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Do I Need a Party Wall Agreement?

Written by Reviewed by Graham Norwood

15th Apr 2020 (Last updated on 30th Oct 2020) 13 minute read

A party wall is a wall, fence or structure on the boundary of two (or more) separate properties, owned by different people. A party wall settlement - technically called a party wall agreement - is made between these owners regarding any building work that may affect either side of the boundary. 

If you are a property owner who has agreed to certain repair or building work with a neighbour sharing a boundary with you, then you may need a party wall agreement. This guide will help you understand what this agreement is, what it includes and how you obtain the correct permissions to carry out the work you require. 

With the help of our property experts, Compare My Move has created this article to ensure you know the necessary steps to take as well as what common mistakes you should avoid when sorting out your party wall agreement.

This article will cover the following:
  1. What is a Party Wall Agreement?
  2. When Would You Need a Party Wall Agreement?
  3. Obtaining Permission for a Party Wall
  4. Serving a Party Wall Notice
  5. Common Mistakes When Serving a Party Wall Notice
  6. Gaining Assent From Your Neighbour
  7. Can Your Neighbour Refuse a Party Wall Agreement?
  8. How Much Does a Party Wall Agreement Cost?
  9. What Happens if You Proceed With No Party Wall Agreement?
  10. How to Maintain Good Relationships With Your Neighbours
  11. Do You Need a Party Wall Surveyor?
  12. Do You Need a Party Wall Agreement for an Extension?
  13. Saving Money With Compare My Move

What is a Party Wall Agreement?

Covered by the Party Wall Act 1996, a party wall agreement covers any shared walls, structures or garden boundary walls between two properties. It is a legal agreement made between you and your neighbours regarding any building work that will affect either side of this shared boundary. 

Not only does it cover alterations that may directly affect these structures, but it can also cover the effect of any excavations within up to six metres from the boundary if the foundations are thought to be impacted.  

It will contain information and the contact details of both households as well as the party wall surveyors involved. There will also be a third surveyor added to the document. This silent surveyor will act as a mediator, settling any disputes that arise. 

A party wall agreement or award will cover:

  • How the proposed work will be carried out
  • A ‘schedule of condition’ which is a record of the adjoining properties’ condition before the work begins. This will also include photos as evidence.
  • Details of the contractor's public liability insurance.
  • A description of what the project will create, complete with architectural drawings. 
  • The time limit for the work and also the suggested working hours.
  • Property access for the surveyors involved. 
  • The surveying fees for the adjoining owner. This will be covered by the person completing the project.

Many of these documents will be presented in the format set out by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

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When Would You Need a Party Wall Agreement?

You would need a party wall agreement when carrying out construction or alterations involving:

  • Work affecting the wall shared by your neighbours
  • Work carried out on the floor or ceiling shared by a neighbouring property
  • Building on the boundary of another home
  • Excavating within six metres of a shared property
  • Repair work on a party wall or spouts, fall pipes, sewers, drains, wire conduits, flues, chimney stacks, eaves or troughs used in common with neighbours.

This means that you will likely need a party wall agreement for work that includes loft conversions, the insertion of damp proof courses and also if you’re digging new foundations like when building an extension

Whenever you’re planning future work to add value to your home, make sure you research whether you’ll need permission or consent beforehand so you can send the appropriate notice before work begins.  

Obtaining Permission for a Party Wall

Before the work can start, you will need a written party wall agreement from all the neighbours who will be affected. You will first need to serve a party wall notice two months before work begins and detail, in writing, all the work that is to be planned.

Your neighbour will then have 14 days to respond. If they provide consent, you can continue with the work.

You may need to hire an impartial surveyor to prepare a party wall award or agreement which will outline how the work should progress. You would typically hire a party wall surveyor if your neighbours reject or ignore the party wall notice.  

It should be noted that a party wall surveyor is not the same as a property surveyor. A party wall surveyor must be someone who is not a party to the work involved, meaning the homeowner cannot represent themselves. The chosen surveyor should have good knowledge of construction and must be well versed in party wall procedures.

Serving a Party Wall Notice

You can serve a party wall notice for free if you use the appropriate forms or you can get a surveyor to serve it for a flat fee. A surveyor could charge anywhere between £150 and £200 per hour. There will be a letter of acknowledgement included that the neighbour must then complete and return. 

