The Party Wall Act protects you and your neighbours during any home improvements – failure to follow the correct procedures could land you with a hefty bill.
For anyone who is considering building an extension, you will have realised that neighbours have an important role to play in many aspects of the planning process.
You will need to serve your neighbours a party wall notice, which must be done at least two months before the work is set to begin, and at least one month before the notifiable excavation works begin.
The party wall process
Once you have served your notice, your neighbours have 14 days to respond. Work can go ahead immediately if they agree in writing. If your neighbour fails to reply the matter goes into dispute, and this is when the process can become expensive.
You should give your neighbours at least 10 days to decide whether one surveyor can act for both of you or whether two surveyors should be involved in drawing up the party wall award, which lays out the rules your builder must adhere to while carrying out the party wall works. Your neighbour’s property will also be surveyed both before and after the works are carried out to see if any damage has occurred, which you will need to repair.
However many surveyors you decide to go for, it’s important that you don’t appoint anyone who is personally employed on the project, such as an architect or a surveyor who is working on the build, as they are unlikely to be perceived as neutral by your neighbours.
On day one, you will service notice to all the legal owners citing the relevant sections of the Party wall Act and stating when the works will start, which must be in at least two months’ time.
By day 15 your neighbour must have agreed in writing to your notice. If they fail to reply they are deemed to have disagreed with the notice. If this is the case, you should send them another letter stating they must appoint a party wall surveyor within 10 days or you will appoint one on their behalf.
By day 26 your neighbour should have decided at this point whether they wish to appoint a different surveyor. If they haven’t then you can appoint one on their behalf, but this must not be the same surveyor that you are using. You pay for all surveyors’ fees, so it’s in your interest to get your neighbour to agree to share a single surveyor.
From day 27, you are in the hands of the appointed surveyor(s), who will make a record of the existing condition of your neighbour’s property so any damage can be fairly assessed later. Work can begin if the party wall award has been agreed by all surveyors, and the works must have started day one plus 12 months.