What is a Party Wall Agreement and When Would I Need One?
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 -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.
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).
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.
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.
What Happens if Your Neighbour Dissents?
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.
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.
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.
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.