Along with the notice, you should include a letter detailing your intentions and the work that is being planned. You can find an example of this letter within The Party Wall Act booklet. Within this letter, you should include:

  • The date the party wall notice was served
  • The date the work will begin
  • The contact details and names of all parties involved
  • A description of the work planned 

You must give two months written notice for the work scheduled or 1 month’s notice for excavations. You will not need planning permission to serve a party wall notice. 

Your neighbours will have 14 days to respond to the notice with written approval or rejection. An approval means your notice will be valid for a year and work can begin. A rejection (or no response) means you’re in a dispute. This is when you may need to hire an impartial party wall surveyor to produce the party wall award or agreement. 

If you do not serve a party wall notice and begin work without your neighbours’ consent, they could fight to stop the work through a court injunction or other legal means. 

Different Types of Party Wall Notice

There’s not just one type of notice you can give. It’s important to research what you need to gain consent. The different types of notice include:

  • Party Structure Notice - this is for alterations that will directly affect the party wall. It includes common jobs such as cutting holes in insert beams, cutting in flashings and removing chimney breasts.
  • Notice of Adjacent Excavation - this notice is for when you plan to excavate within three to six metres of the shared boundary. 
  • Line of Junction Notice - this type of notice is for the construction of a new wall adjacent to or astride the boundary.

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Common Mistakes When Serving a Party Wall Notice

To help you through the process of obtaining permission, try to avoid these rather common mistakes:

  • The issuing of the notice may be intimidating if it is merely paperwork dropped through a neighbour’s door without warning - so a friendly, preliminary chat is advisable.
  • Not providing sufficient notice.
  • Not informing all the affected neighbours. Those living in a terraced house will have to inform neighbours on both sides. You will also have to inform the freeholder and, if you’re living next to flats, you will have to inform each tenant affected. If you need to check property ownership, you can do so by using the Land Registry.  
  • Not providing enough details about the work to be carried out. 
  • Using the wrong form of notice. 
  • Assuming that all building projects only need one form of notice. Some may need more, served to each neighbour affected.

Gaining Assent From Your Neighbour

Now that the notice has been served, all adjoining neighbours will have 14 days to respond. If the response is positive, your neighbours are consenting and give you assent. 

If assent is given, it must be given in writing to be recognised as official. The homeowner who served the notice then has one year to complete the work outlined in the documents: usually, no additional planning consent will be required.

If you’re given assent after serving the notice, there is no need to hire a surveyor or have a party wall agreement. You should instead take dated photographs of the party wall and take note of any cracks or defects. Copy both of these documents as a precaution. 

However, you can still hire a RICS surveyor a few weeks before work begins if you feel the need to. They will assess the property and prepare a schedule of condition to reduce the risk of future disputes.

Who Pays for the Work?

Whoever served the notice will have to pay for the building work to be done on the party wall. 

The adjoining neighbours may have to pay a share of the cost if the work required needs to be completed because of any defects or lack of repair. If anyone wants additional work to be completed to benefit themselves, then that person will have to pay for it. 

An additional and impartial surveyor may have to be appointed if all parties involved can’t agree on the payment.

Can Your Neighbour Refuse a Party Wall Agreement?

If your neighbour dissents after being served the notice, then they are rejecting it and a party wall agreement is officially required. A neighbour also dissents if they do not reply within the 14 days. 

If this happens, both the homeowner and the neighbour must appoint an agreed surveyor within 10 days. This surveyor must be independent and able to act impartially. They can’t be the same as the homeowner’s surveyor, they must be neutral. Typically, a party wall surveyor could charge anywhere between £150 and £200 per hour.

This agreed surveyor will then produce the party wall agreement or award, detailing the work proposed and a schedule of condition of the neighbour’s property. They must also include photos as evidence. Altogether, including the cost of the surveyor, this could cost approximately £1,000

It’s important to note that, along with the impartial surveyor, both the homeowner and the neighbour must each have their own surveyor acting on their behalf. This can become expensive for the homeowner proposing the work as they will have to pay for all surveyors involved, even their neighbour’s.

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How Much Does a Party Wall Agreement Cost?

