Digging Deep Foundations May Require Party Wall Agreement

party wall foundation causes house collapse

Common Questions about Party Wall Agreements and Notices

If you are conducting excavations near your property boundary, make sure you stay legal and avoid disputes with your neighbours.

Adding an extension or conservatory to your home is a great way to increase your living space, and is also a solid investment, as it adds value to your property when the time comes to sell. However, any sort of building work is liable to cause noise, dust and inconvenience to neighbours, so it always makes sense to let them know what you are doing and to discuss ways of minimising the disruption.

If you are excavating or constructing foundations close to their property, however, involving the neighbours and getting their approval is more than just good manners. The chances are, you will need to serve them what is known as a Section Six notice and draw up a party wall agreement. Here, we take a look at some common questions to find out what is involved and how you can stay on the right side of the authorities as well as your neighbours.

When is a Party Wall Agreement needed?

If your intention is to excavate within three metres of your neighbour’s building, and the excavation will run deeper than their foundations, then it is necessary to inform them by way of a section six notice and obtain their written consent. You must serve the notice at least a month before the work is due to commence, and they then have 14 days to respond.

There are various rules governing party wall awards and foundations. Any foundation that is within 3m of a neighbour’s foundation, and is deeper than the neighbour’s foundation, will require a party wall award. Many homeowners do not realise that not all foundations are equal – some extensions need pilings that can go over 10m deep.

There have been cases documented in the media, such as the foundation trench that caused the next door neighbour’s house to collapse (pictured), that highlight why a party wall agreement is vital. In this case, a party wall surveyor would have specified that the foundation trench should be dug and filled in 1m increments to maintain the stability of the neighbour’s foundation.

What if they have given verbal consent?

Of course, it makes sense to have a friendly chat with the neighbours before issuing them with a formal notice, but even if they have said they are absolutely fine with what you are doing, they need to receive your notice and consent to it in writing. This is to protect their interests as much as yours, just in case any damage is caused.

If the neighbour refuses, what then?

If your neighbour objects, there is a formal dispute resolution process that will be followed. This will involve each of you appointing your own surveyor, and they will work together to reach a decision on what work will happen and how it will take place.

I will need to access my neighbour’s property. Can they refuse?

Some work might necessitate you or your contractors accessing your neighbour’s property. If such access is necessary and possible, then it must be granted. In the event that the neighbour refuses, there are rights of access that can be invoked without the need for proceeding to court, but as these involve a police presence, it is always best to reach an amicable solution if at all possible.

What happens if the neighbour just ignores the notice?

Unfortunately, if the neighbour does not give written approval within 14 days, this is taken as dissent, and means the resolution process mentioned above has to be put into motion. If the neighbours are unwilling to appoint their own surveyor, you can appoint one on their behalf.