Have you ever considered transforming your home to fit the growing needs of your family?
Well, loft conversions can certainly make your dream a reality, adding value and practicality without too much upheaval.
A recent survey suggests that homeowners would rather build an extension/conversion as opposed to move house. Allowable property development rights were subject to new regulations in 2019, which changed planning laws affecting property extensions. This meant a lot of people stayed put! Moving to a new area brings with it new problems, making new friends, getting used to the area, shops, local transport, schools etc.; it takes time before Familiarity sets in.
The type of conversion you seek can take many shapes and forms, i.e., a home office, a new bedroom, a granny annexe, a games room or a storage area; the limit is only governed by one’s imagination, so be creative.
Investing in a loft conversion can be a great alternative to moving a house away from a familiar area.
Before planning ahead with the project, one must consider and be fully aware of The Party Wall Act 1996, covering houses in England and Wales. Simply, it’s a guide to prevent any structural building work that could put at risk the structural integrity of a shared wall or party wall of adjoining properties.
The Party Wall Act is a great arbiter designed to stop possible disputes between neighbours. It can help to resolve matters if an issue/s does arise. After all, you don’t want to fall out with neighbours, especially if you’ve been side by side for many years.
One key piece of information – do the right thing and always keep the neighbours informed, or you may lose them!
What is a party wall?
If a wall is astride the boundary of land owned by two (or more) different owners, it serves as a party wall. This definition frequently refers to adjoining homes like semi-detached or terraced homes. If a wall is shared by two or more owners, as is the situation with the ceiling and floor of two properties, one below the other, it is also referred to as a party wall.
A wall is typically considered a ‘party wall’ should any damage to the wall or structure potentially harm other owners’ properties.
The Party Wall Act of 1996.
The Party Wall Act etc. 1996 grants a property owner additional rights above and beyond common law when they desire to perform certain types of work to an existing party wall.
The Party Wall Act 1996 contains all the information on party walls, including whether or not you require a party wall agreement. When owners make improvements to adjoining properties, it is intended to avoid and settle neighbourly problems.
The date, format, rights and obligations of each party concerned are all governed by the Party Wall Act. It also governs the legal process for notifying the parties impacted about proposed development projects that affect shared structures.
According to the Party Wall Act, you must notify your neighbours of any planned work. This is done by serving a party wall notice. It must contain a complete description of all the work you propose to undertake and should include plans, drawings, and timescales, along with your name and address and the building address to be worked on.
Is a party wall agreement necessary?
Yes, it is, to avoid costly and time-consuming challenges to any work related to your project. For any construction that impacts a party wall, an agreement must be obtained. You must advise your neighbours of this intention and give them appropriate notice.
A written document ensures all parties understand their rights and responsibilities regarding work being undertaken near or on the shared boundary line. Professional support is always recommended from either builders or architects who can set up these agreements legally.
A Party Wall Agreement must be obtained first when:
- Any work on party walls separating semi-detached houses from terraced houses.
- The works include shared ‘party structures’ such as floors between apartments.
- Work on the perimeter walls of the garden.
- Excavation works or laying under a party wall close to or adjacent to it (within 3-6 m).
- Loft conversion that requires cutting through a party wall.
- Installing a damp-proof course in a party wall.
- Building high or thick party barriers.
- Building an addition with a second story across a shared wall.
- Add a new wall to the party wall or remove it.
What can my neighbour do when in receipt of the party wall agreement?
They have a number of options:
- They can give written permission.
- They can begin the ‘conflict resolution process’ by refusing to give consent.
- They may send a counter-notice asking for concurrent completion of extra works (something they will be required to pay for if they will benefit from the job, such as repairs to the shared wall).
- You must always wait for a response; if your neighbour agrees, they must notify you in writing within 14 days. They may give you their consent to all aspects of the work in writing. In this case, you won’t need a party wall agreement, which will give a saving.
A counter-notice must be sent within one month from the date of your notice.
What happens if I don't have a party wall notice?
Whilst technically, it’s not illegal to be without a Party Wall Agreement, it will, however, violate a ‘statutory obligation’, which can make you liable for any damage that wasn’t your fault. Without any specific documentation that states the prior condition of the property makes you vulnerable, which a party wall notice would have provided.
What will happen if my neighbour refuses to sign my party wall agreement?
It’s not unusual, but if it does happen, it is deemed a dispute is in place if your neighbour does not give consent or respond to the notice you have served. You can start a discussion, which hopefully will lead to an agreement when you have listened to their concerns.
Otherwise, they may provide (in writing) a counter-notice requesting changes that include additional work. The objective is to arrive at an amicable agreement that satisfies both parties. Some compromises might be necessary. Your neighbour will be requested to make a financial contribution towards any extra proposed work that could benefit either party’s needs.
If an agreement is not reached, then appointing a party wall surveyor to act as arbiter may be necessary. The appointed individual/s will outline what has been decided/awarded and how the work should take place, plus who will be responsible for any related costs like adviser fees. If you don’t agree with the award, then further action can be taken by raising and filing an ‘Appellant’s Notice’ at the county court.
Do I need a party wall surveyor?
Before undertaking any work that may affect your neighbour’s property, you must do the right thing to keep the peace. That’s why engaging the services of a party wall surveyor is a no-brainer!
In many cases, this requirement is eliminated if you receive written consent from your neighbour. Be warned, though, the ultimate responsibility for damage caused during construction lies with you! To help protect yourself against potential disputes when the project is in progress, carefully inspect and photograph the existing condition of every wall involved. As a safeguard, enlist the services of a professional surveyor to conduct an official assessment beforehand.
Home improvements requiring neighbouring approval can be complicated and expensive. This so-called agreement, known as a party wall award, usually involves a qualified surveyor. The cost is usually shared between both parties. On average, this process will cost around £1,000.
Contact Loftteam today if you have any loft need.
For the past decade, Loftteam has plied its expertise on the communities of Greater London and its surrounding areas. If you want that dream loft conversion instead of pulling up your roots and moving somewhere else, then call us!
We are committed to delivering a first-class product that will add value and appeal to your property. Our professional team are committed to excellence and customer satisfaction, which will show itself in the completed project.
We strive for nothing less than perfection and high quality.
Contact the Loftteam today to get the ball rolling and make your loft conversion dream a reality.