If you’re looking to build and share a wall with your neighbour, this shared boundary is known as the party wall. In order for your project to go ahead, you’ll have to serve notices and it's likely that a party wall agreement will need to be produced, often put together by each household’s party wall surveyor. More on these guys later.
The agreement, or ‘award’ as it is also know, will cover three areas:
- How the proposed works will be carried out by the building party.
- A “schedule of condition” - basically a record of the adjoining properties condition prior to works starting, so in the event of a dispute over areas affected by the construction, this document, complete with photographs, provide clear evidence.
- What the project intends to create, supported by architectural drawings.
Most documents will use a template set out by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). The agreement will contain full details on both households concerned, as well as the surveyors involved. You may notice a third surveyor listed on the agreement, this isn’t a mistake. If a party wall agreement involves two surveyors, a third one is brought on board to manage any disputes, if they arise. More than likely, you’ll never have to engage with this silent surveyor.
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Other things covered by your agreement…
- Working hours. Residential work must only take place on weekdays, 8am to 5:30pm.
- Property access for your surveyors.
- A timeline for completion, and a time limit.
- Adjoining owner’s surveyor’s fee - yes, you have to cover their costs if you are the person completing the project.
- Protection against loss for the adjoining owner, provided by the one building.
- Proof the contractor is covered by public liability insurance.
Once the agreement has been witnessed and signed, both parties will have a 14 days period to appeal if either one believes the agreement was improperly created.
Do I need a party wall surveyor?
That depends of how your neighbour reacts to the notice served to them.
Two months before any work commences, you need to serve notice to all legal owners of any building affected by your proposed build. If you have an architect, they’ll be able to notify you when/if this needs to happen. Under the Party Wall etc. Act 1996, neighbours have 14 days to respond.
If they give written consent during this time, you wouldn’t need a party wall surveyor, and works can go on ahead. However, if they fail to reply or dissent, then you’ll need to commission a Party Wall Agreement and that does involve needing a party wall surveyor. To avoid this happening, it’s worth talking to your neighbour, before serving notice.
If you do need to get a party wall surveyor involved, you can minimise the cost by only using one. After the end of your served notice, you must send a letter stating your neighbour has to appoint a party wall surveyor within 10 days. During this period, both parties can agree to use the same surveyor. However, if this doesn’t happen within the 10 day period (either because the other party refuses, or they don’t respond), you’ll have to commission two party wall surveyors. Your neighbour will either pick their own, or you’ll do it on their behalf if they don’t respond in time. You’ll also have to ensure they use a different surveying company, than the one you’re assigning your neighbour.
When do you need a party wall agreement?
If your neighbour fails to give you written consent after you’ve served your notice under the Party Wall etc. Act 1996.
Surveyors and other companies will generally charge between £65-£100 to arrange a notice to be served on your behalf. Alternatively, you can draft your own using examples set out in the Party Wall booklet. If you're using Resi, we'll help advise on the best course of action.
Do I need a party wall agreement for an extension or loft conversion?
If you’re living in a semi-detached or terraced house you’ll share a wall with your neighbour - the party wall. And extension or loft conversion that affects this wall will require a Party Wall notice to be served, and could therefore require a party wall agreement. You will also have to serve notice if you are proposing to excavate within 3 metres of a neighbouring building, or completing structural works to the party wall, for example, removing a chimney.
A party wall could also include garden walls that have been built along a boundary - this is called the party fence wall.
If you’re unsure about the Party Wall etc. Act 1996, it would be worth getting an architect on board who will be able to advise on whether or not any shared boundaries will be affected.
Doing your research for a build project?