FAQ - Building Owner (I’m the person who is having the work done)

On this page you will find helpful answers to the most frequently asked questions we encounter.
If you cannot find the answer you are looking for (and even if you have) please feel free to contact us or call 020 3503 0688

  • Do I really have to do this? Is it a legal requirement or a voluntary process?

    Yes it is a legal requirement and you must, where applicable, serve notices on all affected neighbouring properties.

  • But I have planning permission. Isn’t this enough?

    No, planning permission may only be one of several relevant permissions you require in order to carry out building work. In order to lawfully commence work in England and Wales, you may require: planning permission or a certificate of lawful development from the local authority; conservation area permission; party wall authorisation; building control notice; listed building consent and other permissions from the local authority, or other Acts of parliament and regulations governing building work in this country.

  • I do not share a party wall with my neighbour. Do I still need to serve a party wall notice?

    Let’s take a look at the full name of the Party Wall Act: “the Party Wall etc. Act 1996”. It’s the “etc.” bit we’re interested in to answer this question. The “etc.” part in the title refers to “adjacent excavation” which you will find at section 6 of the Party Wall Act. This section applies when you are digging (for any reason) within three metres of, and to a lower level than, any neighbouring foundations.

  • You mention 3 metres but I have heard of a “6 metre rule”. What is this?

    This is also found under section 6 of the Party Wall Act and is seldom encountered. The “6 metre rule” applies to exceptionally deep excavations within 6 metres of neighbouring foundations. There are many complicated explanations out there as to how the 6 metre rule applies including angles and depths and imaginary lines etc. but our simple formula is: if you are digging within 6 metres of neighbouring foundations the 6 metre rule applies if the depth of your excavation is greater than the distance between the excavation and the neighbouring foundations – simple!

  • I don’t think I am going to dig lower than my neighbour’s foundations even though I am digging within three metres. Do I need to serve notices?

    The first question I would ask is: how do you know the depth of your neighbour’s foundations? Normally the only way to know this is to dig a ‘trial hole’ to physically examine the depth of neighbouring foundations. Also you will need to bear in mind that your building control officer may require deeper foundations than those shown on your drawings as your foundation contractors may encounter tree roots and localised changes in the sub-surface geology. Ultimately, if you intend not to serve notices the onus is on you to prove that they are not necessary.

  • I’m only digging near my neighbour’s garage. Does this need a notice to be served?

    The Party Wall Act does not only apply to neighbouring houses but to any structure on your neighbour’s land. As such, garages, outhouses, conservatories, retaining walls and some sheds and summerhouses are affected under the Party Wall Act.

  • It seems as though the Party Wall Act is only beneficial to my neighbour. Is there anything in it for me?

    Absolutely! The Party Wall Act works a little differently to conventional wisdom under English law. Usually under English “common” law there is a general principal that you do not need to “disprove” anything – only “prove” things. It has been tested in court and this convention was flipped on its head in the Court of Appeal that the Building Owner needed to make repairs to neighbouring property because it couldn’t be proven whether or not the works caused the damage alleged, and the judge deemed that the reason for this lack of evidence was due to the Building Owner not serving notices before the work took place.
    Furthermore, the party wall survey (referred to as a “Schedule of Condition”) will pick up any existing defects on your neighbour’s property so that a comprehensive and independent record of your neighbour’s property exists prior to the work being undertaken, meaning you can commence work safe in the knowledge that you will not be stung by a hefty bill for damage to your neighbour’s property, which they allege was caused during your work. In addition to this, the surveyors will also feedback any observations of structural defects on your neighbour’s property so that your architect and engineer (who will not have designed the scheme with your neighbour’s property’s specific condition in mind) can look at ways of minimising the risk of further damage to neighbouring property being caused.

  • What are your fees?

    Our fees are highly competitive and we would like to provide you with a tailored quote for your work. We will at the very least match and in many cases beat any genuine like-for-like quotation you have received (please ensure that you have evidence of your independent quote). We will often operate on a fixed fee basis and even if we can’t (due to the complexity of any particular job) we will look to provide assurances by capping our fees at an agreed level. Our hourly rate represents the more cost-effective end of the surveying market.

  • Is there only an option for my neighbour to either “consent” or “dissent” to a notice under the Party Wall Act?

    Taking the black-and-white reading of the Party Wall Act, this would seem to be the case, however we offer a range of options which effectively amount to your neighbour consenting to your works but placing certain conditions on this consent, such as having a basic party wall survey first carried out, a briefer document being put in place rather than a full party wall award etc.. Please bear in mind that it is ultimately your neighbour’s choice as to the level of cover they request but you may (depending on the relationship you have with your neighbour) want to discuss other options which do not amount to simply consenting and having no protection and dissenting and having the fullest protection.

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