Planning a home extension or other construction project on your property is no easy task. In addition to planning and completing the project itself, there are also various legalities that may need to be completed before the construction company you appointed can get to work. It is not just planning permission that you need to consider for your home extension, but depending on your property, you could also need a party wall agreement.
If you are wondering what a party wall agreement is and if you are going to need one for your property, then read on for our expert guide.
What is a Party Wall Agreement?
Semi-detached and terraced properties often share walls, whether that is the property walls themselves or a garden wall over a shared boundary. These walls are called party walls as they sit at or on the boundaries of a property and are shared between neighbours.
If you are planning on undergoing any work on your property and have a party wall, then you may need a party wall agreement before you get started.
A party wall agreement is technically called a party wall award and is a document that is produced by party wall surveyors on behalf of you and your neighbours. They are usually made up of three parts:
- The party wall award itself, which will be a set of guidelines that govern how the proposed works should be carried out.
- A set of photographs of the adjoining property that are used to make up the ‘schedule of condition’.
- The proposed works laid out in drawings.
A surveyor generally drafts party wall agreements and then amends them according to the specifics of the work being proposed. This document will clearly state the details of the two properties involved, their owners and owners’ current addresses. As well as including owners’ details, the party wall agreement must also include the full details of the surveyors used. Depending on the project being completed and the owners’ requirements, other aspects included in the party wall agreement could be:
- Working hours – for residential work this will generally be 8 am to 5.30pm
- Details of the proposed work to be completed
- The contractor’s public liability insurance
- Access arrangements for surveyors
- The adjoining property owner’s surveyor fees
- A time limit for the work to commence – this is usually 12 months.
When is a Party Wall Agreement Required?
Not every home extension or construction project requires a party wall agreement, but you should always double-check if you will need one before you get started on any building work. A party wall agreement will be required if you want to carry out any work on or near a party wall or shared property boundary. In most cases, a party wall agreement is necessary for the following circumstances:
- In order to permit the installation of a loft conversion, a damp proof course or the creation of new foundations for a home extension.
- If there are going to be excavations taking place within three or six metres (depending on the foundation’s depth) of a neighbour’s property.
- If works are going to affect a garden wall that is built over a shared boundary with a neighbouring property.
What Happens if a Party Wall Agreement isn’t Served?
If you fail to serve a party wall agreement to your neighbours before you begin your construction work, then there are some serious consequences. There are many reasons why a party wall agreement might not be completed; the most common reasons include:
- I did not think it was a legal requirement for my project.
- I am friends with my neighbours; they won’t mind.
- I don’t get along with my neighbours, and they might make it difficult.
- If any damage does occur, I’ll just cover the costs.
- Party wall surveyors are expensive to hire.
- My neighbours can’t stop the project once work has started.
No matter the reason for not getting a party wall agreement, the consequences will still be the same. Your neighbour will be fully entitled to take you to court if any damage or infractions are caused during the building work. Your defence, in this case, would be significantly weakened if you have not obtained a party wall agreement prior to commencing the project. You could end up having to pay for your neighbours’ damages as well as their legal fees and additional costs.
The cost of obtaining a party wall agreement is often going to be far less than the potential legal fees that could be incurred.
So, if you’re planning work to your property, make sure you have checked whether you need a party wall agreement and make sure it is in place before any work commences.