Q My neighbours are planning a loft conversion in the roof space of our adjoining semi-detached homes and have served me with a party wall
notice. What does this
AParty wall regulations are among the most misunderstood pieces of legislation to affect homeowners. They can cause confusion and potentially result in delays and associated costs.
However, it is important to bear in mind that The Party Wall Act etc…Act of 1996 aims to protect both the building owner as well as the rights of adjoining property owners.
Essentially, it is a mechanism to avoid disputes by making building owners notify their neighbours in advance of certain works which may affect adjoining walls or boundaries. These include extensions, re-roofing, underpinning, excavations for drainage, removing chimney breasts and, as in your case, loft conversions.
Firstly, if you receive notification, don’t panic. Your neighbour has done the right thing in serving you with the notice.
If you are happy with the proposed work, you must inform the building owner in writing; however, if you have concerns and wish to officially ‘dissent’ the notice you should also formally notify them.
It is worth noting that failing to respond to the notice means the matter automatically goes into ‘dispute’.
If you decide to dissent, there is provision for you and your neighbour to appoint an ‘agreed surveyor’ to act impartially to draw up an agreement called an ‘award’.
Alternatively each party can instruct their own surveyors. The ‘award’ will detail the work to be done, when and how it will be carried out as well as the rules builders must stick to. Importantly the award will record the condition of your wall prior to the work starting so reparations can be made for any damage.
It is important to note that compliance with party wall legislation is separate to both planning and building regulations; however it is a similar statutory compliance matter. There are strict timescales for the various stages of the process so you are advised to instruct a qualified party wall surveyor and member of the Portsmouth Property Association.
Cheaper online alternatives will prove much more costly and delay the project if any agreements aren’t watertight.