Disputes between neighbours over building works are incredibly common. Online forums are full of anger, desperation and murderous intent as individuals rant about laws being flouted, lack of communication and downright bloody-mindedness. Of course, it doesn’t have to be that way and the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 was introduced to protect the interests of all parties involved when alterations are made to a shared wall or structure.
We’re on good terms and I know what my neighbour is doing, but how do I protect my property?
Check whether they are aware of the Party Wall Act. It doesn’t matter how friendly you both are, your neighbour is legally obliged to give you up to two months’ notice of the intended works. They may have appointed a Party Wall Surveyor to ensure compliance with the Act and that same surveyor – or one of your own choosing – is able to deal with everything from your perspective, from ensuring the structure of your property isn’t compromised to agreeing hours of working and any necessary access to your land or property. Since the work has been initiated by your neighbour, they will be responsible for the reasonable cost of your surveyor.
This is the ideal scenario, where everything is done according to the letter of the law, open lines of communication between all parties and mutual respect and understanding.
And what if my neighbour has started work already?
If you haven’t received official notice of the works and scaffolding is going up or excavations are happening, you should again check – as quickly as possible –whether they are aware of the Act. It may be that they are unaware or, in some instances, they may have chosen to progress works in the hope that you won’t cause any issues or are unaware of your legal rights. Admittedly, party wall works can be complicated and determining whether or not building works impact on a party wall can come down to mere millimetres.
Whatever the case may be, if you believe that the works being carried out affects a party wall, you should immediately contact a Party Wall Surveyor who has expert knowledge of the Party Wall Act. They will be able to visit, assess the situation and then provide professional advice. You may also need to contact your home insurance company to make them aware of what is happening and to find out what legal support they can provide. If your neighbour’s building works are shown to be legally non-compliant, you may end up having to seek an injunction and taking legal action against them. This is a risk that anyone without a Party Wall Award will be taking.
What if I disagree with what my neighbour is doing?
If you’ve received an official notice from your neighbour, you are legally obliged to respond in writing within 14 days. If you do not, you will be considered to be in dispute. This doesn’t mean that you can stop your neighbour for building their extension. You might not like what they’re planning, but if planning permission (if required) has been given and they are complying with the Party Wall Act, it is in your interest to have a Party Wall Award so that your property is protected in the event of any damage as a result of the building works. You and your neighbour will need to appoint one or more surveyors to resolve the dispute.
Home Approved has in-depth understanding of the Party Wall Act and the necessary expertise and experience to serve party wall notices and awards. For more information, please have a read of our party wall advice. And if you have any questions or concerns about a neighbour’s building works and how it might affect your property, please give us a call on 0800 980 3113.