Party Wall Agreements Preserve Harmony with the Neighbours
Receiving a Party Wall Notice through the letter box can come as a surprise. It is usually little more than a formality, but the important thing is not to ignore it.
If your neighbours are planning certain building works, they are obliged to send you a Party Wall Notice. Specifically, a notice is required if the work they are carrying out impinges in any way on the wall that forms the boundary between your respective properties.
In the majority of cases, the work covered by the notice is a routine home improvement project such as a loft conversion or extension and you will simply need to respond in writing that you have no objection. However, if you are in the slightest doubt, it is work seeking professional party wall advice – and doing so without delay.
What type of work demands a Party Wall Agreement?
Any work that involves drilling into, digging under, removing extending or otherwise modifying a party wall cannot commence without a Party Wall Agreement. This is according to the Party Wall Act of 1996, and the regulations were introduced to protect the rights of adjacent property owners.
One of the most common projects that requires a Party Wall Agreement is a loft conversion, as in most cases, this will require improvement work that requires drilling into the party wall. Other projects that might affect party walls include digging foundations for an extension or removing an old chimney breast.
The first step in the process is for the party planning the work to provide a written party wall notice. They have to do this even if they have already discussed the work with you and you have agreed – failure to do so could have serious consequences for them.
How to respond to a Party Wall Notice
When you receive a Party Wall Notice, you need to respond to it. Again, this is the case even if you have already spoken to your neighbour and told them that you are happy for them to proceed (or indeed if you have told them you object).
If you have no objection and the project is relatively minor, simply inform the party wall lawyer, or neighbour, that you concur.
What if you object?
If you have concerns, you can dissent to the work. This then sets a dispute resolution process in motion. The Party Wall Act allows for an “Agreed Surveyor” to carry out a Schedule of Condition, make an assessment of the proposed works and draw up an award. Alternatively, if you are concerned that the suggested surveyor has a vested interest, each party can appoint their own surveyors, who will then perform their own surveys and reach agreement between them. The final decision of the surveyors is binding on both parties.
It is worth keeping in mind that party wall legislation is not directly related to planning and building regulations. In many cases, a project that does not require planning permission might still need a Party Wall Agreement.