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PARTY WALL AGREEMENT GUIDANCE

PARTY WALL AGREEMENT GUIDANCE

Planning on carrying out alterations to your home? If they are going to affect a party wall you will need a Party Wall Agreement to comply with the Party Wall Act 1996. This involves getting formal consent from your neighbour. But what exactly is a party wall, and do you need a Party Wall Agreement for your loft conversion? Our expert guide walks you through the ins and outs of party walls and Party Wall Agreements. We even give you some tips on how to get your neighbour’s consent and a handy link to a Party Wall Agreement template.

 

Party Wall Agreements: Loft Conversions – An Expert Guide

Planning on carrying out alterations to your home? If they are going to affect a party wall you will need a Party Wall Agreement to comply with the Party Wall Act 1996. This involves getting formal consent from your neighbour. But what exactly is a party wall, and do you need a Party Wall Agreement for your loft conversion? Our expert guide walks you through the ins and outs of party walls and Party Wall Agreements. We even give you some tips on how to get your neighbour’s consent and a handy link to a Party Wall Agreement template.

What is a party wall?

A party wall is essentially a ‘shared’ wall. It is a wall which stands on the land of more than one owner. Party walls are commonly found where properties adjoin such as in terraced and semi-detached houses. A party wall usually forms part of a building but it doesn’t have to, as in the case of walls between gardens. Even if there is not shared ownership of a wall, if the wall is used to separate one building from another, it still counts as a party wall. You can also have a ‘party structure’ which is a structure that separates, for example, floors between dwellings in a building like there are between flats or maisonettes.

What is the Party Wall Act 1996?

The Party Wall Act 1996 says that in England and Wales, you must tell your neighbours if you want to carry out any building work near or on a party wall (your shared property boundary). Under the Party Wall Act, you must serve a Party Wall Notice telling your neighbour if you want to:

build on or near the boundary of your properties
work on an existing party wall or party structure
dig below or near the foundations of a party wall.

This type of work might include:

building a new wall
cutting into a party wall
making a party wall taller, shorter or deeper
removing chimneys from a party wall
knocking down and rebuilding a party wall

If your neighbour disagrees with the proposed work on your shared party wall, the Party Wall Act provides mechanisms to resolve the dispute.

If proposed work significantly affects a neighbour’s party wall, the Party Wall Act allows compensation payments to be made to them. The amount of compensation awarded will be decided by the surveyors involved and will depend on the actual construction.

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What is a Party Wall Agreement?

A Party Wall Agreement is different from planning permission or building regulations approval. It requires signed consent from neighbours who share a party wall with you. These neighbours include freeholders and leaseholders. It is an agreement on the works you plan to carry out. You can draw up and serve this document yourself or you can appoint a party wall surveyor to represent you.

What Does a Party Wall Agreement Include?

A Party Wall Agreement usually includes:

• Both addresses
• Party Wall surveyors’ details
• Access arrangements for the surveyor(s)
• Working hours
• Time limit for the start of the proposed work (usually one year)
• The Party Wall Award: guidelines governing how the works should be carried out
• A schedule of the condition of the adjacent property which might include photos
• Details and drawings of the proposed work
• The contractor’s public liability insurance details
• Your neighbour’s surveyor’s fee
• Indemnities by the building owner in favour of the neighbour

How Much Does a Party Wall Agreement Cost?

If neither you nor your neighbour want to employ a party wall surveyor, you can serve the Party Wall Notices yourself and you won’t need to pay surveyors’ fees. If you require an Award, you can employ one surveyor between you. However, each neighbour has the right to appoint their own surveyor to safeguard their interests and you will be expected to pay the fees. It can cost from £700 to £1,500 per neighbour so if you have several adjoining homeowners, each using their own surveyor, the fees mount up – so negotiation is a good idea!

Do I Need to Appoint a Party Wall Surveyor?

Whether you need to appoint a surveyor depends on whether your neighbour agrees to the works or not and whether they want to appoint a surveyor to safeguard their interests. If your neighbour agrees and neither of you wants to appoint a surveyor, you can draw up and serve all the notices and other documents yourself. Templates can be found in the appendices of RICS Practice Standards, Party wall legislation and procedure  UK 6th edition here.

If your neighbour consents to the work but wants to appoint a surveyor to safeguard their interests, you will have to pay. If your neighbour agrees to it, you can appoint a surveyor to act on both of your behalves which will save money, but your neighbour is entitled to appoint their own surveyor if they want to and you will have to pay. If your neighbour disagrees with the proposed work, you do have to appoint a surveyor because you will need a Party Wall Award to go ahead with the project. A Party Wall Award sets out the owners’ rights and responsibilities in relation to how the work should proceed. It covers things like working hours and what happens in the case of damage. If you think your neighbour is likely to disagree, it is a good idea to appoint a surveyor at an early stage to lessen delays.

