What exactly is a party wall?
When you live in a terraced or semi-detached house the wall you share with your neighbour is termed a party wall. It also applies to garden walls built over boundaries and if you excavate within 3 or 6 metres of a neighbour’s property (this is dependent on foundation depth).
Most commonly, a party wall agreement is required for damp course insertion, digging new foundations (e.g. for an extensions) and loft conversions.
So, when do I tell my neighbours?
Legally you must give a minimum of two months and maximum of a year’s notice before starting any work that will affect the party wall. This must include the details of the building works that will be carried out.
It is advisable to speak to them in person before giving the written notice detailing the works. This is a far more positive way to approach it. There are some templates and information available on the government website: https://www.gov.uk/party-walls-building-works
What happens after I serve the notice?
Ideally the neighbour confirms in writing within 14 days that they agree, then you can go ahead, as long as it’s no sooner than two months and within a year. Otherwise you need to serve the notice again. No response is not assumed compliance, you must have the agreement in writing.
However, they may refuse to consent. This starts a process called dispute resolution. If they do not respond within the 14 days this also triggers the process.
They could also serve a counter notice within a month of your notice, which requests extra work be completed at the same time, they will need to pay for this additional work if they benefit from it.
Who pays for works on a party wall?
If you start the building work then you are responsible for paying for it, unless it is due to a defect or lack of repair, e.g. a shared wall that is crumbling. As above, the neighbour is responsible for paying if they request extra work be done that will advantage them.
If you cannot agree on who is paying for what then an appointed surveyor decides.
What happens if we don’t agree?
In the cases when the neighbours cannot agree, a party wall award is needed. This is agreed by a surveyor or surveyors. You may appoint separate ones or share one, and if your neighbour does not appoint one you can appoint one for them. You cannot act as your own surveyor.
The party wall award is legally binding and summarises:
- What work will happen
- When and how it will occur
- How much will be paid and by whom (surveyor’s fees included).
If you disagree with the party wall award it can be appealed in a county court within 14 days.
How to get the best outcome?
Try and get it right first time to avoid any problems and therefore delays to your building works.
All neighbours need informing (check the land registry for owner details – freeholders and leaseholders must all be told). If it is a block of flats, for example, you may need to serve notice on several people.
The friendly approach works – sitting down for a cuppa and discussing the work will save a lot of upset in the long run. Most people are reasonable and will prefer to hear it from you first, and you can explain your reasons for the work. An impersonal notice through the door is likely to get backs up.
Hire a building company that understand about party wall agreements and how to process them correctly. At KT5 Construction we are trained and experienced in a huge variety of building works and fully understand which cases require a party wall agreement and what they entail and will advise you of this when we visit you to quote for the work in the first instance.