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Do I need a party wall agreement?

When do you need a party wall notice or party wall agreement (technically called a party wall award)? Our guide gives you all the answers you need to obtain the correct permissions to carry out your building works. And, if you need one, how to find a party wall surveyor.

When do I need a party wall agreement?

  • A party wall is the shared wall, usually between a terrace or semi-detached house, and divides the homes of two separate owners
  • It also includes garden walls built over a boundary and excavations close to a neighbour’s property (within three or six meters, depending on the depth of the new foundations).
  • In the home, Party Wall Agreements are most commonly needed for building works that involve loft conversions, the insertion of damp proof courses and the digging of new foundations (as would be required in building an extension)

Obtaining permission for party wall building works

  • Before party wall building works can start, the homeowner (Building Owner) needs a written Party Wall Agreement from all affected neighbours (Adjoining Owners)
  • Or a surveyor has to be appointed to prepare a Party Wall Award (the agreed document outlining how the works should progress)
  • To start this process, the homeowner has to serve a Party Wall Notice on their neighbours, in writing, about the planned party wall works

Serving a party wall notice

Serving notice can be done for free, using appropriate standard forms or by a party wall surveyor for a flat fee (approx. £65.00 plus VAT).  A letter of acknowledgement for the neighbour to complete and return is usually included.

A homeowner has to give two months written notice on building works which affect a party wall or boundary, or one month’s notice for excavations.

Planning permission is not needed to serve a Party Wall notice, and once notice has been served, the homeowner has up to a year to start work.

Common mistakes

i)  not providing adequate notice

ii) not informing all the affected neighbours. This includes the freeholder and anyone with a leasehold longer than a year. A homeowner living next to flats, may need to serve notice on a number of different people. Check property ownership via the Land Registry.

iii) not describing the proposed work precisely enough or not including sufficient information. Notices about excavations, for example, need to include full structural details

iv) not using the standard, or wrong form of notice. The form of notice for excavating foundations is different from a party wall.

One building project may need more than one type of notice served on each affected neighbour

Good relationships

  • Before posting a Party Wall notice through your neighbour’s letterbox, which can appear intimidating, have a friendly chat first.
  • A shared cup of tea fosters good will and allays fears. It is an opportunity to show sketches and explain the planned works.  It is worthwhile adding that a formal notice will be sent later.
  • It is reasonable for your neighbour to ask for the contact details of your surveyor and/or building company for further information and reassurance.

Gaining assent

Once notice is served, a neighbour has fourteen days to respond, after which, there are three possible outcomes:

i) The neighbour gives assent in writing providing the homeowner will put right any problems

  • In such straightforward cases, there is no need to appoint a party wall surveyor or have a Party Wall Award.
  • The homeowner should take dated pictures of the party wall and ideally have agreed written notes of any cracks, with copies for both.
  • Or a surveyor could be appointed to assess and prepare a schedule of condition to minimise the risk of disputes later. This should be done shortly before the work starts.

Dissent

ii) If the neighbour dissents (or if they do not  NOT reply within 14 days, in which case, they are assumed to have dissented), a Party Wall Award is required

  • In this case, both homeowner and neighbour can appoint ONE Agreed Surveyor, usually within ten days, who can act impartially for both.
  • The agreed surveyor should be independent and NOT the same surveyor the homeowner might be using for their own works. Otherwise their neighbour is unlikely to view the surveyor as neutral. Find and compare quotes from local party wall surveyors
  • The Agreed Surveyor produces an “Award” which details the works proposed and a schedule of condition, including pictures, of the neighbour’s home.
  • Surveyors’ rates vary between £150.00 and £200.00 per hour and a party wall award and surveyor costs approximately £1000.00.
  • Some architects are also able to act as surveyors.

iii) Each owner appoints their own surveyor. However, this is expensive for the homeowner who is responsible for the costs of their neighbour’s surveyor as well as their own.

It is important that all these options available to the neighbour, are explained clearly in the notice.

Timeline

  • Two months and one day later: building works can begin, assuming the party wall award has been agreed
  • One year and one day later: building works must have started

Find a party wall surveyor

Letter templates

Planning your home improvement project

For more advice on planning your home improvement project, see our step-by-step guide to home improvements


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