You’ve been neighbours for years, you’re on friendly terms and always chat over the fence. You mention you’re going ahead with that extension you’ve been planning, there might be a bit of noise – after all, your properties are adjoining – but it’ll all be over in a few weeks, there’s nothing to worry about. But mid-build your neighbour comes round and complains that a massive crack has appeared on their hallway wall and someone’s going to have to pay! You have no idea whether that crack was there before your building work started and your neighbour is apoplectic with rage – phrases like ‘legal advice’ and ‘I’m taking you to court’ start being used. It’s not going to be pleasant!
A party wall notice works for both you and your neighbour
As a general rule, works that involve a wall or boundary shared by two or more properties must be carried out in accordance with the Party Wall etc Act 1996. The act requires that advance notice must be served on any neighbour whose property may be impacted. The party wall notice triggers a schedule of condition, essentially a written report following inspection by a party wall surveyor of the adjoining property before building works proceed.
It means that an existing crack in the wall would have been noted during the inspection and an unscrupulous neighbour cannot then take advantage of the situation to get free repairs. Equally, if that crack was caused by your building works there can be no argument – the evidence is there, it’s not simply a case of one person’s word against another.
Serving notice, which should be some weeks in advance, also means that an informed neighbour is likely to be a more tolerant one during the building works. They will be aware of when to expect noise and disruption and will therefore be less likely to keep making complaints. This is particularly pertinent if your builders need access to the neighbouring property for any reason. The party wall notice means your neighbour cannot object to that and, if they are obstructive, you have the law on your side.
The less you give someone reason to be unhappy the more likely your good relationship will continue into the future. The last thing you want is to make improvements to your property only to end up feeling like you’re living in an episode of ‘Neighbours from Hell’ and wanting to move!
Following the process gives you better legal protection
But beyond simple courtesy and abiding by legalities, if you don’t serve a party wall notice prior to starting building works, your neighbour has the right to pursue the legal route to stopping your project. Associated solicitor’s fees will be charged to you because you haven’t acted lawfully. And, should the works be held up, you may also find that your building contractor will be extremely unhappy that they are going to suffer loss of income and will demand recompense. Do you really want to deal with legal matters as well as a build project?
Whether you do or don’t get on well with your neighbour, serving a party wall notice provides protection for all parties because it negates the opportunity for complaints, moans and fabrication of damages. In the event of damage to a neighbouring property, the party wall notice and the resulting party wall award, which is a formal agreement, enables a level of arbitration that should ensure you don’t end up in court.
Party wall surveyors exist for a reason
Appointing a party wall surveyor to ensure you comply with the Party Wall Act and follow the correct process is a far more economic route to take. Taking a chance that you’ll get away with your build project has the potential to end up very costly – appointing solicitors and going to court is significantly more expensive!
If you’re planning building works that may impact on a neighbouring property do have a read of our party wall advice < https://www.home-approved.com/party-wall-advice/ >. Our surveyors are experts in party wall matters and will help ensure your build project goes ahead smoothly, risks are mitigated and you’ll still be happy to have a beer or a cuppa with your neighbour when everything is finished – call Home-Approved on 0800 980 3113 or email email@example.com.