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If you’ve just moved into a new property, you might find that there is an issue with a party wall that you need to deal with. You might have work that you want to do when you move in, or you might discover that your neighbours are planning work around your party wall. In either case, it’s important to understand what’s happening and make moves to ensure you’re following everything legally.
In this article, we take a look at what you need to do to overcome any party wall issues that you have when you move to a new property.
To establish and overcome party wall issues, it is important to have a full understanding of what this term means and how it impacts you. A party wall can be defined as “an adjoining wall or structure that separates two or more properties, such as the wall between two semi-detached or terraced homes, or the floors and ceilings of adjoining flats in a building.”
The divide between the walls is usually considered to be the centre of the wall - however, this isn’t always the case. Generally, if there is a different stipulation in place with regard to the division of the party wall, this will be made clear in the documentation about the property.
However, it should also be stated that a party wall doesn’t necessarily refer to something purely within a property. For example, it can be an outdoor wall that sits over the boundary between two gardens. So, this is something that detached properties can also have.
There are two ways that you can have a party wall issue - either you wish to carry out work on a party wall, in which case, you’ll need to serve a party wall notice, or you’ve been served with a party wall notice.
There are actually a range of different types of work that require a party wall agreement - and, as the name suggests it relates to any time that you want to complete work that is on or near a party wall. This is certainly the case for any kind of work that is going to directly impact a party wall between semi-detached or terraced houses - but the remit goes further. In fact, any work on boundary walls, and anything that affects party structures such as floors between flats need to be treated in the same way.
It’s also true that many types of work that take place close to a party wall will require you to reach a party wall agreement. As well as many others, this can include:
building an extension above a party wall
excavation works that come within 6m of a party wall
adding damp proofing
building another wall close to the party wall.
No matter whether you are thinking of having work carried out on or near a party wall, or you have learned about your neighbours wishing to conduct party wall work, it is a great idea to get in touch with party wall specialist surveyors. Many professional surveyors have a great deal of experience working with party wall issues and can help you at all stages of the process.
If you’re in a position where you have been served with a party wall notice, it is always smart to get professional advice. However, if you’ve decided that you wish to raise concerns about the work, you’ll definitely need to work with a party wall surveyor.
When you know that you’re going to need to carry out work on a party wall, the important first step is to inform your neighbours. There’s a formal process you need to follow, and it’s crucial to adhere to the established procedures - if you don’t, you can end up in legal hot water if you then carry out work and your neighbour objects. The practice is governed by the Party Wall etc. Act 1996, which outlines exactly what you need to do to resolve disputes.
To get things rolling, you’ll have to serve a written notice to everyone affected by the work. The notice should contain essential details, including the nature and extent of the proposed work, the start date that you currently anticipate, and the potential impact of the party wall. This is where it becomes helpful to have a party wall surveyor who knows what they’re doing. While they are not essential at this stage, having a professional who really knows the details can be hugely beneficial.
When the notice has been served, this is the point that your neighbours (who’ll be known as ‘adjoining owners’ in legal paperwork) have the time to respond. The minimum notice that you can provide to your neighbours is two months before the work gets started. The adjoining owners then have three options upon receiving the notice: they can provide their consent to the proposed work, dissent and raise concerns, or do nothing, which is deemed as giving consent by default.
If you find yourself in a situation where an adjoining owner is dissenting to the work - this is known as a party wall dispute. This is the point where it becomes essential to work with a qualified surveyor. You can either go down the route of appointing a single surveyor to represent both party’s interests, or each side can have their own surveyor.
The surveyors will conduct an impartial assessment of the proposed work and then aim to reach an agreement through a party wall award. This legally-binding document outlines the rights and responsibilities of all parties involved, ensuring that the construction work proceeds in a manner that safeguards the interests of both the building and adjoining owners.
Building work that requires approval and consultation with neighbours can cause disagreements with concerns often raised around party walls and other shared boundaries. However, with a thorough understanding of the issues, careful planning and ongoing communication with all the parties involved, you’ll be best placed to secure the necessary consent and move forward with your intended works.
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