Loft conversion party wall agreement

If you are considering a loft conversion and your home has adjoining properties which could be impacted by the conversion, you will need to ensure your project complies with the requirements of the Party Wall Act. Before any work begins it is essential to check whether you need a party wall agreement for your extension. Securing permission to carry out work to a party wall can take several months, so you need to factor this into the timescales for your loft conversion project plan.

Loft Party Wall

A party wall is a wall which separates two properties which belong to different owners. The wall may be located across the boundary between the properties, or it may be entirely on one person’s land, but be used by the owner of an adjoining property.

The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 is designed to protect the parties affected by work carried out in adjoining properties, such as terrace or semi-detached houses or apartments. It applies to properties in England and Wales. The Party Wall Act provides a framework for the avoidance and resolution of any issues or disputes arising from work affecting party walls.

The Party Wall Act covers a range of works. The types of work which are most likely to be relevant to converting your loft include:

Cutting into and away from the party wall
Raising a party wall
Extending above a storey which lies on the boundary
Excavating for foundations

Other work which could also impact an adjoining property includes changes or repairs to roofing at the junction between the two properties.

A party wall agreement is a document which records written consent from your neighbours for the work you plan to carry out. Before the agreement is signed you will need to provide details in writing of the proposed works for your loft conversion. You can discuss them beforehand, but you will need to supply a written record too, and this is done using a Party Wall Notice.

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How do I know if I need a loft conversion party wall agreement for my property?

If you live in a terrace or semi-detached property and the works you are planning to have done for your loft conversion will impact one or more adjoining properties, you (the building owner) will need to seek to put a party wall agreement in place with your neighbour (the adjoining owner) It is very likely that a loft conversion will involve some work on a shared wall, such as:

  • Cutting into a party wall to fit beams
  • Cutting projections off a party wall
  • Removing chimney breasts
  • Demolishing and rebuilding a party wall
  • Increasing the thickness of a party wall

Loft conversions and other extensions often affect party walls. This is because party walls do not have doors or windows, so they are the most solid option for a load bearing wall which can be cut into for the beams to support the new extension.

A party wall agreement is not needed for a loft conversion if:

• You are converting a loft in a detached house
• The loft conversion will not involve a party wall

An agreement may also not be needed if the support beam for the loft conversion is being placed on a purpose-built column instead of being supported within the party wall. However, any other works being carried out which could impact adjoining properties must also be taken into consideration.

Serving a party wall notice

If you and the adjoining owners are on good terms, the best course of action is to approach them in person to explain your plans. This will give them a chance to raise any concerns, and usually means they will be more likely to give their consent when the party wall notice is served. You must allow a period of at least two months from serving the party wall notice before the works are due to commence. This gives the adjoining owners the opportunity to raise any objections if they believe the works could have a detrimental impact on their home. You can serve the notice yourself, but you may prefer to arrange for a surveyor to do this for you. Your surveyor can draw up the party wall notice for you, so you can be confident that it includes all the information required in the document.

The party wall notice can be sent by post or email, or it can be hand-delivered. You also have the option to pin the notice to the front door of the neighbour’s property. If you choose to send the party wall notice by post, you should ensure you obtain and keep a proof of posting document. The notice is valid for a set period of 12 months, so it should not be served too far in advance of the proposed work’s start date.

It is important to note that the party wall notice must be served to the adjoining owner. If the residents are tenants, the notice cannot be served to them instead of the owner. You can send the form to them, but it must be clearly marked for the attention of the owner.

Party Wall Loft

What details are included in a party wall notice?

There is no standard legal form to use for a party wall notice, but you can find some templates online which indicate the information which needs to be included. The key details that you must include in your party wall notice are:

• Your name and address
• The address where the loft is going to be converted
• A detailed description of the proposed works, including plans and drawings, if possible, to make it clear what work is planned
• Dates for when you plan to begin the work
• The date of the notice

Once the party wall notice has been served, the owner of the adjoining property has 14 days to respond.

What happens after the party wall notice has been served

The adjoining owner may:

  • Provide written consent to the works on your oft conversion
  • Dissent and appoint either an agreed surveyor or a surveyor of their choice
  • Fail to respond

If your adjoining owner hasn’t responded after the 14-day period, it is assumed that this constitutes a dissent to the works and the matter is treated as a dispute. If this is the case, or if you receive a refusal, your next course of action is to appoint a surveyor. In this situation, a party wall award will be required.

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Our team is dedicated to providing the highest quality building surveys.
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Party Wall Award after consent is denied to Party Wall Notices

If an agreement cannot be reached with your neighbours, a surveyor will settle the matter by making a party wall award. The award is a document which will usually include:

• A description of the work which is going to be carried out
• Details of any extra work to prevent damage to adjoining properties
• Timescales for when the work will be carried out, including restrictions on days and hours
• Measures to be taken to minimise disruption caused by dust and noise
• Methods to be used to limit vibrations
• Details of how the adjoining owner’s property will be accessed if this is necessary
• Records of the adjoining property’s current condition, so that any damage arising from the work can be attributed fairly, and appropriate remedial work carried out
• Permission for the surveyor to conduct inspections to check that the loft conversion work is being carried out in accordance with the party wall award.

If a party wall award is made on a property adjoining yours and you don’t agree with it, you can appeal the decision. You need to lodge an appeal to the party wall award at a county court within 14 days of receiving the award. You will need to provide an explanation as to why you are appealing the party wall award. Your surveyor can manage the appeal process for you.

Appointing a party wall surveyor to make a party wall award

The party wall surveyor who draws up the award must be independent. You cannot act for yourself, and you may not use a surveyor who has had previous involvement in the plans for the loft conversion. In many cases, each party will appoint their own surveyor. These two surveyors will then choose a third surveyor who acts as the independent party wall surveyor. All surveyors involved have a duty to act in a fair and practical way to resolve matters.

Surveyors appointed for party wall matters are responsible for administering the Party Wall Act. Their role is to resolve any disputes which relate to the Act. The building owner is responsible for the fees for the surveyor appointed by the adjoining owner as well as for the fees for their own surveyor and for the impartial party wall surveyor.

At Oakfield our chartered surveyors have extensive experience of handling party wall matters. If you are planning a loft conversion, speak to us about the services we offer. If you are involved in a dispute with neighbours over their proposed works, we can advise you on the best way course of action. Contact Oakfield Chartered Surveyors to find out more about how our party wall experts can help you move forward.

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