Advising neighbours of building work

We are often called by homeowners asking what they can do when their neighbour starts building work without telling them. Quite often your neighbour doesn’t have to notify you, but here are some situations where they are obliged to. This article tries to answer a few of the more common queries we receive.

boundary hoarding - neighbour doing building work

Does my neighbour have to notify me of building work?

Unless the work that is being done falls within the notification requirements of the Party Wall Act then there is no obligation to formally notify a neighbour. It might be good practice, courteous, and neighbourly, but it is not a requirement. If a neighbour is simply building close to the party wall or your building (no matter how substantive the work) then a notice is probably not required, unless there is excavation, deeper than the base of your foundations within 3m of your building.

What if the building work needs planning consent? Must my neighbour tell me then?

If the work needs planning consent, then a local authority consultation letter should have arrived asking for your observations, but again, there is no obligation for neighbours to consult neighbours personally regarding the proposals.

What if my neighbour doesn’t have building regulation approval?

Sometimes a neighbour says to us that there doesn’t appear to be building regulation approval. Well, that is a matter for the local authority to enforce, not private individuals. If you are concerned you can draw the irregularity to the attention of the local Building Control office. Don’t forget that your neighbour may be using a private approved inspector.

When does my neighbour have to tell me about building work?

Some works require a formal ‘Party Wall Notice’ to be sent to affected neighbours. These are set out in sections, 1, 2 & 6 of the Party Wall Act and includes works such as:

  • Works on an existing party wall or structure shared with another property (section 2 of the Act)
  • Works on an existing shared garden wall
  • Building a new wall up to or astride the boundary with a neighbouring property where there has been no building before (section 1 of the Act)
  • Excavating within 3m of a neighbouring structure and deeper than the existing foundations of that structure (section 6 of the Act).

So, does that mean my neighbour can build right up to the boundary wall, but not touching it, without advising me?

They could, but it would be unlikely. While they might be able to build a wall, any excavation for a foundation will almost certainly need a notice and Party Wall Agreement. If there are shallow footings, often used for a conservatory, it is quite possible no notice is required.

Can my neighbour use my wall for their building work?

Generally speaking, no. Your wall, wholly on your land, is yours and there is no right for your neighbour to use it without your agreement. Even, for instance as the back wall of a lean to shed. However, the Party Wall Act does grant a right to cut into your neighbour’s wall to insert a flashing or other weatherproofing of a wall erected against that wall. That means if they build a new wall next to yours, they can weather the gap by cutting into your wall.

If the wall is a party wall (built astride the boundary), but only your building currently uses it, then your neighbour DOES have a right to build against and use the wall. In certain, but not all, circumstances, they may have to pay compensation to you.

What if my neighbour undertakes work without seeking proper party wall agreement?

Any party wall notices and agreements (also called Party Wall Awards) must always be in writing. If you have not received a Party Wall Notice, then the works may be progressing unlawfully. It is always best to seek professional advice on the correct action to take. You can get this from a Chartered Surveyor experienced in Party Wall matters, like us, in the first instance. Most surveyors will offer some advice without charge.

Action may include stopping the parts of the work affected by the Party Wall Act until the right agreement is in place, or, if your neighbour refuses to engage, it may be necessary to seek an injunction. Injunctions can be risky and expensive, and you may well not recover all your costs. Importantly, you must deal with this as soon as you can. These are not things that can be resolved after the work is finished.

What if I do not give consent to work after receiving a party wall notice?

If the work is in accordance with the rights offered by the Party Wall Act then you cannot deny your neighbour exercising those rights. If you needed to object, then this must be done at planning consent stage. But the party wall notices give you the opportunity to ‘dissent’ from the relevant notifiable works. This does not mean you can stop them, but it does mean that you can insist on Party Wall Agreement to ensure that your property is protected.

Although you can notify your neighbour in writing that you ‘dissent’ yourself you will need to engage a Party Wall Surveyor to draw up an agreement. You are entitled to your own surveyor or you can agree to use one surveyor jointly with your neighbour. The person doing the building work is usually responsible for all the surveyors’ fees.

The surveyors will consider the work, the information provided and how it is intended to carry out the works. They will then take a record of the condition of your property and incorporate this within an agreement known as a Party Wall Award. This will set out the responsibilities entered into in return for the rights exercised and commonly includes details of how any damage will be made good, any dispute resolved, working hours and health and safety provisions.

What if it affects to the light to my building?

Matters related to light can cause a lot of problems between neighbours. You will not have an ‘automatic’ right to light and if you do, the amount of light you are entitled to may be less than you expect. It is a very specialist area and you must take the advice of a Chartered Surveyor experienced in ‘Right to Light’ matters. Importantly ‘right to light’ is different to party wall and planning matters and cannot be used to frustrate these agreements and consents.

If I disagree with the work, do I still have to let my neighbour onto my property to undertake their work?

Only if the work has to be notified under the Party Wall Act. Section 8 of the Act offers a statutory right to access if it is necessary to undertake and complete ‘notifiable’ work. Any access is subject to a minimum 14-day notice period (but often neighbours can agree access between them without such notice). There is no right of access for any other work. You must remember though that it is you who will be looking at their building and not them, so if access will mean it can be finished more neatly you must consider agreeing to some access.

The information in this article is for guidance only. There is no substitute for advice specific to your situation. If this is an old post, the law may have changed since it was written.

If you need further advice about Party Wall Notices and if they are required, please get in touch via the form below.

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