It is worth remembering that once a surveyor is appointed, they have a duty, by law, to be entirely impartial no matter on whose behalf they are acting or who is paying them.

Once a party wall surveyor has been appointed, under the Party Wall Act, that appointment cannot be rescinded unless the surveyor in question declares himself incapable of acting (or dies). So, you can’t swap him out for another one if you or your neighbour don’t like what he’s got to say!

Before the work begins either you or the surveyor must produce a schedule of condition of the adjoining owner’s property. It is crucial that this is done accurately so that if there is any subsequent damage, it can be properly attributed. If the schedule of condition is not drawn up properly it can be found to be invalid and your neighbour can potentially sue you under civil law and take you to court. Obviously, this would prove a lot more expensive than the cost of appointing a surveyor! If there are two surveyors, the schedule of condition is prepared by the building owner’s surveyor and proofed by the adjoining owner’s surveyor.  In the event that the surveyors disagree on the award, a third surveyor has to be appointed as adjudicator. Usually, the third surveyor will be from the local authority.

All surveyors’ fees are paid by the building owner who is proposing the works. The surveyor appointed by the building owner will normally quote a fixed fee. However, surveyors appointed by adjoining owners will charge by the hour, with contingencies for additional visits. In London, the average party wall surveyor’s fee for the owner is £400.  Fees charged by adjoining owners’ surveyors in London range from £700 for a simple job rising to £1500 plus for an award covering more complex works. The final fee is agreed and entered into the award just before it is served.

How to Find a Party Wall Surveyor

You can find party wall surveyors in your local area on the Home Owners Alliance website here or from the Faculty of Party Wall Surveyors here.

 

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Do I Need a Party Wall Agreement for a Loft Conversion?

If you are planning on altering or extending your property and there are adjoining properties sharing a party wall with you, you will need a Party Wall Agreement if the planned alterations involve work on or near the shared wall. You will usually need a Party Wall Agreement for a loft conversion, because the party wall is almost always the strongest structure to form the load bearing wall for the new framework for your loft conversion. If the adjoining property is divided into flats you will need consent from all owners affected (who aren’t necessarily the ones living there). This includes freeholders and leaseholders. Party walls are typically involved when the loft conversion requires:

• Steelwork to support the floor and any dormer windows. This usually runs from party wall to party wall and involves • cutting into the party walls involved to allow a steel beam and padstone to be set into them.
• Creating a dormer on the boundary line.
• Increasing the height of party walls to accommodate a specific dormer design or size.
• Removing chimney breasts from the party wall
• Increasing the thickness of the wall for loadbearing purposes
• Rebuilding or demolishing part of the wall
• Underpinning the wall
• Cutting projections off the wall
• Inserting a damp course.
• All of these will require a Party Wall Agreement.

However, if your neighbour agrees in writing to the proposed works and does not want to employ a surveyor, you will not need a Party Wall Agreement.

Can I Do a Loft Conversion Without a Party Wall Agreement?

You won’t need a Party Wall Agreement if the loft is being built on top of a detached house. In other situations where you have walls adjoining other properties, it may be possible to build a loft conversion without a Party Wall Agreement, but this will only be where shared walls are not involved in the build. It can sometimes be possible to build a loft conversion without using a party wall as a load bearing wall, but the required engineering can be costly.

What Happens if I Proceed with No Party Wall Agreement?

It is not an offence to fail to observe the Party Wall Act. However, your neighbours can take civil action against you and have an injunction issued to stop further work until a Party Wall Agreement is arranged. This is likely to be costly and will cause delays: there’s a risk your builder will just start another job and not return for months. Or he might demand compensation for the delay.

Your neighbours can claim compensation if they can prove they have suffered loss as a result of the work. At worst, you could even be required to remove the work. The same applies if you have a Party Wall Agreement with your neighbours but fail to observe the terms agreed.

Issuing a Party Wall Notice

You have to notify adjoining homeowners of the proposed work through Party Structure Notices. Party Structure Notices should:

• be served to the legal owner of the adjoining property (who is not necessarily the person who is living there)  this includes freeholders and leaseholders
• provide all relevant information from the Party Wall Act and full details of the works
• allow the owners to consent or object to the work
• be served at least two months before the intended start date for the works
• allow the owners to hire their own surveyor
• allow the owners to safeguard their own home while the loft conversion is taking place.

A party structure notice may also be required if your surveyor needs to dig down to check your foundations within 3 to 6 metres of the adjoining property.

