If you plan to do building works that may affect a party or structure (a ceiling for instance) between you and a neighbour then the provisions of the Party Wall etc Act may apply.
For a loft conversion this will almost certainly be the case if you live in a terraced or semi-detached house.
A typical loft conversion incorporates a dormer on the rear or side of the house and the insertion of some structural steelwork to support both the new floor and the dormer.
Usually the steelwork spans from the flank wall to the party wall in a semi-detached house and from party wall to party wall in a terraced house. The work will usually require cutting pockets into the party wall, inserting a spreader plate or padstone and setting the steel beam in. The work will of course require building regulation approval but you may also need the consent of your neighbour.
The Party Wall etc Act grants a right to do this work in section 2 but it is essential that you serve the correct party wall notices on your neighbours, if they dissent from your work then a party wall agreement will need to be drawn up by surveyors. Here’s our free party wall procedure flowchart:
The act also allows party walls to be increased in height, so, if you are planning a dormer that is built on the party wall, a party wall or structure notice will also be required.
It may be that your neighbour has already raised the party wall for a dormer, in which case the act allows you to build on to it and use the walls as part of your structure. Guess what – a party wall notice will also be needed for this circumstance.
The act also allows for a compensation payment to be made to the neighbour for using the wall to reflect cost saving that you may have made. A party wall agreement or party wall award will be required in this case and the two party wall surveyors will agree the amount of compensation that will be due based upon the area enclosed upon. The party wall surveyors will agree a fair compensation figure that reflects the actual cost of building the wall.
Providing the correct notices are served and the procedure followed your neighbour cannot use the party wall act to prevent you from doing your work, you will still need planning approval in most cases and neighbours will have the right to object at that time.
You will also need to obtain building regulation approval and it is likely that this will be a requirement of any party wall award that may be agreed.
If the neighbouring building is divided into flats, then you may need a party wall agreement with each of the affected flat owners and the freeholder. Each of these owners has the right to appoint their own surveyor.
The bad news is that not only do you have to pay your own surveyors fees, but you are also responsible for any fees your neighbour may incur. So, if its flats there could be a lot of fees to pay – if you can try and arrange for one surveyor to represent all of the flats or, even better, use an agreed surveyor who can act for both sides. You may be able to save some money by serving your own notices – you can download for free from our site.
Collier Stevens have a very competitive fixed fee scheme for acting as building owners surveyor for simple residential works of this nature. We will correctly serve the party wall and structure notices and deal with the neighbours and their surveyor on your behalf.
We always recommend that you consult your neighbour before starting or planning works so that an official notice from a party wall surveyor does not come as too much of a shock!
Remember, it is your responsibility, not the local authority’s, to serve the notices and advise neighbours.
(Originally published by Steven Way, 26 January 2012)