Party Wall DIY is a party wall notice generator designed to help you getting to a party wall agreement without a surveyor. The tool will also make sure your notices comply with the Party Wall Etc. Act 1996.
This article will cover some essential information to get you started.
So, you’ve finally decided to convert your loft, build your dream extension, or dig an outrageously posh new basement (including a state of the art wine cellar maybe). That’s when someone mentioned the Party Wall Etc. Act 1996 and reality hit.
That person also told you that you can’t do anything unless your neighbours agree to your planned works or that a party wall award is put in place.
Don’t panic, it’s not all doom and gloom. By following the process correctly you’ll reduce the likelihood of party wall disputes and you’ll be instructing your builders in no time.
What is a party wall?
In its simplest form, it is the wall that separates your property from your neighbours’. It is the wall that you share with other people, usually between semi-detached or terraced houses.
The definition also covers garden walls and fences that separate your precious green space from your neighbour’s garden.
When building extensions or loft conversions the works you are undertaking will, in most cases, affect these party walls and that’s why your neighbours need to be notified.
Imagine if your neighbours were to insert a steel beam into a wall that you consider part of your house. You’d probably want to know about it…
What are party wall notices?
If you want to try and obtain a party wall agreement without a surveyor you will need to issue party wall notices yourself.
A party wall notice is a letter delivered to your neighbours (that’s freeholders and certain tenants) explaining what works you intend to do. Unfortunately, these notices need to follow a certain prescribed form for them to be valid and enforceable by law.
This is usually where a party wall surveyor comes in. They will know what to include in the letter and they will charge for the privilege.
If you want to save money, the good news is that we have an online notice generator that prepares these notices for you easily and automatically. You just need to answer a few questions and they will be delivered to your inbox. You can have a try here.
Of course, you will need to know who your neighbours are. You can find out by doing a Land Registry search. This will help you identify the freeholders and long leaseholders. It is also advisable to go talk to your neighbours to find out if there are tenants living in these houses or flats. Go on, don’t be shy!
Once these notices are ready we suggest you talk to your neighbours (again) – even if you don’t like them. This will save you loads of time and money down the line and will maximise your chances of avoiding party wall disputes.
Please try to deliver the notices well ahead of the works being initiated or at least two months before they start.
Tell your neighbours what you are planning on doing and involve them in the process. Explain to them what the purpose of the notice is and tell them that they need to reply within 14 days.
It’ll reassure them that you have their interest at heart and that they won’t be kept in the dark.
The Adjoining Owner’s Options
The aim of the notices is to formalise your neighbours’ response. Your neighbours (also called Adjoining Owners) will have a choice:
- They can consent to the works. This means that they are happy for you to go ahead without having to formally enter into a party wall award. You have effectively secured a party wall agreement without a surveyor. This is the jackpot for you as it will help you save thousands of pounds.
- They can dissent to the works and appoint an agreed surveyor. This means that you and your neighbour will be represented by a single surveyor. This means half the cost for you!
- They can dissent to the works and appoint their own surveyor. This, unfortunately, means you will need to appoint your own surveyor, pay for their services, and pay for your neighbours’ surveyor’s costs.
What is a party wall award?
A party wall award is basically a contract between you, the Building Owner, and your neighbour (the Adjoining Owner) that sets out what the works will be and how they will be conducted.
The details include things like working hours, how to protect your property from damage and who is responsible and liable for what.
The purpose of the party wall agreement is to enable you to do the works whilst respecting your neighbours and protecting their property.
Once the party wall award is agreed and signed you can get on with your works knowing that your neighbours will play along and that your relationship with them has not suffered as a consequence.
This will go a long way especially if you plan on staying in your property for the foreseeable future.
A party wall agreement without surveyor?
When planning your loft conversion, rear extension, side return or basement excavation, chances are you will quickly realise that it will cost you more than you anticipated. It is therefore natural to try and save wherever possible.
It is common for people on a tight budget to try and save on what seems non-essential things like party wall related admin. The party wall formalities can often be seen as a frustrating process that get in the way, cost money and delay the completion of your dream project.
Whilst you can minimise party wall related costs as much as possible by (i) communicating with your neighbours, (ii) issuing your own party wall notices and (iii) keeping in control of the process, there are situations where you will have to involve surveyors.
Indeed, where your neighbours either don’t respond to your notices (on time or at all) or they formally dissent to the works, you will have to involve one or multiple party wall surveyors. This is actually a matter of law and homeowners sometimes struggle to fully grasp this.
Why would the party wall act force me to appoint a third party when I am doing changes to my own property, I hear you say. It is a fair question.
The answer is that the works you will do to your property can adversely affect your neighbours’ home and the party wall act is there to resolve disputes between neighbours whilst enabling you to do the works you want done to your dwelling.
This is why, in the event your neighbour says (expressly or not) that he is not okay with the works, the act requires a party wall agreement (or award) to be prepared before the works can go ahead.
The party wall agreement is a legal agreement that covers what type of works will be undertaken, how and when and who will pay for what.
Your next question will naturally then be: can I do a party wall agreement myself?
The party wall act requires owners to appoint a party wall surveyor in a quasi-judicial capacity to act impartially for both owners. What does that mean?
It means that the party wall surveyor is acting as an arbitrator between you and your neighbours to settle the dispute in a gentleman-like manner.
The word “dispute” may be a bit too harsh considering that you may be getting along well with your neighbours and you don’t intend to go to war with them over this.
Having said that, issues between neighbours can spiral out of control very quickly, hence why the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 default position is to assume a dispute arises unless a neighbour has specifically consented to the works you are intending to do.
The role of this arbitrator is therefore to prepare a party wall agreement in which potential contentious matters are dealt with, so that in the event things go wrong the parties can refer to it and use it to settle any differences. It makes life much easier when you have a piece of paper to refer to in case of conflict.
A party wall agreement will usually be signed by the party wall surveyor if you have agreed the appointment of a single surveyor or the two surveyors if each of you have picked your own.
As you cannot act as your own surveyor, the answer to the question whether you can prepare your own party wall agreement is therefore, sadly, no.
If you do that, your aim is to engage with your neighbours and keep them in the loop. Go see them in person and explain what you are intending on doing. By keeping them informed you are more likely to get them to consent to your works and thereby saving thousands of pounds on surveyor fees.
If you’d like to give our tool a go and prepare party wall notices yourself, please follow this link.