Do I Need a Party Wall Agreement for My Loft Conversion?

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If your property is semi-detached or terraced you must have a party wall agreement with your neighbour before you begin work on your loft conversion. However, an unreasonable neighbour or one who raises a dispute cannot prevent your loft conversion going ahead.

What is a party wall agreement?

The first thing to say is that a party wall agreement is not the same as a party wall award. We discuss the latter below but a party wall agreement is used when both you and your neighbour consent to your loft conversion work.

The agreement between you and your neighbour is a legal document and it outlines the work that will take place and that it is done in a safe and legal manner. It also details how any disputes which arise because of the work will be resolved.

In theory, if you and your neighbour agree to the work taking place you don’t need to involve a surveyor. But it is highly recommended that you task a surveyor with producing a Schedule of Condition report.

This report notes the condition of the properties before the party wall work so that any disputes which arise later can be easily resolved.

Why do I need a party wall agreement?

It’s in your own interests to have a party wall agreement. It essentially says your neighbour is happy for you to carry out your loft conversion even if it impacts the party wall your properties share.

In other words your neighbour can’t retrospectively claim the work was unauthorised and ask for financial compensation. Also, the Schedule of Condition report will ensure that your neighbour can’t make false claims of damage.

What is a party wall notice?

Before you begin work on your loft conversion you must serve your neighbour with a party wall notice if you share a party wall. This notice must be delivered at least two months before the work begins.

The notice simply informs the neighbour that you will be carrying out the work. Once your neighbour receives the notice, they have 14 days to either consent to the work in writing or to descent. If they choose to ignore the notice and do nothing they are considered to have dissented after 14 days.

When the neighbour consents, the party wall agreement is drawn up and everything is plain sailing. If, however, the neighbour dissents a surveyor or surveyors will make a party wall award.

What is a party wall award?

When your neighbour dissents to your loft conversion it means you’re in dispute. You and your neighbour must now appoint party wall surveyors to impartially prepare a ‘party wall award’.

This works best if you and your neighbour agree to use a single surveyor and agree to abide by her findings. However, your neighbour does have the right to appoint their own surveyor.

Whether it’s one or two surveyors a party wall award is drawn up which details how the work will be carried out. The surveyor will also prepare a Schedule of Condition report which we mentioned earlier.

It should be noted that your neighbour cannot stop your loft conversion. As long as your notice was served correctly even if the neighbour continues to object, she will have to abide by the party wall award.

Party wall disputes: When neighbours fall out

If you really cannot come to an agreement with your neighbour under the Party Wall Act, and most disputes can easily be settled simply by communicating with the other person and drawing up an agreement acceptable to both parties, then a surveyor is brought in to adjudicate.

You and your neighbour can jointly appoint an ‘agreed surveyor’ or, if you can’t even agree on that, then each party can appoint their own surveyor (your building inspector cannot also act as your surveyor).

The surveyor(s) must be independent and have a good knowledge of the construction industry and its building regulations (no surprises there then).

Under the terms of the act the surveyor(s) must consider the interests and rights of both parties and “draw up an impartial award.”

So, like Solomon, the surveyor(s) sit in judgement and make their decision.

They will draft a document (award) which you (i.e., the homeowner who is building the loft conversion) must abide by. This will include:

  • The work that will be carried out
  • When the work can be done (for example the surveyor(s) may decide that no work can take place on a weekend)
  • Details any work needed to prevent damage to the neighbour’s property

The surveyor(s) also have the right to access the property to ensure that their instructions are being carried out.

And that’s it.

The surveyor(s) award is final and can only be changed by a court (your neighbour has 14 days after the surveyor(s) award to appeal to the county court). It is highly unlikely that any appeal would be successful.

Hang on a minute – what if my neighbour won’t co-operate and appoint a surveyor?

No worries. You simply appoint one for him. The two surveyors, both appointed by you but with one acting for your neighbour, will then follow the above procedure and come to a decision which your neighbour must abide by.

So, the bottom line is?

There is no need to worry about the Party Wall Act – it’s one of the few pieces of legislation that is very easy to keep on the right side of. In 99% of cases there won’t be a problem and by simply keeping your neighbour informed and keeping disruption to a minimum there will be no dispute.

Even if there is, it is highly unlikely that your loft conversion will be halted by a complaint by a neighbour under the Party Wall Act.

Who pays for the surveyor?

This is the bad news. You do. Even if your neighbour appoints their open surveyor, you must pay the fees. Which is why it’s always best to try and get a party wall agreement in place as early as possible.

Party wall agreement timeline

1 – At least two months prior to work commencing serve a party wall notice on your neighbour.
2 – Within 14 days your neighbour consents to the work.
3 – Party wall agreement drawn up.

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