Whether you’re building an extension or converting your loft, if you’re undergoing a substantial renovation and have neighbours, then you might be faced with the Party Wall Act.
However, don’t let this legal term scare you. Our experts have put together this handy guide, so you can understand what a party wall is and how to go about gaining all the legal permissions you need to start building.
And don’t forget, if anything in this article seems confusing, our team is always on hand to offer free consultation!
A party wall is a wall, boundary, or outbuilding that you share with another household. These are common between terraced and semi-detached houses but can also affect detached properties if you share a garden wall or invisible boundary line.
If your project affects a party wall or you plan on excavating within 3 to 6 metres (depending on the depth of the new foundations) of your neighbour’s property, then you need to obtain permission from the affected households at least 2 months before any construction occurs.
In order to obtain approval, you’ll need to serve what’s known as a ‘party wall notice’. If your neighbour replies with written permission, then a ‘party wall award’ won’t be needed and work can go ahead. At Resi, our team always advises that a photographic survey of the neighbours property is completed, even if they sign the notices. This is a vital piece of information in the event that structural damage occurs and a dispute arises.
However, if your neighbour dissents to the notice, then you’ll need to appoint a party wall surveyor (or maybe two) in order to put a ‘party wall agreement’ together and secure the award.
Tip: If cost is important, we would suggest that you and the neighbour/s try to appoint an agreed surveyor. You/the building owner will be responsible for the fees, but this approach will generally be cheaper. More on this below.
A party wall notice can be served by either a party wall surveyor (typically for a flat fee) or yourself - you can find the necessary forms here. A letter of acknowledgement for the neighbour to complete and return is usually included.
While serving notice yourself is cheaper, at Resi, we recommend you have a professional manage this notice on your behalf. This should help avoid common mistakes made during this process, such as:
Remember: construction can only begin two months and one day after you’ve either received written permission or your award has been agreed. For excavations, this is reduced to one month and one day.
Your building work must also start within the first year of the party wall matters being resolved.
Once your party wall notice has been served, the affected neighbours have fourteen days to respond.
In an ideal world, these other households will provide written consent on the condition you will put right any problems that may occur during the build. In this scenario, your project can proceed without the need for a party wall award.
From here, we recommend that photos are taken to document the condition of the existing property and to be referred to in the event of structural movement/damage/a dispute arising. These should be shared with your neighbour before the build begins.
To give yourself full protection from any future disputes, you can alternatively have your party wall surveyor assess the area and prepare documentation of the condition just before construction begins.
If your neighbour doesn’t give a positive response, they could go in one of two ways. They might choose to reject your project outright or they may not respond to your notice within those first 14 days. If a response isn’t given, a 10 day follow up letter is sent. If this isn’t responded to, then you are legally required to seek a ‘party wall agreement’ in order to obtain the necessary award.
To start this process, you’ll need to appoint an agreed surveyor. This is a party wall surveyor who will represent both households during the agreement process, and is usually appointed within the first 10 days.
Although you might want to keep using the party wall surveyor you used to serve notice, it's likely your neighbour will want a new one appointed and ask that they’re part of the hiring process, so they can be sure the professional involved is unbiased.
If you and your neighbour cannot appoint an agreed surveyor because of disagreements or because they don’t want to use the same surveyors as yourself, then they are within their rights to request a second surveyor.
Important: as you will be the one covering these costs, you might be reluctant to bring in a second professional. However, you are legally required to make all these options available and to have them clearly set out in your party wall notice.
Once both of you have reached an agreemens, your surveyor can start preparing the party wall agreement, which should (hopefully) help you secure the necessary award.
A party wall agreement should cover…
If you get hit with rejection during the notice stage, then resolving a party wall matter can take months. Therefore, you want to give your project the best chance of securing approval first-time round.
Here are our team’s top tips for gaining neighbourly favour…
Concerned your project will be hit with party wall matters? Not sure if you need to serve notice or when to do so? Don’t worry, for tailored home advice, our team is always on hand to provide free consultations - book yours here.
Which part of your property would you like to extend?
Amending planning permission: Changes you CAN and CAN'T make a...
We'll look into what non-material changes you can make to the design of your project, pos...
6 min read
What is a pre-application and do you need it for planning?
A guide to what a pre-application is and how it can benefit your extension / conversion/ ...
4 min read
How to build an annex without planning permission
Planning permission is a tricky beast but sometimes there are loopholes you and an archit...
3 min read
Do I need planning permission for a rear extension in the UK?
We break down all the rear extension planning permission rules you need to understand bef...
8 min read
We offer free 30 minute phone consultations to help you with your project
Select a date to view availability
Sorry, this date is fully booked.