Party Walls typically separate buildings belonging to different owners but could include garden walls built astride a boundary – known as party fence walls. Since the Party Wall Act 1996 was introduced, homeowners in England and Wales have had a procedure to follow when building work involves a party wall or party fence wall, some excavations close to neighbouring buildings, and new walls at boundaries.
One of those procedures is to serve notice to your neighbours. You serve notice to your neighbour by writing to them, including your contact details and outline description of the works to be done, drawings, access requirements, and the proposed date that the work will begin.
Can a Neighbour Refuse Consent to Party Wall Works?
The short answer is yes; your neighbours are within their rights to refuse consenting to works. However, this does not mean that works will be disallowed. If they disagree because they don’t want to put up with the noise and the inconvenience of the work, for example, then this is not a sufficient reason. Of course, there may be other reasons why your neighbour might disagree, but the surveyor will have the final say on whether the work will begin or not.
The surveyor will draw up the Party Wall Award outlining exactly how and when the work will be carried out and who will pay for it. The Award sets out your rights under the Act, which permits owners to excavate and/or build walls on their land and cut into their side of the party wall (subject to planning permission and building control). Accordingly, no building owner can be refused to carry out the aforementioned works on their own land. For cutting into the party wall, you must give your neighbours 2 months’ written notice. For excavating and/or building a wall, you need only give your neighbours 1 months’ notice. Once the notice has been served, you have up to 12 months to carry out the work.
Once you’ve given notice, your neighbour can:
- Give consent in writing
- Refuse consent, which will start the dispute resolution process
- Serve a counter-notice requesting additional works be done simultaneously (they’ll have to pay for these if they benefit from the works)
Your neighbour must let you know in writing within 14 days if they consent to your notice, and you must do the same with any counter-notice. A counter-notice must be served within a month of the first notice.
If your neighbour does not respond within 14 days, they are deemed to have dissented and a surveyor will need to be appointed. If the works are consented to, no surveyors need to be appointed and a party wall agreement does not need to be drawn up.
Build a Good Relationship With Your Neighbour
Having your neighbour’s consent from the start will help things proceed smoothly without added stress or worry, so taking the time to build a good relationship with your neighbour will be well worth the time spent.
If you don’t already know your neighbour and have a relationship with them, building this relationship as soon as you first start thinking about your renovation project is the best approach. If possible, you want to be on good terms when you tell them your plans. Your neighbour will undoubtedly experience some level of disturbance, whether it’s noise or a mess, so it’ may be wiseto keep them in the loop and make them feel involved in the project.
What To Do if your Neighbour Ignores The Party Wall Act
Once a Party Wall Notice is served, your neighbour has 14 days to respond to that Notice. If 14 days pass and there still isn’t a response from the neighbour, the parties are deemed to have dissented and surveyors need to be appointed. Another Notice is then served, which gives the neighbour 10 days to appoint a surveyor of their choosing, or one will be appointed for them.
If the neighbour still hasn’t responded after the serving of the 14-day Party Wall Notice and the serving of the 10-day notice under Section 10(4), the Building Owner’s Surveyor will then appoint a Surveyor on behalf of the non-responsive neighbour, allowing the Party Wall matter to progress.
Keep in mind; it’s critical to ensure all notices are accurate and valid before the appointment of a Surveyor can be made under Section 10(4). Allowing an appointment to be made on behalf of the neighbour ensures that the process moves forward reasonably while also ensuring the non-responsive neighbour’s legal rights are fully protected.
Even if you have appointed a Party Wall Surveyor for your neighbour, it does not mean that access to take a Schedule of Condition is possible. The Party Wall Surveyor may have to make a “blind” party wall award because there is no easy access into your neighbour’s property to take the schedule.
You must not assume that because you haven’t heard from your neighbours, you can ignore them and just crack on with your works.
Carrying out building work to any property can have stressful moments, but making sure you have all the necessary things in place, like the Party Wall Agreement, can help avoid any added worry or stress and will hopefully keep things on track for your completion date!
If you have any questions, you can contact us at any time here.