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Full Truth You Need to Know About Party Walls

 

If part your loft conversion involves cutting into a party wall, the work falls under the jurisdiction of the Party Wall Act of 1996. The Act provides that you must serve party wall notices on all your neighbours who share your party walls before you can proceed with the work on your house extension or loft conversion.

This notice gives your neighbour the authority to appoint a surveyor to protect the property in the course of the work. Your interest is also protected under the Party Wall Act as any existing defects on your neighbour’s property will be noted before the work commences.

This permission is in addition to local authority Planning Permission/Permitted Development and Building Regulations, and is just as essential to your project’s preliminary stage.


Serving Notices

If your loft conversion happens to come under the Party Wall Act, then you’re mandated by law to serve a notice on your neighbours to inform them of the planned work.

Section 3 of the Act provides that the type of notice required here is a Party Structure Notice which must be served not less than two months before the commencement of the loft conversion.

The following information must be included in the notice:

  • The name and address of the owner of the building (including the address of the proposed work site)
  • The name and address of the recipient of the notice.
  • Particular details of the proposed work as provided by section 2 of the Act.
  • Proposed commencement date of the work.

The notices must either be served personally or by post (if sent by post, it should be through Recorded Delivery).

Your neighbours however, can decide to do any of the following:

  • Give their consent to the Notice – The fact that your neighbour gives consent to your Party Structure notice means that they don’t mind the work and will not require the services of a surveyor to guard their property.
  • Oppose the notice – If your neighbour is not in agreement with your party structure notice, they can hire a building surveyor to safeguard their interest. There’s always a probability that the neighbour has concerns about the possible damage it might cause.

The Duties of a Party Wall Surveyor

A party wall surveyor is a trained building surveyor who is knowledgeable in the Party Wall Act.

Their job involves embarking on an inspection of the adjoining property to make a record of the state of the property before and after your loft conversion.

The surveyor also has a duty to produce a document referred to as “party wall award” which is the legal document needed to approve your loft conversion.

It is used to determine whether or not your work did any damage to your neighbour’s property.

If for instance the inspection carried out before the conversion did not record any cracks in your neighbour’s wall but after the commencement of the loft conversion a large crack appears in the area of one of your structural steels or timbers which cut into the party wall, the surveyors would come to the conclusion that the work caused the crack and would require fixing.

The general method used by building surveyors is the hourly rate, which gives them enough time to inspect the property and serve the necessary documents.

The rule is that the party responsible for the party conversion pays the surveyor’s fees.

Your neighbour is also within his right to appoint a different surveyor from the one you employed, and this is usually a lot more expensive.

If both parties agree to use the same surveyor, it is usually cheaper (this is known as an ‘Agreed Surveyor’). It is therefore advisable for you to consult your neighbour before serving the notice.

Although the appointed surveyor is not obliged to listen to your instructions, they will have to listen to your specification concerns. It is better for you to first go to your appointed surveyor if you have any questions or concerns.

Party Wall Awards

A Party Wall Award can be referred to as a legally binding document served by the appointed surveyor or the two surveyors where there are two of them.

The award details, will include, the agreed method and manner of undertaking the work like details of acceptable working hours, access rights over neighbouring land and details of what to do if there is any form of damage.

As a matter of practice, surveyors normally attach other documentation to the main award. Some of such documents include:

  • Condition Schedule – This is a written account of the status of your neighbour’s property before the commencement of the work. The photographs of the property can be included if the owner has nothing against including it in the award.
  • Calculations and Plans – The drawings and all the calculations made by the engineer for the planned work is also added to the award.

The award is served on both parties as soon as the award is agreed by the surveyor. The award is then signed on your behalf by the agreed surveyor(s) in the presence of an independent witness.

At Go Gondolier, we create bespoke loft conversions that will meet our client’s needs, we also help our clients experience a stress free loft conversion by managing the complex build. Contact us today for a free quote request

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