Can My Neighbour Refuse a Party Wall Agreement?
Estimated reading time 7 minutes
Property can be tricky at times. The buying, the selling, and once moved in, the problems. It can all build up and be tough to deal with. They don’t always remedy themselves as fast or as smoothly as you had hoped either, with some issues posing more challenges than you would have expected.
One area that often flags up disputes, questions, and neighbourhood quarrels is party walls. For some of us, a party wall is not a concern, but for those of us in terraced or semi-detached homes, there is every chance that at one stage during your time in the property, a disagreement may arise over the party wall.
So should an issue with a party wall arise, can your neighbour refuse to agree to a party wall agreement? The simple answer is yes, but there are steps you can take to ensure all you have planned can still proceed and everyone can remain happy.
What is a party wall?
A party wall is a shared wall between two properties. It is the wall that separates the two properties from one another and will be found between semi-detached and terraced houses. The term is also used for garden walls that are built along or over a boundary.
Should you wish to carry out any work where the party wall may be affected, you will need to seek out a party wall agreement.
What is a party wall agreement?
A party wall agreement comes from the Party Wall etc Act 1986, where homeowners are given the right to work on their property either on or near a party wall.
Before any work commences, it is legally required that you inform the neighbour(s) of your intention. The work that you would require their agreement on is anything that either runs either close to or on the party wall, excavates below the party wall near the foundation of their property, or at the shared property boundary.
You can present your neighbour with a party wall notice that sets out your intentions. They then have 14 days to respond. Should all be in agreement you can, together, produce the party wall agreement that shows both sides are in agreement of the work taking place.
Depending on the work you are planning to have take place, you must provide sufficient notice. For any excavation work, a month’s notice must be given, should there be any building work that could affect the party wall or boundary, you will be required to give at least two months’ notice.
From the time the party wall notice has been issued, you then have twelve months in which to have the work commence.
What does the party wall act cover?
Before you race into completing all sorts of work, there are only a few projects that require a party wall agreement, so it is important you check whether the work you are planning to do falls in this category. If you were to begin work without an agreement but it becomes apparent you need one, you could find yourself in trouble.
Common work that requires a party wall agreement would include:
- Repairs to a party wall
- Raising the height of a party wall
- Demolishing and rebuilding a party wall
- Underpinning a party wall
- Cutting into a party wall to support a steel beam
There are others and should you be unsure, contact a party wall surveyor for professional advice.
Could my neighbour refuse a party wall agreement?
If the changes happening to your property are fully legal, your neighbour cannot stop them from happening but can throw a spanner in the works that delays them getting completed when you wanted them to.
When you have drawn up your party wall notice, your neighbour has 14 days to respond. They can either agree to the work being done or object to it. In some cases, an objection stems from the belief that planning permission should be required for the work. If this is the case, the objecting party may approach the local council to see what should happen.
When a party wall agreement is refused consent by your neighbour, you enter a stage known as dissenting and this is where things may get a little more complex. If they have simply not replied to your party wall notice or do not reply within the set time frames, you have the right to request that your neighbour appoints a surveyor within 10 days and that if they won’t, you will.
Another option is a counter-notice. Rather than agree or refuse to the party wall agreement, your neighbour could provide notice that requests additional work be undertaken at the same time. They have 14 days to refuse or agree to the party wall notice and one month to submit their counter-notice. This notice then must be responded to in 14 days.
If after these steps there is no agreement between the parties, you enter the resolution process. It is important to understand that no work should begin until this stage is resolved.
Issuing a party wall award
With a dispute now in progress, each party must appoint a party wall surveyor to assess the situation. You can share surveyors for both sides, but each party is perfectly entitled to appoint their own.
Should it be that each party has chosen its own surveyor, the two working surveyors will be required to nominate a third surveyor if no mutual agreement is reached. With all the evidence and documentation provided, this third solicitor can provide the party wall award that acts as a fully legal document outlining all the work due to be carried out, when it will happen, who is responsible for its costs and who is covering the surveyor’s fees.
A party wall award can be granted by one, two or three surveyors but it all depends on the progress of the dispute. Should both parties have agreed to share the same surveyor, they will draw up the party wall award upon reviewing the dispute and the plans. Should separate surveyors have been appointed, they will work alongside both parties to create a mutual agreement that sees a party wall award drawn up. And as mentioned above, a third surveyor becomes involved should no agreement have been reached between the parties two separate surveyors.
Disputing the party wall award
Once the party wall award is granted, there is still the chance for further dispute. As long as the process is started within 14 days of its issuing, the party disputing the result of the party wall award can lodge an appeal with a county court. The court will then review the award and either make changes, issue a new one or make alternative decisions relating to how the costs are covered.
Resolution and final party wall award
Once the final party wall award is in place, either via the courts or through the initial dispute process, you must provide your neighbour with 14 days’ notice before any work begins. This work must make sure that no “unnecessary inconvenience” is caused to the neighbour and that no damage is caused to the property or land they own. If damage does occur, you become liable for the charges associated with repairing it.
Sometimes, the easiest solution is the best, with that in mind, if your neighbour refuses your party wall notice, it can often be best to talk to them, find out their concerns and see if there is a mutual agreement you can settle on. In some cases, this could mean them spotting an opportunity for some work on their side of the party wall and combined, this could save you both money.
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