Party Walls Surveyor in London

A Guide to Party Walls

A Party Wall is a wall situated between two buildings or properties that are owned by two or more owners. There are two types of Party Wall according to the Party Wall etc. Act of 1996. This can include shared walls that are situated on the land of one homeowner, or a wall that is a part of two different properties and belonging to two or more homeowners.

What is a Party Wall Exactly?

A party wall is a shared wall, typically between a semi-detached or terraced house, that divides the homes of two separate owners. This can also include garden walls that are built over a boundary and excavations carried out close to a neighbour’s property. Party Wall Agreements are typically required for building works that involve the insertion of damp proof courses, digging new foundations for building extensions, and loft conversions.

Getting Permission for Party Wall Work in London:

Before building works that affect the Party Wall can begin, the homeowner must obtain a written Party Wall Agreement from all neighbours who would be affected, typically the owners of the adjoining homes. Homeowners should serve all affected neighbours with a Party Wall Notice to start the process.

How to Serve a Party Wall Notice:

You can serve a Party Wall notice for free using appropriate standard forms or appoint a party wall surveyor to do it on your behalf for a flat fee. It will typically include a letter of acknowledgement for your neighbours to complete and return. Homeowners are required to provide two months’ written notice on any building work affecting the party wall or boundary, and one month’s notice for any excavations that will affect the party wall. You do not need to get planning permission before serving a Party Wall Notice, and you have up to a year to begin work after serving the notice.

Maintaining Good Neighbour Relationships:

It’s a good idea to have an informal chat with your neighbours about your plans before posting a Party Wall notice through their letterbox. Receiving a Party Wall notice out of the blue can be intimidating, and speaking to your neighbours about it beforehand can give you a chance to discuss your planned works, tell your neighbours what they can expect and provide them with the contact details of your surveyor and building company if they would like further information.

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Avoiding Common Party Wall Mistakes:

Some common mistakes that homeowners make when planning Party Wall work include:

  1. Not providing neighbours with adequate notice
  2. Not informing all the affected neighbours; you should inform the freeholder and anybody with a leasehold for longer than a year. If you own a terraced house, bear in mind that depending on the works to be carried out, neighbours on both sides of your home might be affected. If you live next door to flats, you may need to serve notice on the owners of each flat
  3. Not providing sufficient information or describing the proposed work precisely enough. You will need to include full structural details, particularly on notices regarding excavations
  4. Using the wrong form of notice. Bear in mind that the form for excavation notices is different from that used for other works affecting the Party Wall. Bear in mind that one building project may require different notice types to be served on each neighbour affected

Receiving a Party Wall Notice:

If your immediate neighbour is planning building work, you may receive one of three types of notices to outline the areas of work to be carried out on their property. These include:

Line of Junction Notice:

This type of Notice will cover two forms of work, a new wall along your property’s boundary or a new wall that to be constructed adjacent to the boundary of your home. This type of Notice has a notice period of one month.

Party Structure Notice:

This type of notice is concerned with any alternations that will directly affect the Party Wall. This could include the insertion of beans that will require cutting holes, for example. This Notice has a notice period of two months.

Notice of Adjacent Excavation:

This Notice is applicable for any work that will require an excavation for new foundations, such as building an extension on a home. It is required when the excavations are within three metres of the owner’s building and lower in depth than the foundations of the building. This notice also covers excavations that are within six metres of your building and intersect at a 45-degree angle with an external wall. The Notice should include details of the foundation depth.

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Party Wall Disputes:

If you are a neighbour who has received a Party Wall Notice, you will need to consent to the proposed works on the adjoining property within fourteen days. If you do not do this, you will be considered to be ‘in dispute’. The dispute is resolved by the appointment of an impartial party wall surveyor, who will draw up a Party Wall Agreement.

Party Wall Agreements:

A Party Wall Award or Party Wall Agreement is a written agreement that is drawn up by two surveyors who each act on behalf of each neighbour. The neighbour who is undertaking the work will be required to cover the cost of the surveyors. A Party Wall Agreement covers three different aspects, which include:

  1. Guidelines on how the proposed work will be completed
  2. A Schedule of Condition of the adjoining property which often includes photographs to support the plans
  3. Drawings and plans to detail any proposed work to be carried out

The Party Wall Agreement will typically be based on a drafted document by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and is subject to amendment to reflect the specific proposed works. The Party Wall Agreement should also contain more information on the following:

  • Details of both property owners including their home addresses
  • Details of both properties
  • Details of both surveyors
  • Plans outlining the proposed work
  • Details of any Public Liability Insurance and other assurances
  • Access arrangements for the surveyors
  • Surveyor’s fees for the adjoining owner
  • Working hours on the properties
  • A timetable including an estimated work completion date

Once both parties have agreed upon the Party Wall Agreement, a copy will be sent to both owners via their surveyors. Either owner will then both have a fourteen-day period in which they are able to appeal the contents of the Party Wall Agreement.

Why is a Party Wall Agreement Needed?

The Party Wall Agreement is designed to ensure that there are certain protections for homeowners under the Party Wall Act. If you own the building that works are to be carried out on, the Party Wall Agreement will make sure that any existing defects in the adjoining property are recording prior to the work beginning. An Agreement will further provide a right of access to the adjoining property in order to carry out the work.

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If you are the neighbour of a homeowner who is planning work affecting the Party Wall, the Agreement enables surveyors to regulate the time periods for carrying out work, provides provision for dealing with any damage, and ensures that the work will not be inconvenient to you as a neighbour unless absolutely necessary and that any damage to your property will be repaired.

What is the Role of a Party Wall Surveyor in London?

Party Wall surveyors are professionals who work to resolve any Party Wall disputes that may arise under the Party Wall etc. Act of 1996. If an adjoining homeowner consents to a Party Wall Notice, they may request a Schedule of Condition Report, which is undertaken by a Party Wall surveyor. The surveyor carries out an inspection of the adjoining owner’s property to compile a report; building works are then able to go ahead once this is complete.

On the other hand, the adjoining owner may dissent to the Party Wall Notice, in which case they can appoint their own Party Wall surveyor. This means that the homeowner’s Party Wall surveyor will be required to carry out a Schedule of Condition Report alongside the surveyor of the adjoining owner. The adjoining owner’s surveyor will then cross-check the Schedule of Condition Report, ensuring that it is fair and accurate. The surveyor will then draw up the Party Wall Agreement or Party Wall Award, to govern and regulate the planned building works.

Once the building owner’s work is complete, the Party Wall surveyor will then complete a check-off inspection. During this inspection, the surveyor will use the original Schedule of Condition Report to cross-check the condition of the property after work is complete to ensure that no issues or damages have arisen. If there has been damage to the adjoining property, the Party Wall surveyor may instruct the building owner to provide compensation to the adjoining homeowner for damage repairs or to arrange repair work for the damage themselves.

If you are considering undertaking work on your property that will affect the Party Wall or have a neighbour who is planning work, the process and procedures can often be confusing. It’s worth speaking to a Party Wall surveyor early in the process.

Party walls surveyor in London