If you’re planning a loft conversion that will affect the adjoining property (or properties), a party wall agreement will be an essential part of your loft conversion plans. But what is a party wall agreement and why would you need one for a loft conversion? To make things clearer for you, we’ll explain everything you need to know about party wall agreements for loft conversions.
What is a Party Wall?
A wall that shares the boundary line between two houses or separates two adjoining properties is known as a party wall. If you live in a terrace house or a semi-detached house, the party wall between properties is owned by both homeowners. This means if you want to make structural changes to your side of the party wall, you must seek the consent of your neighbours in the form of a party wall agreement.
What is a Party Wall Agreement?
A party wall agreement is a legally binding document written and signed by the owners of two neighbouring properties that share a common wall or structure. It helps to establish the rights and responsibilities of property owners in relation to a proposed alteration or construction affecting the party wall, like a loft conversion. The agreement outlines the project and gives details of the proposed structural changes and how the work will be carried out. A party wall agreement will also address proposed timelines for the loft conversion and access rights to the neighbouring property. The main objective of a party wall agreement is to protect the interests of both parties while also minimising any inconvenience and potential damage.
Some instances where a party wall agreement is necessary include:
- Any work carried out near a party wall
- Loft conversions that cut into a party wall for support beams
- Adaptations that make the party wall higher or thicker
- The removal of obstructions like chimneys from a party wall
- Construction that involves building a second storey above the shared wall
Why are Party Wall Agreements Important?
By obtaining a party wall agreement, you are ensuring that you are taking legally compliant steps when planning your loft conversion. As well as reducing the risk of disagreements between you and your neighbours, it helps to set clear guidelines about what to expect during the loft conversion. Party wall agreements also help to provide dispute resolution should there be any disagreements about the proposed loft conversion. In the event of a dispute with a neighbour about the renovation, a party wall surveyor can be hired to provide expert guidance based on their knowledge of the party wall act and how it applies to property law.
When Do I Need a Party Wall Agreement?
When it comes to loft conversions, if you live in a semi-detached house or a terrace house, you will need a written party wall agreement from all affected homeowners before work can start. This means whether you are planning a mansard loft conversion or a Victorian Terrace loft conversion, as long as your property has a shared wall, you will need to serve your neighbours with a party wall notice.
What is the Party Wall Act?
The 1996 Party Wall Act was written to help prevent or resolve disputes between neighbours about any construction or renovation projects that could affect the structural integrity of any shared walls or adjoining properties. The act is aimed at supporting homeowners to make alterations to their property, even if a neighbour objects. Applicable to homes in England and Wales, the Party Wall Act states that homeowners planning to carry out loft conversions that affect an existing party wall must notify their neighbours (assuming they are the property owners. If they are the tenants, then the building owners need to be notified as well as those living in the property). This notification is called a Party Wall Notice.
What Does The Party Wall Act Cover?
The party wall act covers three main areas
- Work that will be carried out directly to a party wall or party structure.
- New buildings constructed at or over the boundary line between properties.
- Any excavation work that occurs within 3 or 6 metres of the neighbouring building or structure.
The main function of the 1996 Party Wall Act is to protect the rights of all homeowners when a loft conversion is taking place. Some of the rights that are protected include the neighbour’s right to be compensated for any loss or damage caused by the work on or near the party wall and their right to not endure unnecessary inconvenience during the renovation. The act also protects the right to appoint a party wall surveyor to act on your behalf in the event of a party wall agreement dispute.
What is a Party Wall Notice?
A party wall notice is an official notification served by one property owner to their neighbouring property owner to inform them about a proposed loft conversion or alteration that may affect a shared party wall. This notice is a crucial step in the process of gaining a party wall agreement as it starts the legal procedure as outlined in the party wall act.
The party wall act states that you cannot cut into the party wall without notifying the adjoining owners so it’s important to inform your neighbours early on. A party wall notice can be served anywhere from a year to two months before work begins
Loft conversion specialists can provide advice about how to write a party wall notice, but they cannot serve notice, this is the responsibility of the homeowner or a hired party wall surveyor (surveyors are usually needed in the event of a neighbour a neighbour refusing consent).
In the party wall notice, you’ll need to supply your contact information with details of the planned work, the proposed dates, and any requirements the loft converters have relating to accessing your affected neighbour’s property.
It’s often better to speak to your neighbours about your loft conversion plans before sending the party wall notice. This not only helps you to write up a party wall agreement quickly but will also help to put your neighbour’s minds at ease knowing that you’re taking the proper steps and precautions regarding your loft conversion.
What Happens If My Neighbour Doesn’t Sign The Party Wall Agreement?
If your neighbour refuses to sign the party wall agreement, there are some steps to take that will still allow you to have your loft conversion. Once you have served your neighbour(s) with a party wall notice, they have 14 days to respond. Your neighbour can respond by giving written consent, refusing consent or by serving a counter notice to request additional work be done on their side at the same time which they will pay for. If they refuse consent or fail to respond within 14 days, this will start the dispute resolution process.
If your neighbour doesn’t sign the party wall agreement, you and your neighbour can appoint a party wall surveyor or appoint one separately. The party wall surveyor’s job is to create a legal document called a party wall award. This award will state what work should be done, how and when it will be carried out and the amount to be paid and who will pay it. This award will also detail the party wall surveyor cost.
At Alvaston Loft Conversions, we have been transforming lofts for over five decades and are experts in roof extensions. We encounter party wall agreements all the time and we are able to offer advice to help demystify the process. If you’re planning any type of loft conversion and want to know more about party wall agreements, contact our team of professionals who will be happy to answer your questions.