Your Guide - Party Wall Agreement
Our guide answers all of your questions on getting a Party Wall agreement, from what the Party Wall Act is, to how you go about getting agreement.
What is a Party Wall agreement?
The Party Wall Act was set out to guide and resolve disputes relating to Party Walls. If you are carrying out work on your property, it is designed to protect your neighbours from any damage, as well as grant access to their property should you need it.
A Party Wall is typically a shared wall between two properties, normally a semi-detached or a terraced property. The Party Wall Act also applies to work carried out on floors between flats and maisonettes, as well as the wall on the garden boundary. It also applies to digging foundations within 3-6 metres of the Party Wall.
The Party Wall Act applies to both freeholders and leaseholders alike and is only applicable in England and Wales. In Scotland and Northern Ireland, boundary rules apply.
When do I need a Party Wall agreement?
The most common instances (but not all) when you will need a Party Wall agreement are when you are carrying out the following work:
- Loft conversions
- Digging of foundations for an extension close to the neighbour's property (3-6 metres, depending on the new foundations depth)
- Basement conversions
- Insertion of damp proof courses
- Removing a chimney breast on the Party Wall
The Party Wall Act does not cover minor works such as decorating or hanging shelves.
I don't need planning permission but do I still need to get a Party Wall agreement?
If you do not need planning permission, you will still need to serve notice to your neighbours under the Party Wall Act if you meet the stipulated conditions.
A Party Wall notice is different to planning permission and building regulations and you must serve notice separately.
What is the process of obtaining a Party Wall agreement?
Step 1 - You must serve notice at least 2 months before building work begins. You can do this yourself by filling out a form, be aware that the form is different depending on the work you are carrying out. A Party Wall agreement template can be found here on the gov.uk page. Some architects will also do this for you as part of their package.
Step 2 - Your neighbours have 14 days to respond once you have served notice. You can begin the work immediately once you have a Party Wall agreement in writing from your neighbours. They must agree in writing, if they don't then they will have deemed to dissent the notice.
Step 3 - If you don't have written agreement or your neighbours have dissented then you must appoint a surveyor to both properties. You neighbour has 10 days to decide whether one surveyor can act for both properties or if they want a separate surveyor. The homeowner carrying out the work must pay all of the surveyors' costs.
Step 4 - The surveyor appointed will grant a Party Wall Award which will determine what work can be carried out, how and when it can be carried out. They will take lots of photos of the property and assess the property before and after the work has been carried out.
Step 5 - You must have begun building within 12 months of the agreement.
How much does a Party Wall agreement cost?
You can serve notice yourself and you don't need to pay. However, your architect or surveyor can do this for you for a fee, likely to be under £100.
If your neighbour does dissent the notice, then you must appoint a surveyor. Ideally your neighbour agrees to the same surveyor for both properties which will keep costs down, typically costing around £800-900 per surveyor.
Who pays for the Party Wall surveyor?
Normally it's the building owner that's carrying out the notifiable works who pays for Party Wall surveyor(s) - whether this is one surveyor acting for both parties, or the individual surveyors on both sides.
There are some circumstances where the fees may be liable against both parties, such as if there is work being done on the Party Wall due to disrepair or costs have been unreasonably incurred by the adjoining owner during the process. The Party Wall surveyor will determine the liability and the appropriate fee within the award.
What if my neighbour refuses the Party Wall agreement?
It is always best to talk to your neighbours to understand why they have refused the Party Wall agreement - you may be able to resolve any issues they may have.
If your neighbours do refuse the Party Wall agreement then you must appoint a surveyor, ideally the same one for both properties to reduce expense. The surveyor will grant a Party Wall Award and this will determine the work that can be carried out, how it should be carried out and when it can be done. They will also survey the properties before and after the work and you will need to reimburse any damage to your neighbours' property.
What if I don't observe the Party Wall Act?
If you fail to get a Party Wall agreement from your neighbours, they are in their right to serve an injunction and delay the work until you have an agreement. Your neighbours can also take civil action and receive compensation for any disruption.
How long does a Party Wall agreement last for?
Building works must have started within 12 months after the 1st day that you served notice.
Anything else I need to know?
In order to make the process as smooth as possible, chat to your neighbours before you serve them with the notice. This should help answer any questions that they have.
For more information, read our expert advice - party wall act.