How Do I Comply With The Party Wall Act For My Renovation Project?
Most significant home renovation will require a Party Wall Award before the works can begin. Failure to give notice to your neighbours could result in them obtaining a court injunction to prevent the works continuing at your expense. However, correctly serving notice to your neighbours means that disputes over any damage caused by construction works to their property can be dealt with by surveyors rather than in Court. Clearly, it is therefore important to make sure you get it right.
The Party Wall Act sets out in detail which type of works require notice and what homeowners need to do. However, the Act can be difficult to follow and extremely dry-reading! In this post we hope to simplify the process and highlight what you’ll need to do specifically for your home renovation project.
1. Is A Party Wall Award Required?
Most homeowners will require a Party Wall Award before works begin due to the proximity of the neighbouring properties. However, for detached houses with large surrounding gardens, it may not be needed. To be sure, you’ll need to ask yourself the following questions:
Will there be new foundations within 6m from your neighbour’s house?
Section 6 of the Party Wall Act means an Adjacent Excavations Notice will need to be served if this is the case. There is a 3m and 6m Adjacent Excavation Notice – the type you’ll need to serve will depend on the size of your plot and proximity to your neighbours.
Will you build up to the boundary line?
Section 1 of the Party Wall Act requires a Line of Injunction Notice to be served in this scenario.
Works which need this type of notice include extensions up to the party wall line or even new fences with a wall.
Is any work being carried-out to the exiting party wall?
Section 2 of the Party Wall Act requires a Party Structures Notice to be served in this case.
Works which might fall under Section 2 could be underpinning, removing chimney breasts or installing structural steels for loft conversions.
You may need more than one type of Party Wall Award
It is worth noting that you may require different types of award for one project. For example, a project consisting of a loft conversion and a rear extension may require you to serve up to 4 Party Wall Notices:
I. Loft Extension: This will usually require a Party Structure Notice for the installation of steel structural supports.
II. Rear Extension: Some rear extensions require the garden wall along the Party Wall Line to be knocked-down and rebuilt - this will require a Line of Junction Notice.
III. Rear Extension: This might require a 3m Notice of Adjacent Excavation depending on the distance to neighbouring properties
IV. Rear Extension: This might also require a 6m Notice of Adjacent Excavation depending on the distance to neighbouring properties.
2. Serve The Correct Party Wall Notices
Once you have established which types of Party Wall Notices apply, you need to make sure they are served in accordance with the law. It is advisable to appoint a Party Wall Surveyor to ensure this is done correctly however there are free online Party Wall Notice Templates available from the Government website.
It may also help to informally show your neighbours the plans before the Party Wall Notices are served so any legitimate concerns can be dealt with early in the process. This should make obtaining a Party Wall Award easier in the long-run.
Who do I need to serve the Party Wall Notices to?
You’ll need to serve the Party Wall Notices to all the neighbouring properties who fall under the criteria for a Party Structure Notice, Line of Junction Notice, 3m Notice of Adjacent Excavation, 6m Notice of Adjacent Excavation.
Note that you need to serve the Party Wall Notices to all Freeholders AND Leaseholders of the neighbouring properties. It is advisable to use a Party Wall Surveyor to establish who needs to be served in accordance to the law. However, if you intend to serve the Party Wall Notices yourself, property deeds which include the relevant information can be downloaded online from the Land Registry.
Party Wall Notice Drawings
You’ll usually need to include detailed drawings of the proposed works along with the Party Wall Notices - planning drawings are normally not detailed enough. Therefore, you may need to provide structural engineer drawings or building control drawings to meet the requirements.
What if my neighbours give consent?
If your neighbours sign and consent the received Party Wall Notices you may not need to employ a Party Wall Surveyor. However, it is still advisable to get a Schedule of Condition before undertaking the works (see step 4 in the process).
If there are issues obtaining consent, please continue to read step 3 below.
3. Use A Party Wall Surveyor
Once the Party Wall Notices are received, your neighbours have 14 days to officially reply. Failure to response within this period results in a ‘dispute’ which is quite common and usually relatively easy to resolve.
The most straight forward solution is to appoint an independent Party Wall Surveyor to draft an unbiased Party Wall Award for the proposed works. This will protect you and your neighbour legally and should allow your project to begin relatively quickly.
However, if this arrangement is not agreeable to your neighbour, they are entitled to insist on having two different Party Wall Surveyors to negotiate the Party Wall Award. Note that you would be responsible for paying both Surveyors’ fees in this scenario which can be a significant expense - this is another reason why we always suggest engaging your neighbours early in the process wherever possible.
4. Getting A Schedule Of Condition
It is strongly recommended to carry-out a Schedule of Condition before starting construction works. This document should consist of photos and descriptions of the neighbouring properties before the proposed works begin.
The Schedule of Condition provides a clear record which protects both you and your neighbour from any potential disputes regarding damage caused by the proposed works.
A Party Wall Surveyor will conduct a Schedule of Condition as part of their normal service. However, if you intend to serve the Party Wall Notices yourself, it is important to conduct your own Schedule of Condition. You will need to obtain signed copies both for you and your neighbours to keep.
5. Start Building Works After Notice Period
The Party Wall Act establishes a 2 month notice period before most types of work can begin – this period starts after the Party Wall Notices are agreed. However, the notice period can be waived with consent from your neighbour to enable the works to start earlier.
Finally, it is important to note that building works must usually start within 1 year of obtaining the Party Wall Award.
We hope this article has been of assistance. If you have any questions regarding the above matter, please feel free to contact us.