If you’re doing any work in the Birmingham or West Midlands area that affects your neighbour’s house or land, then you’ll need an official Agreement from drawn up by qualified Party Wall Surveyors to make sure both parties are protected.
Experience is key here, as good preparation can mean the difference between a smooth box-ticking exercise and a slow grind involving multiple professionals.
With that in mind, we’ve put together some information that will help you understand the process and its pitfalls.
Party Wall Agreement FAQs
A party wall agreement – as covered by the Party Wall Act – can refer to a document that sets out the conditions for any work affecting Party Walls.
Party walls are structures that stand on the land of 2 or more owners and can either be part of a building – like in a side-return extension – or a boundary wall to separate your gardens, and also cover the floors between flats and maisonettes.
Party Wall Agreements also cover the effect of any excavations within 3 to 6 metres of the boundary between houses considered likely to have an impact (based on depth).
Within the agreement, you can find conditions such as:
- The addresses of the Building Owner and the Adjoining Owner(s);
- Drawings and details of the proposed works;
- A schedule of condition of the adjacent property, possibly with photos;
- Details of the contractor’s public liability insurance;
- Surveyors’ details and access arrangements for them (if needed);
- Neighbour’s surveyor’s fee (if needed)
- Indemnities by the building owner in favour of the adjoining owner (if due);
- The party wall award: guidelines governing how the works should progress;
- Working hours;
- Time limit to start work (usually one year).
A party wall surveyor’s duty is to settle the dispute, and acts as an impartial expert, and is appointed in writing, rather that employed.
The most sensible option is for both the Building and Adjoining Owner to appoint a single expert, called an ‘Agreed Surveyor’. This legal agreement means that both Owners must abide by the Agreed Surveyor’s award.
If each Owner appoints separate surveyors – which they must do within 10 days of being requested to do so, or risk a surveyor being assigned to them by the other party – then these surveyors must appoint a Third Surveyor, who acts as an assistant and referee to resolve disputes between the two original surveyors.
The Owners are allowed to contact the Third Surveyor to discuss matters in relation to the dispute.
If you are planning on carrying out construction work in England and Wales on any of the shared boundaries mentioned above, you will likely to give your neighbours a Party Wall Notice.
As a rule of thumb, the earlier the better – as this helps you keep your neighbours informed and on side.
Party wall notices have to be served to anyone with a freehold or leasehold stake in the properties affected – so this many involve multiple notices being issued to your neighbours and other people of interest.
Remember that nobody likes being served legal documentation, so discuss your plans with your neighbours early (party wall notices need to be served two months before work starts).
As you might expect, it’s a good idea to be fluent in what work is taking place, or ask your architect to explain it to your neighbours – that way you should be able to reassure them and deal with any issues or disputes that may arise.
Offering your neighbour a prior Schedule of Condition of their property is a wise idea – it’s a record of the state of the building prior to work starting, and gives both sides a reference point should things go awry.
Depending on the work you are doing, it is your responsibility as the building owner to serve one of these Party Wall Notices – or you could use a surveyor appointed to act on your behalf:
- A Party Structure Notice, involving work to an existing Party Wall or Party Structure.
- A Line of Junction Notice 1: involving the construction of a new wall on the boundary line i.e. a shared wall.
- A Line of Junction Notice 2: this is a new wall entirely on the building owner’s land, adjacent to the boundary line i.e. belonging solely to the building owner.
- Excavation works notice (either 3 or 6 metres): this affects excavation works to build new foundations for a wall or basement.
In our experience, we’ve seen that you might need multiple notices for the same project, depending on the extent, location and complexity of the work.
At Lapworth Architects, we offer relevant services to help with Party Wall Notices and Awards:
- Serving notice: £120
- Preparing a schedule of condition: from £350
- Preparing an Award: from £500
All prices are exclusive of VAT at the current rate.
Your neighbour has 14 days to respond and give their consent to the notice, or request a party wall settlement. If they agree to the works in writing, you won’t need a party wall agreement and this can save on fees.
If you have a good relationship with your neighbours and keep them in the loop with your plans, then you can agree matters between yourselves with a conditional consent, which is effectively written permission to go ahead with your work.
For example, under conditional consent, they might request works be done between specific times or that the new party wall facing them be a specific colour or finish. Again, keeping them on side is a wise move, and if they do consent to the work, you can start work right away.
If your neighbours initially seem happy with your plans, chase them up to sign the consent if they haven’t done so after a week. Remember, if they don’t sign within 14 days, you are formally ‘in dispute’ – and that’s a pain in the neck, as you’ll need a full party wall agreement to continue.
If your neighbours don’t agree (or fail to consent), you are formally in dispute, and only appointed surveyors can produce party wall awards (the document that resolves disputes if your neighbour doesn’t agree to the work).
Under the Party Wall Act, the procedure for dispute resolution applies in two situations:
- Prior to work beginning: when the Building Owner and any Adjoining Owners do not agree on the works to be executed, or the Adjoining Owner fails to consent to them.
- After works have started: when an Adjoining Owner suffers loss or damage to their property due to the works, even if they consented to them.
When a dispute comes up under the Party Wall Act, the parties involved are obliged to follow the procedure set out in the Act, and appoint a surveyor.
Once the surveyor is appointed the Act does not allow you to remove them and appoint someone else, so it’s worth doing your homework on them.
As with all bureaucracy, and especially with architecture, it can take a significant amount of time to get details checked and agreed between all parties. Starting early can save you a lot of cost and effort.
A Party Wall Award prepared by a Party Wall Surveyor(s) is therefore a legal document binding both Building and Adjoining Owners to resolve a dispute as part of a Party Wall Agreement.
The Party Wall Award will likely cover specificities such as authorising the extent and timing of the works, as well as any additional works needed.
If the dispute centres on any loss or damage caused to the Adjoining Owner, then the Party Wall Award will cover the compensation payable by the Building Owner to the Adjoining Owner.
Only once the Award has been made may the Building Owner start their work, under the conditions specified in the Party Wall Award.
If either party is unhappy with the award made by the surveyor, they have the right to appeal it in the County Court, and this must be done within a fortnight of the award being served.
If the award is not appealed it becomes legally binding and cannot be subsequently challenged.
How to avoid headaches with Party Wall agreements
At Lapworth Architects, as well as providing you with the relevant drawings for your application, we can help through this admittedly complex procedure. We can provide the Party Wall Surveyors you are likely to need, put the information together and achieve the Statutory Approvals for you to move on with your project.
It’s worth ensuring that all your planning and building regulation approvals are in place as part of a Full Plans Building Control Application – and we can certainly help you. This includes structural proposals and making this application will help highlight any potential issues.
The earlier you get started and put the work in, the smoother the process of will be. If you’re looking for advice on Party Wall Agreements, feel free to give us a call or drop us a line on the chat – we’re experts in the field.