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Like many homeowners looking to renovate or extend, perhaps your architect has recently mentioned you might need a Party Wall Agreement?
With so much information online coupled with lots of technical and legal terms, it can be a complicated process to navigate.
Our comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know about Party Wall Agreements. Topics covered include, “What is a Party Wall Agreement?” together with advice on whether you need one or not and the most efficient way to go about things if you do.
1. What is a party wall?
A party wall is a shared wall between you and your neighbour’s property. For example, if you live in a semi-detached house, you will have one party wall separating you from your neighbour. If you live in a mid-terraced property, you will have one party wall on either side of you.
2. What is a Party Wall Notice?
Before building works affecting a party wall can begin. The homeowner carrying out the alterations must serve a written Party Wall Notice on their neighbours, relating to the planned party wall works.
2.1. Serve your Party Wall Notice early
You should serve the Party Wall Notice a minimum of two months before your builder starts on site. This gives your neighbours sufficient time to review your notice.
Please note that sometimes the party wall process can be a little drawn out depending on how your neighbours respond. We would always advise serving the notice as early as possible to avoid any delays to your extension or renovation project.
3. How do I issue a written Party Wall Notice?
3.1. Step 1 – Chat with your neighbours
Before officially serving a Party Wall Notice on your neighbours, we think it’s a good idea to invite them over for a chat so you can run through your plans and explain exactly what you’re looking to do.
3.2. Step 2 – Complete a Party Wall Notice Template
Serving a Party Wall Notice can be done for free using a standard template. You could also appoint a party wall surveyor to do this on your behalf, but they will charge a fee.
3.3. Step 3 – Wait for the neighbour’s response
Your neighbour has 14 days to respond and give their consent. If they do not reply or dissent (i.e. refuse to sign the Party Wall Notice) a Party Wall Agreement (sometimes called the ‘Award’) is required.
4. What happens if my neighbour refuses to consent to my Party Wall Notice?
If your neighbour refuses to agree to the Party Wall Notice or fails to respond, you are deemed to be in dispute.
If you reach this stage, we suggest you contact a qualified party wall surveyor to act on your behalf. They are specialists in their field and will have a huge amount of experience in dealing with all party wall matters.
4.1. One or two party wall surveyors?
In terms of keeping the costs down, it’s always nice when your neighbour agrees to use the same surveyor as you.
However, your neighbour has the right to appoint their own surveyor and you would be liable to pay their fees.
If each side’s surveyor still cannot agree, you then have to pay a third surveyor to adjudicate.
4.2. What is a Party Wall Agreement?
A Party Wall Agreement (sometimes called an “Award”) is the document produced by the two-party wall surveyors (or one where both parties use the same surveyor) resolving the dispute triggered when a Party Wall Notice is not consented to.
A Party Wall Agreement usually consists of the following parts:
1. The award itself i.e. a set of requirements governing how the proposed works should progress
2. A “schedule of condition” of the adjoining property, often supported by a set of photographs
3. Drawing(s) showing details of the proposed works
4. Details of the contractor’s public liability insurance
5. Details of the neighbour’s surveyor’s fee
6. Indemnities by the building owner in favour of the neighbour
7. Both addresses
8. Surveyors’ details and access arrangements for them
9. Working hours
10. Time limit for work starting (usually one year)
5. Do I need a party wall surveyor?
However, if your neighbour either fails to respond to the Party Wall Notice within 14 days or refuses to give consent, then the appointment of a party wall surveyor is a requirement.
6. What happens if my neighbour agrees to the Party Wall Notice?
But there are still a few factors to consider…
You will still have to comply with the terms of the Party Wall Act. For example, you will need to avoid unnecessary inconvenience and provide temporary protection for adjacent buildings and properties where necessary. And finally, you would need to compensate your neighbour if any loss or damage is caused by the work.
7. What is a party wall surveyor?
A person calling himself or herself a ‘party wall surveyor’ is not required to have any formal qualification. It is an unregulated service. However, party wall surveyors should have a good knowledge of construction, be well versed in party wall procedures/policies and ideally have a relevant qualification.
7.1. Choose your surveyor carefully
A good place to start is to find a member of RICS (Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors). All members are properly regulated and insured.
There is also a body called the Faculty of Party Wall Surveyors whose members have completed a minimum level of basic education. Remember, a bad party wall surveyor can be expensive, and is often worse than having no party wall surveyor at all!
Your party wall surveyor will prepare a document known as a ‘Party Wall Agreement’ (sometimes referred to as a ‘Party Wall Award’).
This document will set out the owners’ rights and responsibilities concerning how the work should proceed. It also covers items such as working hours, access over the adjoining owner’s land to undertake the works and any necessary safeguards.
8. Do I need a Party Wall Notice for a loft conversion?
If you live in a terraced or semi-detached house, a loft conversion will probably require you to serve a Party Wall Notice on your adjoining neighbours. This is because building work typically involves structural changes to shared walls, chimneys and roofs that could potentially damage adjoining properties.
9. How much does a party wall surveyor cost?
The cost of a party wall surveyor depends on where you are in the country and how much work they need to do.
The average project typically costs around £1,000 for a Party Wall Agreement. But this can rise depending on the complexity of the project and the number of surveyors involved.
10. Factors affecting party wall surveyor costs
The following factors will affect the party wall surveyor fees:
- Size of the property
- Quality and completeness of architectural designs
- The complexity of the project
- Number of surveyors needed
- The level of risk of damage to the neighbouring property
- Any negotiation needed
- Where you live (surveyors in London often charge more than other parts of the country)
11. What a Party Wall Notice should include
Every Party Wall Notice should include the following:
- Names, contact details and addresses of all owners
- The kind of work you want to carry out
- When you intend to commence the work
The final agreement should include the signatures of all the owners or their appointed party wall surveyors.
You serve notice on your neighbour by writing to them. If you live in a terraced house or a block of flats you might have several different adjoining neighbours. In this case, you would have to serve a separate notice on each of them. If a neighbouring property is leasehold, you will need to serve notice on both the tenant and the building’s owner.
12. When do you need a Party Wall Agreement?
If you’re planning to carry out any building works on or near a party wall, you will need to serve a Party Wall Notice a minimum of two months before building work starts.
Your neighbour will then have 14 days to respond.
If they agree and sign the notice, your builders can begin the construction process and you would not need a Party Wall Agreement.
However, if your neighbour fails to reply or dissents (does not agree), then you’ll need to instruct a party wall surveyor to prepare the Party Wall Agreement.
We appreciate the party wall process can be daunting for those who haven’t been through it before. Luckily our team of architects and planning consultants have a huge amount of experience in dealing with party wall matters. We also work with several fantastic party wall surveyors whom we would be happy to recommend.
If you need any advice or would like to discuss ideas, please feel free to arrange a free call with a member of our team anytime.
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