates and examples. If you’re looking to write it yourself then just follow the guidelines in the guide above. Make sure to include vital information such as any applicable dates, party names, property addresses and a detailed outline of any planned work.
If you don’t want to write the notice letter yourself then you can always get assistance from someone like us. Our experience can help ensure the agreement process is as smooth as possible and you and your neighbour can come to terms quickly and without issue.
If your neighbour says yes
Once your neighbour receives the notice they will have 14 days to respond. If they agree then you will have 12 months to complete any planned work. If something comes up and your agreement expires, you will need to begin the process again.
If your neighbour says no
If your neighbour objects to the proposal they will have 14 days to file a response. This may come in the form of a counter-notice where they propose certain changes to the plans, or dictate the hours within which work is allowed to take place. After doing so, one or more agreed surveyors will be appointed to come up with legal documentation called a ‘Party Wall Award’. The Party Wall Award covers the following:
- Assessment of the conditions of both properties
- What work should happen to appease both parties
- When and how it should be carried out
- Which party will cover the cost of each part (this includes surveyor’s fees)
- How much will be paid
- How much the adjoining owner will be paid for any damage to their property
How much does a surveyor cost?
It is in your interest that you can come to an agreement without having to resort to appointing surveyors as in most cases fees will need to be covered by you; not your neighbour.
Costs of hiring a surveyor to present a Party Wall Award are in the region of around £1000 per surveyor. However, the total cost will depend on a number of factors including complexity of the project.
What are the consequences of proceeding without a Party Wall agreement?
While the Party Wall Act of 1996 is not, technically speaking, a legal requirement, it is still essential that you act upon it to prevent any future legal disputes.
If your neighbour thinks that work being carried out is affecting their property, then they could take civil action against you, resulting in work being temporarily halted or stopped altogether. If the project has been completed, they will be able to seek compensation if they can prove any loss or damages as a result of the work you carried out without their permission. Worst case scenario is you being ordered to take down any already completed work.
There is no reason to do this as observing the Party Wall Act and coming to an agreement with your neighbour is, in 99% of cases very simple and straightforward. All it takes is a simple conversation and a friendly letter to make sure everyone’s concerns are addressed and their needs met. Then you can begin work on your project without any worries, knowing that your neighbour is on-board with your plans.