Serving notices correctly is crucial. If they have been served correctly and there are unexpected problems, such as damage to your neighbour’s property, this can be dealt with by the surveyors. If notices were not served correctly, then instead of the surveyors sorting it out for you, you could be taken to court, where far greater costs could be found against you!

You can find a link for a Party Wall Notice template here.

How Long in Advance Do I Need to Serve Notice?

A notice has to be served at least two months before the starting date and is only valid for a year – so it’s best to serve it not too long before you want to start!

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What Happens After I Serve Notice?

Once your Party Wall Notice is served, your neighbours can:

• give consent in writing
• refuse to consent to the works proposed
• do nothing

Your neighbour has 14 days to respond and either give their consent or request a party wall settlement. If nothing happens after 14 days or your neighbour refuses, it is considered a dispute and you will need a Party Wall Award for which you will need to appoint surveyors.

If your neighbours agree to the works in writing, you will not require a Party Wall Agreement for your loft conversion. This will save on surveyors’ fees. It really pays to contact your neighbours first and discuss your proposals so that you can try to overcome any issues in advance. At the very least it will ensure that they receive the notice and respond within 14 days – if they fail to respond within that time, they are deemed ‘in dispute’ and you will need to appoint a surveyor anyway, whether they consent to the works or not.

Approval

If your neighbours have given their consent in writing, you can get going with your planned project. It is highly advisable, however, to do a schedule of condition which assesses the current status of not only the party wall on your neighbours’ side but any part of their property which could be affected by the works. A schedule of condition consists of detailed annotated drawings and photos which can be used as evidence if there are any disputes about damage caused by or as a result of the works. You can do this yourself with your neighbour or you can appoint a surveyor to do it for you.

Refusal

If your neighbour dissents (disagrees with the proposed works) or if he doesn’t reply within 14 days, they will be deemed ‘in dispute’ and you can either try to negotiate an agreement with them or you can appoint a surveyor to draw up a Party Wall Award.

My Neighbour Has Refused My Party Wall Notice

If your neighbour has refused your Party Wall Notice or if they just haven’t responded within the 14-day deadline, you are deemed to be in dispute. You can contact the owner and try to negotiate an agreement. They may write to you and issue a counter-notice, requesting certain alterations to the work, or set conditions such as working hours. If you can reach agreement, put the terms in writing and exchange letters, work can begin.

If you fail to reach an agreement, you’ll need to appoint a surveyor to arrange a Party Wall Award that will set out the details of the work. Hopefully, your neighbour will agree to use the same surveyor – an ‘agreed surveyor’– so you will only have to pay a single set of fees. However, your neighbour has the right to appoint their own surveyor at your expense. Your surveyor will draw up a Party Wall Award and their surveyor will proof it. If each side’s surveyor cannot agree, you have to pay for a third surveyor to adjudicate.

Can an Adjoining Owner Stop the Work?

Your neighbour can serve an injunction to stop or prevent work that will affect their property, if you haven’t got a Party Wall Award in place or if you have failed to issue a Party Wall Notice before the relevant work begins. However, they can’t prevent the work from going ahead, or deny you access to their property in order to undertake the work, if you have fully complied with the requirements of the Party Wall Act.

What if My Neighbour Complains About the Noise?

Your local authority is obliged, under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, to investigate any complaint of ‘statutory nuisance’ from people living in its area. This includes complaints about noise and dust from building work if it interferes with the use or enjoyment of other people’s property or is prejudicial to their health.

Local authorities always prefer adjacent landowners to resolve matters amicably – for example by arranging for deliveries or works to only happen at certain hours of the day and by restricting work on Sundays and Bank Holidays. If the local authority decides to take enforcement action, you should comply with this because contravention can lead to prosecution.

Party Wall Agreement Template

You can find Party Wall Agreement templates online. An example of a Party Wall Agreement template can be found Here.

Unsure How to Make the Most of Your Loft Space? Let Our Expert Team Help You

Thinking of having a loft conversion but not sure where to start? Party wall issues may sound complicated, but they needn’t be. With over 15 years’ experience in delivering high-end loft conversions in London, we can help you realise your vision – engineered to perfection and delivered on-time, on-budget and defect-free. You are assured of:

• accurate, fixed-price quote and detailed cost breakdown at the outset – no spiraling costs and no surprises!
• structural expertise at all stages of design and build
• high quality design, construction and finishes from skilled designers, construction experts and specialist craftsmen
• full transparency – follow the on-site progress of your project online through videos and photos as they are updated each week; view milestones and percentage of work complete, and monitor cashflow.

You can read more about loft conversion in London here.

Contact our expert house loft conversion team today to learn how we could benefit your loft conversion project. Call us on 0203 916 5327 or email us at info@dobuild.co.uk to arrange a free no obligation consultation and quote.

 

 

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