What is a party wall agreement?
If you’re about to embark on any building, extension or renovation work on a semi-detached house or terraced property, you’ll likely need a Party Wall Agreement to proceed.
Party Wall Agreements – covered by the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 – are designed to give you the access you need to the neighbouring property to complete the required work, while protecting your neighbours’ interests.
They ensure that any building work that affects a shared wall, outbuilding or boundary doesn’t cause any structural damage to the neighbouring property.
A party wall is a shared wall between two properties that divides the homes of their respective owners, including garden walls built over a boundary and excavations close to a neighbour’s property. Before any party wall building works can begin, the homeowner carrying out the work needs a written agreement from all those likely to be affected.
Here, we look at what Party Wall Agreements are, what you need them for and how to get one.
When do I need a party wall agreement?
As a building owner, before starting any renovation work, you’ll need to serve a Party Wall Notice to the adjoining owners.
You’re required by law to serve a written Party Wall Notice at least two months before building works affecting a party wall or boundary start, or one month’s notice for excavations.
Under the Party Wall Act, the adjoining owners have 14 days to respond, and once they consent to the notice in writing, work can begin.
However, if they dissent to the notice (or fail to reply within 14 days so are assumed to have dissented), then a formal Party Wall Agreement is required.
In this case, the homeowner and neighbour should appoint an agreed independent surveyor, within ten days, who can act impartially for both parties.
The agreed surveyor will produce the Party Wall Agreement detailing the works proposed, to which both parties should then agree.
While the adjoining owners have the right to refuse the Party Wall Agreement once it’s been issued, they must justify the reasons. Refusing the agreement because of inconvenience or noise aren’t valid reasons because they have no bearing on the party wall.
Once all affected parties have consented to the Party Wall Agreement, the building owner has one year to complete the proposed works. Planning permission is usually not required to serve a Party Wall Notice. The served notice must clearly explain all the options available to the neighbour.
Party wall works are often a significant cause of friction between neighbours, so if you’re the building owner, trying to maintain good relations is essential.
It will help you get their consent at the start of the process, or keep things running smoothly if a Party Wall Agreement is required or once works start.
What do Party Wall Agreements cover?
The main things a Party Wall Agreement should include are:
- A detailed description of what the project intends to create, supported by architectural drawings.
- Details of how the proposed works will be carried out.
- A ‘schedule of condition’ of the neighbouring property, with photos.
A ‘schedule of condition’ is a record of the adjoining property’s condition before works start. In the event of a dispute over areas affected by the construction, this document will provide clear evidence of what might have happened. Your party wall agreement should also include things like:
- Permitted working hours (residential work can only take place between 8am and 5.30pm on weekdays)
- Schedule and time limit for completion
- Property access rights for your surveyors, tradespeople etc
- Adjoining owners’ surveyors’ fees
- Indemnities/loss protection from the building owner to favour the neighbours
- Proof of contractor’s public liability insurance.
What do I need a Party Wall Agreement for?
Party Wall Agreements are required before work starts on a wide range of building and construction projects. If you plan to do any work which may affect your neighbouring properties, it’s always best to get some advice from an experienced property professional to make sure you can meet all your legal obligations.
While not an exhaustive list, here are some of the types of projects which will probably require a party wall agreement:
- Loft conversions – You need to position a new structural beam within the party wall when converting a loft.
- Damp-proof coursing –You’re planning to insert a new or replacement damp-proof course into a party wall.
- Building foundations – You plan to excavate any land within three metres of the adjoining properties or where your new trench is deeper than their existing foundations.
- Chimney stacks – You share a chimney stack with a neighbouring property, and any masonry you cut away forms part of the party wall.
- Extensions or new walls – You plan to build up to or over a garden boundary wall or alter a party wall when building an extension.
- Basements – You need to dig deep foundations, underpin or cut into a party wall to insert beams.
Let us help
If you’re planning a home improvement, renovation or building project and want to be sure you’re meeting all the legal requirements surrounding party walls, our expert team can help.
GB Home Surveys is one of the UK’s leading independent firms of Chartered Surveyors. We’ve provided trusted services for almost 30 years and have helped a range of clients across the UK resolve their party wall issues for their confidence and peace of mind.
For an initial consultation about your requirements and how we may be able to help, drop us a line at email@example.com, and we’ll be in touch for an informal chat.