The Party Wall: How to save time and money

The Party Wall Act is something that needs to be given great consideration when it comes to improving your home, because by not following the correct procedures you could be faced with a large bill.

For any extension you plan to complete on your premises, the neighbours will always have a part to play. If they kick up a fuss about any work you’re considering it can leave to large delays whilst cases are heard.

Remember, your neighbours will go through some of the hassle throughout the construction process without a reward at the end of it, so always keep them on your side by ensuring they’re well informed. Laws also stipulate that you must give them advanced warning of work you’re considering.

What should I do?

For any work you’re considering which is governed by the Party Wall Act, two months’ notice must be given to neighbours two months prior to work commencing. This will include work which affects a party wall or boundary, or excavations within three or six metres from next door property. Of course, this covers most extensions and conversions you would consider

You won’t require planning permission to serve the notice and work can begin up to a year after you’ve spoken to your neighbours. If your proposals change throughout the process you should be able to show them the revised plans without serving a new notice.

Surveyor Rupert Lloyd warns homeowners on some pitfalls to avoid, saying: “Typical mistakes I have seen include failing to include a start date or a drawing showing the foundations.” He also comments that another common mistake made by homeowners is assuming they know who owns the house next door. To avoid this potential problem make sure to check the Land Registry website.

What happens next?

After your notice has been served, neighbours have 14 days to respond. If they agree to your proposals in writing the work can commence immediately, if they fail to reply or disagree with your plans, then a dispute comes into play. This is where matters can start becoming expensive.

You should decide with your neighbour on whether to share a surveyor when drawing up a party wall award. By agreeing on the same surveyor you can save between £500 and £1,000, so it’s a good idea to speak to your neighbour before serving official notice.

Essentially, don’t choose a surveyor who is employed on the project because your neighbours are unlikely to see this as a neutral choice.

The party wall timeline

  • Day one: Serve notice to your neighbours, stating when work will begin (which has to be within two months from that date)
  • Day 15: Your neighbour will need to have agreed in writing to your proposals. If they reject the plans you should inform them they have 10 days to appoint a surveyor, or one will be appointed for them
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  • Day 26: Your neighbour should have appointed a surveyor. If they haven’t by this time you should appoint one on their behalf (not the same one you are using). You can however share a surveyor if previously discussed and agreed. Remember, you pay all surveying fees
  • Day 27: The rest is now taken care of by the surveyor. A record of your neighbour’s property will be made so any damage can be assessed at a later date. The surveyor will provide rules for your builder to follow, known as the party wall award.
  • Day one plus two months: Work can commence if the party wall has been agreed by all surveyors
  • Day one plus 12 months: Work must have started by this date.
The Party Wall: How to save time and money
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