If your loft conversion involves cutting into a party wall, then the work will fall under the Party Wall Act 1996. Party Wall Notices must be served on your neighbours who share your party walls before work on your loft conversion or house extension commences. These notices give your neighbour the right to appoint a surveyor to safeguard their property during your work. The Party Wall Act also safeguards your interests as any existing defects on your neighbour’s property will be recorded prior to your work commencing. Such permission is in addition to local authority Planning Permission/Permitted Development and Building Regulations, but equally as important to the preliminary stage of your project.
If your loft conversion falls under the Party Wall Act, then you will be required to serve a notice on your neighbours, notifying them of the proposed work. The type of notice you will need to serve is a Party Structure Notice under Section 3 of the Party Wall Act. The notice must be served at least 2 months prior to work commencing on your loft conversion and must include the following information:
The notices must be served in person or by post (if by post, they should be sent via Recorded Delivery). We recommend using Vincent Brown & Associates Party Wall Surveyors to prepare your notices. They offer a cost-price service to Landmark Lofts' clients planning a loft conversion or house extension, and will ensure that the notices served are valid.
Your neighbour can choose to do any of the following:
A Party Wall Surveyor is usually a qualified building surveyor with expert knowledge of the Party Wall Act. Their role is to undertake an inspection on the Adjoining Owner’s property to report and record the condition of the properties both before and after your loft conversion. In addition, the surveyor(s) will produce a document called a “party wall award” which is the legally binding document required to authorise your loft conversion. This is to establish whether the work has caused damage to your neighbour’s property. If no cracks were recorded in the party wall before your loft conversion began and a considerable crack appeared after completion in the area of one of your structural steels or timbers which were cut into the party wall, the surveyors would usually determine that such the work was responsible for the defect and it would need to be fixed.
The building surveyor will generally charge at an hourly rate to undertake the inspections and serve the necessary documentation. Usually, as the party undertaking a loft conversion, you will be responsible for paying all surveyors’ fees. Your neighbour may choose to appoint a different surveyor to the one who you appoint, which is normally the most expensive option. If you and your neighbour use the same surveyor (this is known as an ‘Agreed Surveyor’) then you'll usually find that this is the least costly option. So speaking to your neighbours before serving the notice would be a good idea.
Whilst the appointed surveyor cannot take “instructions” from you in the sense that you give instructions to a solicitor, he or she will usually listen to any specific concerns you may have. You should approach your appointed surveyor first if you have and questions of concerns.
A Party Wall Award is a legally binding document which is served by the agreed surveyor or the two surveyors depending on the circumstances. The award details, the agreed method and manner of undertaking the work will usually include details of permitted working hours, access rights over neighbouring land and details of what to do in the event of damage. Surveyors will usually choose to append other documentation to the main award such as:
Once the award has been agreed by the surveyor(s) it will be served on both you and your neighbour. The agreed surveyors or two surveyors, depending on the circumstances, will sign the award on your behalf in the presence of an independent witness.