A Party Wall Agreement is needed if you are carrying out any building work that affects a shared wall, boundary or outbuilding.
A party wall is the shared wall that’s usually found between two semi-detached or terraced properties. This usually divides the dwellings of the two separate owners. It also applies to garden walls that are built over a boundary, as well as any excavations that are carried out within three to six metres of a neighbouring property. However this does depend on the depth of the new foundations.
When do you need a Party Wall Agreement? Normally, when there are building works an agreement will be required. Example works are loft conversions, foundations being dug for a new extension, or the installation of a damp proof course.
Any minor works will not usually need a Party Wall Agreement. Minor works include drilling into a dividing wall to fit kitchen units or shelves, or the likes of plastering or electrical work. It’s more about major works that like cutting into a wall, removing a chimney breast or cutting back footings to the foundations of a party wall.
Before any construction works involving a party wall can begin, the owner of the property undertaking the works must obtain the consent of all the adjoining owners. This is known as a Party Wall Agreement.
The alternative, if the neighbours do not consent, is to appoint a surveyor to prepare a Party Wall Award.
To get this process rolling, the property owner must serve their neighbours with a Party Wall Notice detailing the planned works.
It is possible to serve a Party Wall Notice yourself using the relevant forms. However it is beneficial to engage the services of a specialist party wall surveyor. Self-filing a Party Wall Notice, or using someone other than a regulated party wall surveyor, will often prove a false economy as there is the risk that the notice will be incorrectly issued.
A lot of self-filed notices can contain inaccuracies. This means they’ll need to be re-issued, costing the property owner in terms of both time and money.
A party wall surveyor is liable for any issues arising with any party wall documentation. They should also be accredited by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). They will therefore make certain that every aspect is thoroughly taken care of on your behalf. This will ensure that your building works run like clockwork.
Your party wall surveyor will also take time to answer your neighbours’ questions and put their minds at ease. This lessen the likelihood that they challenge the notice, making things more straightforward and less costly for you.
A property owner must provide two months’ written notice on building works affecting a party wall or boundary. For excavation works, it’s only one month.
You are well advised to appoint your party wall surveyor a good three months before the start date of your building works. This allows adequate time for all the required party wall matters to be finalised ahead of works getting started.
There is no need for planning permission to be in place to serve a Party Wall Notice. However it’s important to bear in mind that once the notice has been served, you will only have up to 12 months to commence works.
Once a Party Wall Notice has been served, an adjoining owner has fourteen days to respond. The potential outcomes are consent, or dissent.
Consent is when the neighbour gives their written approval (officially known as ‘assent’), with the agreement that the homeowner will resolve any issues that arise. This is the ‘Party Wall Agreement’.
It is good practice at this stage to take dated pictures of the party wall. Also make sure you make notes of any existing cracks or damage to neighbouring properties, which both parties acknowledge before the works begin.
Sometimes, the building owner carrying out the works may choose to appoint a surveyor to prepare a Schedule of Condition. This is a factual record of the condition of a property, detailing the affected parts of the adjoining property ahead of works commencing. It is beneficial in that it can minimise the risk of disputes arising down the line.
If the neighbour challenges the works, or if they fail to reply within the required 14 days of the Party Wall Notice being served, this is known as dissent, and a Party Wall Award will be required.
A Party Wall Award is a legal document which is put in place to protect the property and legal rights of both parties. It records the nature of the works, how and when they should be carried out, and how much will be paid. The Party Wall Award also includes the aforementioned Schedule of Condition, complete with photographs of the neighbouring property.
Whilst a Party Wall Award is a necessity in the case of dissent. It is also a voluntary option for building owners who wish to avoid future disagreements by having everything documented.
In order to prepare a Party Wall Award, it is necessary to appoint a party wall surveyor. One party wall surveyor can act for both parties. This will be down to the building owner to cover the costs.
The adjoining owner may elect to appoint their own independent party wall surveyor if they are looking for added reassurance. In most cases, the fees will again be the responsibility of the building owner.
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