What is a Party Wall Agreement?
Carrying out work on a party wall can be contentious – and potentially expensive – so it’s important that you follow the correct procedure. Find out if a party wall agreement is required for your loft conversion, what’s involved and how London Lofts can ensure the entire process is hassle-free.
Firstly, what's a party wall?
A party wall is a shared boundary or partition that sits directly on land or property owned by two or more people. A party wall doesn’t have to be inside or next to a building – it can also be a garden fence or other external boundary.
The Party Wall Act 1996
The Party Wall Act is designed to help prevent disputes that may arise because of work on a party wall. The Act provides a clear legal framework which helps you carry out your building work while protecting the interests of your neighbours and the overall integrity of the property. If you’re planning a loft conversion that affects a party wall, you should familiarise yourself with the Party Wall Act before you start.
If you don’t comply with the Act, your neighbours could take civil action against you and issue an injunction on any work that affects their property until a party wall agreement has been reached. However, as long as you follow the terms of the Act, they can’t prevent you from carrying out the work or deny access to their property.
Notifying your neighbours
If you want to build on or near the party wall or carry out any work to it, you will need to tell your neighbours before you start. The work could be anything from cutting into the wall to take the bearing of a beam or inserting a damp proof course, changing the height or thickness of the wall, or demolishing and rebuilding it.
You don’t need to notify them of minor works, such as replastering, painting or drilling to hang shelves.
It’s generally recommended that you speak to your neighbours in person beforehand, just to give them a heads up and avoid any potential misunderstandings. However, you have to provide them with at least two months’ notice in writing before starting the work. This is known as a Party Wall Notice.
The Party Wall Notice must include your contact details, a full breakdown of the work involved, access arrangements and the date it will start. You need to serve this on all adjoining properties. If the property is leasehold or rented, you will have to serve notice on the owner as well.
Your neighbours then have 14 days to respond in writing. They can either consent, serve a counter notice requesting that additional work is carried out at the same time or dispute the work. If they don’t respond within the 14 day timeframe, the dispute resolution process will automatically start, even if your neighbours have no issue with the proposed work.
The party wall agreement
You might see the words ‘party wall agreement’ in two different contexts, which can sometimes make things a little confusing. In some cases, your neighbours’ written consent alone is called a party wall agreement. This could be because they have no issues with the proposed works or they disputed it but you were able to reach a consensus, without involving surveyors. In this case, it’s recommended that photos of the party wall are taken and any cracks or defects are written down before the work starts.
However, the most common definition of a party wall agreement is the one used when your neighbours don’t consent to the work. If this happens, you will need to appoint a surveyor to draw up the agreement (which is also known as a party wall award). This is a legal document which sets out exactly what work will take place, how and when it will happen, how much it will cost and who will pay for what. It also includes a schedule of condition of the party wall and the neighbouring properties.
Do I need a party wall agreement for my loft conversion?
If you’re planning a loft conversion and you live in a terraced or semi-detached property, chances are the work will affect a shared wall, chimney or roof. This is because party walls are usually the best option for load bearing walls. You might need to remove bricks to insert steel beams or strengthen the wall to support the new structure. In older properties there may not even be a party wall in place, so one will have to be built. In cases like these, you will need to follow the party wall agreement process.
If your loft conversion won’t affect a shared wall, for example, it’s a detached property, you won’t need a party wall agreement.
What happens if I don't get a party wall agreement?
Although it’s not illegal to carry out works to a party wall without giving notice or having a party wall agreement in place, the courts generally take a dim view of people who fail to follow the Party Wall Act. If the work is disputed but you carry on anyway, you risk having to pay for repairs that aren’t your fault. Your neighbour could claim that your builders damaged their property, without any proof, and you wouldn’t be able to do anything about it.
Furthermore, your neighbours could file a civil suit against you. This could not only result in an injunction preventing any further work, it could also mean you incur additional costs such as compensating your builders or paying legal fees.
How can London Lofts help?
As you can see, navigating a party wall agreement can be complicated and time consuming. Missing a deadline or getting some of the details wrong could potentially lead to an expensive dispute and damage your relationship with your neighbours. So leave it in the hands of London Lofts instead. The experienced team have the specialist knowledge required to deal with party wall agreements. They can take care of the entire process from start to finish, meaning all you have to do is sit back and relax.
Contact us today to discuss your loft conversion in more detail, ask us any questions you may have and get a quote for our services.