If you are contemplating carrying out a loft conversion in your home, and you live in either a terraced or semi-detached property, any proposed works are likely to be covered by the provisions of the Party Wall etc. Act 1996.

The following guide will help you to obtain the correct permissions to carry out your building works under these legislative provisions and, as such, help you to avoid falling foul of the law – and falling out with your neighbours!

What does the Party Wall Act say?

The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 provides a framework for preventing and resolving disputes in relation to party walls, boundary walls and excavations near neighbouring buildings in England and Wales.

A party wall stands on the land of two or more owners and is a shared wall that forms part of a building. You can also have what’s known as a party structure, ie; a floor or other structure that separates buildings or parts of buildings with different owners, for example, flats.

Any building owner proposing to start work to a party wall or party structure covered by the Act is required to give adjoining owners notice of their intentions in the manner prescribed by statute.

Adjoining owners can either agree or disagree with what is being proposed. Where they disagree, the Party Wall Act also provides a formal mechanism for resolving any disputes.

When do I need to obtain permission for Party Wall Act works?

Your neighbours cannot stop you from making changes to your property that are within the law, but they can affect how and when your works are carried out.

Though you do not need to inform your neighbours about any minor changes, such as plastering or replacing electrical wiring or sockets, if you are planning to carry out building work to an existing party wall or party structure, you will be required to let them know about the proposed works.

Examples of the type of work covered by the Party Wall Act in the context of a loft conversion include making the wall deeper, cutting into a party wall, removing chimneys from the wall, knocking down and rebuilding a party wall, or even the installation of a new floor.

Before this type of building work can start, you will either need a written Party Wall Agreement from all affected adjoining owners or, alternatively, a surveyor will need to be appointed to prepare what’s known as a Party Wall Award. This is a document outlining how the works are to progress.

How do I serve a Party Wall Act notice about any proposed works?

Prior to carrying out any works to a party wall or party structure, you will need to serve what’s known as a Party Structure notice on all affected adjoining owners, in writing, about the planned works.

There are various templates available online although there is no prescribed format for party wall notices. That said, the following information must be included as an absolute minimum:

  • Your name and address

  • The address of the property where the work will take place

  • The name and address of the adjoining owner(s)

  • A description of the proposed work

  • The date on which the work will commence.

The notice must provide any affected neighbours with two months written notice of the proposed building works. Once notice has been served, you will have up to one year to start work.

How long have my neighbours got to respond to my Party Wall Act notice?

Any adjoining neighbour served with a Party Wall Act notice will have fourteen days to respond, either agreeing in writing to the works, serving a counter notice requesting additional works be done at the same time, although they will have to pay for these if they benefit from them, or refusing consent.

If agreement cannot be reached, or if your neighbour simply fails to respond within the given timeframe, this will start the dispute resolution process. This will require you to appoint a surveyor on a joint basis, or for you each to appoint your own. The surveyor(s) will then draw up a Party Wall Award. 

This is a legal document that sets out what work should happen, how and when it will be carried out, who will pay for which part, and how much will be paid, including surveyor’s fees. 

However, the best possible way to avoid this type of dispute from arising in the  first place is to enter into early informal discussions with your neighbour(s), prior to even serving any notice, so as to keep them on side and fully informed..

Legal disclaimer

The matters contained herein are intended to be for general information purposes only. This blog does not constitute legal, financial, or other expert professional advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law and should not be treated as such.

Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.