The Party Wall Act 1996 stipulates that property owners who plan to alter their property in such a way that it affects a party wall must serve Notice to adjoining property owners. If you are thinking of extending your house, converting your loft, excavating a basement or carrying out a range of other building works that cut into, build upon or near a party wall or boundary, you should seek guidance from a specialist party wall surveyor.
Silk Sharples Jennings are highly experienced in dealing with party wall legislation and its implication for property owners and developers. Why not get in touch with our party wall surveyors to discuss your upcoming building project?
How do you serve Notice?
A party wall is a shared wall, structure or boundary that divides the homes of two separate owners, typically between terraced or semi-detached houses. It also includes garden walls that are built over a boundary and excavations near a neighbouring property.
Before any building work can begin, the building owner must have a written Party Wall Agreement from all adjoining owners, or a Party Wall Award drawn up by a surveyor. Technically, you don’t need a surveyor to serve a Party Wall Notice – there are DIY templates you can use. However, since the legally stipulated process is rather complex, must be followed to the letter and involves set timeframes, it is highly recommended that you seek professional advice and guidance. Your Party Wall Notices must be are properly drafted and legally valid since any error can invalidate them and set back your building project.
A Party Wall Notice must give sufficient detail and a simple description of the work so that your neighbour(s) can understand what you want to do and how it may affect their building. It must be made in writing, be served on all adjoining owners, and be signed and dated by yourself. It is also good practice to include any drawings to explain the proposed work.
Adjoining owners must be given 2 months’ written notice on party wall works and 1 months’ notice for excavations.
How will your neighbours react?
Once you have served Notice, adjoining owners have 14 days to respond, with two possible outcomes:
Your neighbour responds to the Party Wall Notice with written consent. If this is the case, there may be no need to involve a party wall surveyor or prepare a Party Wall Award in straightforward cases.
However, for everyone’s peace of mind, the homeowner should take dated pictures of the party wall and give the adjoining neighbour a copy before building works begin. Alternatively, you could ask your surveyor to draw up a Schedule of Condition as a way to minimise the risk of neighbourly disputes at a later date.
Adjoining neighbours are assumed to have dissented if they do not reply to a Party Wall Notice within the allocated 14-day window, or if they object to your plans. In this case, a Party Wall Award is needed.
The next step is to appoint an agreed surveyor who can act impartially for both the building owner and adjoining owner, within 10 days. The surveyor produces a Party Wall Award with details of the proposed works along with a Schedule of Condition, including pictures.
Alternatively, each owner can appoint their own surveyor. However, this is an expensive option for the homeowner who is legally responsible for the cost of his own as well as his neighbour’s surveyor.
Maintaining good neighbourly relations
Party wall matters have the potential to cause untold friction between adjoining building owners. It is therefore in everyone’s interests to make the effort to maintain a cooperative, friendly relationship between neighbours throughout the project.
As the building owner, think carefully about how you broach the subject of your building plans with your neighbours. Is posting a Party Wall Notice through their letterbox a good first move or will it be viewed with scepticism and suspicion? Perhaps it’s better to have a friendly chat over a cup of tea first, where you can explain your ideas and goals and share some topline sketches of what you would like to do.
Build goodwill while allaying any fears informally, then follow up with a formal notice letter later. You may also wish to share your builders’ or surveyors’ contact details so that your neighbour can obtain further information and reassurance if they wish.
SSJ Surveyors have extensive professional experience of all party wall related matters in Shrewsbury and the surrounding area. Contact us to discuss your building plans and how best to navigate the legislation so that your interests, as well as those of your adjoining neighbours, are properly protected.