Ask ten Surveyors to explain the party wall process in simple terms and you will get 20 different answers (seriously, try it). It’s not that they’re being difficult, it is because party wall matters are inherently involved and can get quite complicated, quite easily. It’s one of occasions where, as the homeowner, you will learn the detail of what you need to know, at the time you need to know, should you cross the bridge that compels you to know it.
For now though, what you need to know is this. Here is a very simple guide to the party wall process.
Identify who is notifyable
First thing’s first, you need to identify which neighbour(s) are notifyable. If you are a semi-detached house then it’s simply the chap next door. If you are a leasee of top flat in a 4-storey block held on a separate freeholding, then you will more notices to serve.
Once you know who’s who, go ahead and serve notice alongside a copy of your plans. The neighbour will respond in one of three ways. They will either (1) Consent (agree) (2) Dissent (disagree) or (3) Fail to respond.
If they consent
If they are happy for you to proceed, you can go ahead and start building. However, it is strongly advised that you commission an independent schedule of condition report on the adjoining property, regardless of whether the neighbour asks for one or not. Doing so will protect you against malicious claims of damage.
If they dissent
If the neighbour is not happy for you to proceed, one of two things will happen. They will either (a) agree to appoint one joint Party Wall Surveyor to act on both of your behalves, or (b) appoint their own Party Wall Surveyor to act solely on their behalf.
In either instance, a schedule of condition report will be produced (assuming access is granted) and importantly, a party wall award will be written. This legal document will detail the nature of works to be carried out in relation to party wall matter between you and the neighbour.
Know that even if your neighbour does dissent, they cannot stop you from building your extension.
If they fail to respond
If your neighbour fails to respond to the party wall notice after net 16 days, they get a reminder (called a section 10 letter in the industry). With that comes a further net 12 days for them to reply in. If they still have not responded at this stage, they are deemed to be in dissent and a Party Wall Surveyor is mandatorily appointed on their behalf.
The Surveyor will complete a schedule of condition if access to the property is granted. If access is not granted, a party wall award will be produced anyway.
Know that even if your neighbour fails to respond to the party wall notice, they cannot stop you from building your extension.
Commence building work
If the neighbour consents, you may start work. If the neighbour dissents or fails to respond, you will eventually be at liberty to start work upon production of a party wall award.
In sum, events may twist and turn for better or for worse depending on your particular circumstances, but for our purposes at this point in time, the above very simple guide to the party wall process tells you what you need to know.
If you would like some free planning advice, get in touch with us.