The cost of a party wall agreement can vary depending on the surveyor you work with and the outcome of the notice served. As a start, the party wall notice itself can cost around £30 if you use a surveyor or it can be done for free.  

A ‘condition report’ or ‘schedule of condition’ is sometimes requested before work commences. During the process, a surveyor will inspect and assess the property wall in question and provide a report stating its current condition. This is often requested to provide further evidence if a dispute should occur later down the line. If you require a condition report, you could be looking at an added cost of £400-£500. Some surveyors will include this price within the cost of the party award.

If you require a party award, the cost will increase greatly. Typically, the cost of a party wall award and surveyor is around £1,000 in total, with the condition report added as part of the expense. 

What Happens if You Proceed With No Party Wall Agreement?

It is not an offence to fail to observe the party wall act. However, your neighbours can take civil action against you and an injunction could be issued to stop any further work until a party wall agreement is arranged, delaying progress. 

This will likely increase your costs and the builder you’re working with may even demand compensation. They could also grow impatient and continue with other work until the party wall agreement is complete, meaning the work could be further delayed as you wait for your builder to complete other projects. 

It’s also a possibility that your neighbours will seek compensation. If they can prove the work resulted in a loss, they could demand compensation or even stop the work altogether.

How to Maintain Good Relationships With Your Neighbours

A party wall agreement can sometimes cause disputes between neighbours and so it’s important to maintain a good relationship with them throughout the process. Don’t forget to keep their needs in mind when discussing the proposed plans. 

Before the party wall notice is posted, have a chat with your neighbours about it first. Something so official can sometimes seem intimidating and so it’s better to discuss the process with them beforehand. 

Make sure they know they can still talk to you about any issues or concerns. Show them the sketches and plans for the work, have a cup of tea and open a line of communication. Don’t act cold towards them, even if they reject the plans. Be open to talking and negotiating. 

Don’t forget to provide them with the contact details for your surveyor and building company. They may ask for these for extra reassurance and so it’s important to comply.

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Do You Need a Party Wall Surveyor?

If your neighbour responds positively to the notice served and the work can commence with their permission, then you most likely won’t need to hire a party wall surveyor. 

Even without a surveyor, however, you are still responsible for any damage caused during the work and must make the necessary steps to fix it. It would be wise to inspect and take photos of the party wall with your neighbour before the work begins to ensure there’s evidence that could later clear any disputes. 

Some people hire a condition surveyor rather than a party wall surveyor, to ensure there’s a report that could later be used as evidence if a dispute should arise. 

However, if your neighbour does not give you permission to complete the work, then you will require a party wall award and therefore need an impartial party wall surveyor. Both parties will likely require their own surveyor.  

At the end of the notice served, you will have to send a letter stating that your neighbour should appoint a party wall surveyor within 10 days. The cost for this varies but on average, a party wall award will cost around £1,000, with hourly rates for surveyors potentially being as high as £200.

Do You Need a Party Wall Agreement for an Extension?

If it’s clear that the work required for the extension will affect or compromise the wall shared with your neighbour, then you will require a party wall notice to be served thus possibly requiring a party wall agreement. This is also the case if you’re considering a loft conversion. 

If you’re proposing to excavate within 3 metres of a neighbouring building, you will again have to serve a party wall notice. Any work that could affect the shared wall will require a notice to be served. However, it’s important to note that a party wall could also include garden walls built along the boundary. 

If you’re ever unsure of whether you require a party wall agreement, it would be wise to ask a professional architect for further advice.

Saving Money With Compare My Move

Finding a party wall surveyor isn’t always cheap and so it’s important to compare quotes before making a decision. This is also true for other aspects of buying and selling a property as it ensures you save more during a time when you need it most. 

To help you save both time and money during the moving process, don’t forget to fill out our easy-to-use forms to compare conveyancing, surveying and removal quotes in your local area. Get connected with verified and experienced professionals today.

Zenyx Griffiths

Before Compare My Move, Zenyx once wrote lifestyle and entertainment articles for the online magazine, Society19 as well as news articles for Ffotogallery.

Graham Norwood

Reviewed by Graham Norwood

Property Journalist and Editor,

With over 15 years of experience in residential property journalism, Graham is currently the editor for both Estate Agent Today and Letting Agent Today.