Do I need a party wall agreement?

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When do you need a party wall agreement (a party wall award) for a loft conversion?  Getting excited about adding a loft conversion to your home but worried you may need a party wall agreement?  This blog covers everything you need to know about party wall agreements, planning permission, permitted development and building regulation approvals.

Not all loft conversion specialists have the knowledge and expertise to advise customers on the party wall award. A party wall agreement will cost you around £500.  You will also have to swallow the costs of your neighbour as well – this will help keep your relationship with your neighbour on good terms and if you can get a party wall letter signed, you may just save quite a lot of money too.

What is a party wall agreement?

A party wall agreement or party wall award is drawn up by two party wall surveyors or one agreed surveyor. You will need to serve a party wall notice on your neighbour if you have a shared boundary like a wall as you will be cutting into the wall to undertake building works.

In detail, a party wall agreement is required if:

  • Most shared boundary walls consist of two brick walls (one wall is your wall and the other wall is your neighbours). You may need to remove bricks from your internal wall to fit steel beams to accommodate the loft conversion, or to fit a damp proof course, therefore you will need to seek permission.
  • If the party wall is in poor condition or there is no party wall present, one will need to be built. This is required to create a boundary and a structure for the steel structure to be built into.
  • If the party wall is only single skin (one brick thick) you may need to rebuild the wall to aid the steel work supporting your structure.

A party wall agreement will consist of:

  • Brief details of the planned works to be carried out
  • A set of requirements on how the works are to progress
  • Detailed structural drawings from our architectural and structural engineering team
  • Rights of access for the building works
  • Hours when works can be carried out, normally 7.30-5pm weekdays and 8-1pm Saturdays
  • Photographs of your neighbour’s internal home detailed any existing cracks or items of interest (a schedule of condition)
  • Details on how the works will be finished and joints made to structures.

Party wall Notice

A party wall notice can be issued to your neighbour and they have 14 days to respond. If you are on friendly terms you could pop round and get it signed. If its formal the Party Wall Act 1996 will apply. Neighbours should be notified of works through the Party Structures Notice, specified under section three of the Party Wall Act and should:

  • Include full details of works to be carried out
  • Give the owners the opportunity to consent or dissent to the works
  • Give the owners the right to instruct their own surveyor
  • Be served to the legal or building owner, adjoining owner, not the tenants or residents that may be living there.
  • Give the owners the opportunity to protect their homes

Do I need a party wall agreement?

A party wall is a shared wall between a neighbour so if you have a detached house you will not need a party wall agreement. If you have a semi-detached house, you will need a party wall agreement with the adjoining neighbour only. If you live in a terraced house, you have two party walls and you will need two party wall agreements. If you have more than two neighbours (for example, if you live if you live in a flat) you may need more than two party walls.

Why do I need a party wall agreement?

You need a party wall agreement because the structural engineer usually will design the structural drawings which will include the provision of steel beams. These steel beams need to be fixed into supporting walls, they are expertly fitted onto supporting walls, and if the supporting walls are party walls, the Party Wall Act 1996 will apply. The Party Wall Act is there to protect your neighbour’ property in case it is subject to some damage during your loft conversion.

What happens to a party wall during a loft conversion?

There are usually two walls at the boundary.  Bricks are removed from the customer side where the steel is fitted and bricked around with new brick and mortar thus re-sealing the aperture created.

What happens if there is no party wall in my loft?

This is a very common issue and occurs in older and new properties. Older terraced homes may not have boundaries in the loft. In new homes cost cutting building companies stop the structural wall at the loft level. In both cases for a loft conversion, if there is a party wall, the wall will need to be built up.

What if my party wall is only single skin brickwork?

A single skin brick wall will not be suitable for a loft conversion boundary. A suitable structure will be required for the steel structure and the wall will be required for building regulations approval.

What will happen if my neighbour refuses to sign the party wall agreement?

Your neighbour can refuse to sign the party wall letter and ask you to organise a party wall award. The neighbour can also choose to instruct his own party surveyor. Your neighbour is fully entitled to use your own party wall surveyor and this surveyor can work for you and your neighbour and this is normally cheaper.

Touchstone Lofts recommend you use a qualified party wall surveyor to avoid rogue players. Look out for one affiliated to The Chartered Institute of Building or the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors.

If you have a dispute with a neighbour and you want to avoid a party wall award altogether, we may have alternatives we can offer you. Please contact us as we can assess the situation for you.

My next-door property has tenants, how do I sort out the party wall issue?

We come across this a lot as there are many tenanted homes in the South East and the majority of the rented sector is in London. The best way to approach this is to speak to the tenants and find out who the landlord or managing agent is and get a party wall surveyor to serve the notice to them directly by recorded delivery and email. A prior telephone conversation may be advisable to warn the recipient of the intended contact. In most cases a party wall award will be the preferred mode of progress in this situation as there is no neighbour relationship established, but we have seen many situations where tactful negotiation has rendered a party wall letter sufficient. Advising your neighbour that Touchstone Lofts are carrying out the works will help your neighbour understand that the work will be carried out by a reputable builder.

My neighbour already has a dormer loft conversion

If your neighbour has already got a dormer loft conversion, which is a very common situation particularly in London and the South East, there are various factors to consider:

  • Where has the neighbour’s dormer been finished, is it right on the party wall?
  • Has the neighbour’s dormer invaded your airspace? In other words, does his dormer overhang your property at the boundary?
  • Has the neighbour’s dormer been built on your party wall?
  • What is the situation in your loft space? Has the neighbour invaded your loft with a steel, a factor we often come across?

The situation is more complicated when your neighbour has already had a dormer loft conversion. The complication is very dependent on where the dormer has been built with regards to the party wall. If it has been set back and far enough, the party wall situation is easier.  However, if the neighbour’s dormer has been built on the party wall, careful appraisal will be required. A party wall agreement will be required in this case as your new dormer will need to be attached to your neighbours existing dormer.This will involve stripping down your neighbours dormer cheek (side of the dormer) and addressing the flat roof situation.

We have done many loft conversions in these situations with a Party Wall Letter. Please contact us today and help you overcome this hurdle with the right professional guidance and help.