If you are an owner of a terraced or semi detached dwelling contemplating a loft conversion, this could involve some kind of work to the wall or walls between yourselves and your neighbours, these walls are classed as “party walls” and therefore you have certain responsibilities under the act, being defined as a ‘Building Owner’ under The Party Wall etc Act 1996.
The Act requires a ‘Building Owner’ of a property intending to carry out works to a party structure to serve notice on any affected adjoining owners. (Owner’s of detached dwelling are not affected by the above act).
An adjoining owner cannot stop someone from exercising the rights given them by the act, but can influence how and when the work is done.
There are three options available to an adjoining owner and these are described as follows:-
i. They may consent to the works described in the notice.
ii. They may dissent from the works described in the notice and appoint a recommended surveyor to act as an agreed surveyor.
iii. They may dissent from the works as described in the notice and appoint a Surveyor of their own choice.
The act envisages that, in most cases, there will be agreement about proposed works between the relevant owners. Therefore it is obviously best to fully discuss your planned conversion with them prior to serving notice. A friendly discussion will allow you to explain the scope of the works and should reassure them that the work involved is relatively minor and of a straight forward nature.
However, you must receive consent to the works in writing by getting the adjoining owner to complete the counterpart of a Party Structure Notice.
Should the adjoining owner decide not to reply to the notice within 14 days or dissent from the works and fail to name a Surveyor to act for them, then a ’10 Day Notice’ will need to be served requesting that they do so. If they fail to respond to this a surveyor will be empowered by the act to make an appointment on their behalf so not to cause unnecessary delay to the commencement of the building works. Unfortunately the surveyor’s fees are generally the responsibility of the building owner.
Please note that the party wall surveyor is a ‘statutory appointment’: he or she has no client and cannot be dismissed or instructed. The role is to act in the best interests of the wall and parties to it and, therefore, it is quite acceptable for an adjoining owner to both dissent from your proposals and to agree to the appointment of an agreed surveyor to act for both of you. It is equally acceptable for an adjoining owner to consent to the works and this will not deprive them of their legal rights or common law protection.
Further information regarding the act is available from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and a copy of an explanatory booklet is available on the ODPM website:
The party wall is owned by all those whose house is connected to it. Because you are planning to do a loft conversion, you have to inform the neighbour, who has a total time limit of eight weeks to get the agreement in place with you. It normally only takes two to three weeks if all parties are working together well and good will prevails!
There are two forms, one is the party wall notice form, used to formerly give your neighbour notice. The other is the acknowledgement form, which your neighbour has to sign and return, with their choice of a surveyor or not.
The neighbour can’t stop you doing the conversion, they just have the right to have any work that would be done to the party wall checked out and an agreement put in place with a party wall surveyor.
Hopefully your neighbour will sign the form and decide to go ahead without the need for a surveyor. This will save you time and money. So if you can, try to get them to agree to go ahead without a surveyor.
This is not always possible obviously!