When should your love your neighbour? Peter French discusses

Written by Peter French.

When we live in close proximity to our neighbours it can only be for the best that we get on with each other. This is particularly relevant when undertaking building works in the form of extensions or alterations to our property. Common courtesy suggests that you would normally notify neighbours of impending works that might affect them. If planning permission is required public notices can also inform. However, there are circumstances where you are legally obliged to notify adjoining owners of the intention to undertake building works. The legislation that applies is The Party Wall etc. Act 1996. This became law in July 1997; it previously applied inLondononly in the form of The London Building Acts. So the legislation whilst relatively new toEngland and Wales has a proven usage inLondonfor many decades before.

The Act covers various works to or close to Party Walls (and Party Fence Walls), any new building structure at or astride the boundary between properties or excavations within 3 metres or 6 metres of the neighbouring property depending on depths and type of foundation to the new build and those of the adjacent owner.

The Act sets out the process that should be followed. Carried out properly and in good time, and with the cooperation of adjoining owners, the legislation can be complied with easily and cheaply. Processes required where the issues are more complex are clearly defined in the Act. This can result in a single Party Wall Surveyor acting on behalf of both property owners called the Agreed Surveyor. Alternatively each owner of a Party Wall can appoint their own surveyor, but in the event of any dispute that the two surveyors cannot agree on, a Third Surveyor will resolve,  although this is rare as Party Wall surveyors share a common ground regarding the dispute resolution process.  It should be borne in mind that the property owner undertaking the works is commonly responsible for all reasonable fees incurred by both property owners appointed surveyors. Hence it is very important  to involve neighbours at an early stage, seeking their agreement  and understanding any anxieties they may have. This can save both time and considerable sums of money in avoiding the disputed situation arising.

The legislation not only protects property owners from both inconsiderate neighbours, who undertake work without consultation, but also protects and permits property owners who wish to undertake works which are reasonable where adjoining owners potentially may not cooperate.

Peter French is managing director at Canham Consulting on 01603 430650. Email him at peterfrench@canhamconsulting.co.uk

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