A Party Wall Agreement is an agreement between a property or homeowner and their adjoining neighbours, regarding any building work that may affect shared walls, outbuildings or boundaries. A Party Wall Agreement will be of relevance to terraced and semi-detached properties, who will naturally have another property or other properties with whom they will share a wall.
It is important to understand when you may need a Party Wall Agreement, who is responsible for the agreement and what the agreement and its terms cover. Also, being aware of the terms and nature of these agreements means that no one is left in the dark when one is required and put in place.
Party Walls Explained
If your home is a semi-detached or terrace house, meaning you share at least one wall with at least one neighbour, this is referred to as the ‘party wall.’ If you plan to complete any building work that could affect this wall you will need to give a party wall notice, and potentially create a Party Wall Agreement. For example, if you live in a semi-detached property and are undertaking a loft conversion, you will naturally have a wall which adjoins that of a neighbour. This shared, or ‘party’ wall will be the subject of a Party Wall Agreement, which will cover a range of aspects such as any damage to the wall and surveys needed.
When Do You Need a Party Wall Agreement?
Once you have plans in place to complete building work that could affect the shared wall, you will need to set up a party wall notice. This needs to be done at least two months before any work commences. You have two choices when it comes to creating your party wall notice, either use a surveyor or do it yourself. Using a surveyor will generally cost between £50 and £100 and can arrange for the notice to be served on your behalf. You can also draft up an agreement using examples set out in the party wall booklet.
Your neighbours will have 14 days to respond to your proposed works, under the Party Wall Act, 1996. If your neighbours give written consent within this time, work can go ahead and you will not need a party wall surveyor. However if they fail to reply or they do not give consent, you will need to commission a party wall agreement.
If you live in a flat, apartment or other shared building such as a house of multiple occupancy (HMO) or otherwise, you will not need to undertake or plan for a Party Wall Agreement. However, you will need to be in contact with the freeholder and the block management company who will need to authorise the work. If you are a landlord or the owner of a property that is being converted into multiple units, you will need to undertake sound insulation testing, which should be complete before any tenants move in.
How Can I Create a Party Wall Agreement?
If your neighbour has not given their consent for the work to go ahead 14 days after they have been served their party wall notice, you will need to create a Party Wall Agreement. At this point you will need to employ at least one party wall surveyor to manage the subsequent agreement.
After the end of your served notice you will need to send a letter to your neighbour stating they should appoint their own party wall surveyor within 10 days. Both parties can if they so choose, agree to use the same surveyor. However, if your neighbour has not appointed a surveyor within the suggested 10-day period you will need to commission two separate and independent party wall surveyors. In this instance you will have to make sure that you are appointing a different surveyor from a different surveying company than the one you’re signing yourself. This way there are no biases.
What Does a Party Wall Agreement Cover?
The idea of a Party Wall Agreement is that it forms part of a framework and is an agreement between two neighbours; two properties and parties ensuring all needs and rights under UK Building and Planning Laws are adhered to, in the interests of all parties. A Party Wall Agreement will cover three main areas:
- What Your Project Intends to Create – This should be supported by architectural drawings. For example, if you are undertaking a loft conversion, this will have drawings
- How The Proposed Works Will Be Carried Out – It is important that the adjoining neighbour is aware of the nature and implications of any work to be undertaken
- A Schedule of Condition – This is a record of the adjoining properties’ conditions prior to the work starting. This means that in the event of a dispute over the areas affected by the construction it’s clear the condition of the property to start with. This section of the agreement should be complete with photographs that show clear evidence
The agreement should also list the details of both parties involved as well as any surveyors involved. Where two surveyors are involved in a project, a third ‘silent’ surveyor will be brought in to manage any disputes. Chances are you will not hear from the third surveyor. Once the agreement has been witnessed and signed, both parties involved will have a period of 14 days to appeal if either one believes that the agreement was improperly created.
Do I Need a Party Wall Agreement for a Loft Conversion or Property Extension?
If you share a party wall with your neighbour, any kind of extension or loft conversion that affects this wall will need a party wall notice to be served and therefore could result in a Party Wall Agreement. If you are building an extension, remember the garden walls could be included as party walls. If garden walls have been built along the boundaries of properties this is called a party fence wall and will need to be treated as a party wall.