Your guide to party wall agreements for loft conversions

A loft conversion is a tried and tested way to provide extra living space in your home while adding value to the property. This is usually a fairly straightforward building project if you live in a detached house, and you may not even need planning permission to carry out the works. However, if your loft has adjoining properties, such as in semi-detached or terraced houses, you must have a Party Wall Agreement in place with your adjoining neighbours.

The Party Wall Act 1996 provides the relevant legislation for this. It is meant to prevent and resolve potential neighbourly disputes when works on adjoining properties are carried out that may affect the shared structure on or near the boundary. The Act regulates the legal process that must be followed including the timing and the rights and duties of all those involved. Building Owners who intend to carry out building works that fall within the remit of the Act have a legal obligation to inform the Adjoining Owners about the work and gain consent before any building work can start.

At Tim Greenwood & Associates, we have many years’ experience in dealing with party wall matters, both on behalf of Building Owners and Adjoining Owners. For professional advice regarding your next loft extension and to avoid any potential problems with your proposed work to the party structure, please get in contact and our team would be delighted to help.

What is a party wall?

A party wall is a shared boundary between two or more different owners. Whenever any building works affecting the party wall or structure has the potential to damage the other owners’ properties, a Party Wall Agreement will need to have been put in place first. In the case of a loft conversion, the structure is likely to be a shared wall or floor, and relevant works will include:

  • Cutting into the wall and inserting loadbearing beams
  • Cutting projections off the party wall
  • Inserting a damp proof course for the length of the wall
  • Demolishing and rebuilding part of the wall
  • Increasing the height or thickness of the wall
  • Removing a chimney breast
  • Underpinning the thickness of the wall

Click here for further details and questions you may have about the Party Wall Act.

How do you obtain a Party Wall Agreement?

The Agreement consists of written consent by the affected neighbours on the proposed loft extension work. According to the Party Wall Act, you must serve notice on the Adjoining Owners at least 2 months before the planned start date for the works, and the notice is valid for a year. There is a specific process and timeline to be followed for serving a party wall notice, as set down in law.

While it is in theory possible to serve this document yourself, it is understandably difficult to follow the correct procedure as a layman including the risk of serving invalid party wall notices. We therefore highly recommend that you use an experienced party wall surveyor to represent your interests. Your neighbours also have the option of appointing a surveyor, and you will generally be required to meet the surveyor costs for all Adjoining Owners.

The team at Tim Greenwood & Associates includes 6 Chartered Building Surveyors with a wealth of experience in party wall matters, who work across London, Surrey and Sussex.

What happens after serving notice?

Once notice has been served in accordance with the Act, the Adjoining Owners can either give their consent in writing, refuse to consent, or do nothing at all. Unless you’ve received an affirmative reply within 14 days of serving the notice, you are considered to be in dispute, requiring surveyors to be appointed to produce a Party Wall Award. In other words, if they

Give Consent – You are free to proceed with your loft conversion project. We recommend having a Schedule of Condition in place which assess the current status of the party wall on your neighbour’s side including photo evidence. Should a dispute arise at later date, this is a useful reference point.

Don’t Give Consent – You will need to appoint a surveyor to prepare a Party Wall Award. Ideally, this will be an Agreed Surveyor who can act for all parties concerned, or alternatively separate surveyors can be instructed. If no agreement can be reached, a third surveyor may be called in to make an award.

Don’t Respond – The same situation applies as if the Adjoining Owners had dissented (see above). In any event, all party wall surveyors have a duty to resolve matters in a fair and practical way, and without taking sides.

Contact Tim Greenwood & Associates

For any enquiries about loft conversions and party wall issues in Surrey, Sussex or London, please get in touch with our friendly, knowledgeable team who will be happy to put their substantial expertise at your disposal. Contact us today on 01737 829 070 or use the contact page here to send us a short message.