Having established that you will need to serve party wall notice to neighbours sometime in advance of starting the build to avoid the risks of not serving party wall notice to neighbors, the next thing to figure out is what the optimal moment to do so is. You will see from the house extension process diagram that there is a specific moment in time to serve notice.
Avoid serving party wall notice too early. If you approach your neighbours before your proposed plans are finalised, you leave yourself open to interference in matters that are of no consequence to anyone but you. You don’t want to be in a position where you issue multiple drafts after every revision that you think is the last. Some neighbours will relish the opportunity to dissect every detail of your plans, and enjoy taking the opportunity to tell you where they think the kitchen sink should go. The bigger the window opening, the bigger the chance of wasp flying in.
On the flip side if you serve party wall notice too late, you risk the neighbours finding out about your plans for themselves, and that could spell trouble for two reasons. First, it puts you on the backfoot and swings the power pendulum in their direction. It could leave them wary about your intensions, causing them to take a defensive posture in their response when you finally do serve them notice. If they do, you can expect the process to move slower.
Second, if the plans are submitted before you notify the neighbours, they will almost certainly get a letter from the ambulance-chasers. There are dozens of local Party Wall Surveyors who scour the planning register each morning on the hunt for new applications. Once identified, they will write a persuasively worded letter to all adjoining neighbours in which they’ll claim that unless they are appointed to act on their behalf, there will be fire and brimstone.
If the neighbours take the bait and appoint their own Surveyor, you will be forced to pay not only your Surveyor’s fees, but theirs’ too. To compound matters still further, there is now another link in the communication chain between you and the neighbour.
No, instead the best time to serve party wall notice to neighbours is when you are happy with the final proposed plan and the application has been prepared, but crucially before it is submitted. By proactively approaching them with a solid plan before they have a chance to come to you, you signal to them that you’ve thought carefully about the scheme and importantly, that you have their best interest at heart.
This as a result builds trust and the neighbours would be more likely to accept the appointment of a single Party Wall Surveyor (known as a joint surveyor) to act for both them and you. The appointment of a Joint Surveyor will save you a stack of cash and speed the whole process up.
As an addenda to this, there is a bonus lever could pull to further move the needle on your direction. About the time you are hiring an Architect, offer a very casual, passing mention that you might consider extending at some point in the future. By doing this you will have cushioned the ground for a softer landing when you do come to serve notice.
In conclusion, serving notice too early can detriment the project, and serving notice too late can damage relations, your timeline and wallet. The best time to serve party wall notice to neighbours is upon preparation of the planning application, but prior to submission of the planning application.
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