Party Walls Can Throw a Spanner in the Works for a Loft Conversion
If you are planning a loft conversion, check the party wall situation before you begin, to ensure harmony with your neighbours is maintained.
A loft conversion is a fantastic way to make the best possible use of your available space, and at the same time add value to your property. Best of all, in many circumstances, you do not even need planning permission. What could possibly go wrong?
Of course, we all know the saying about the best laid plans of mice and men, and there are all sorts of potential elephant traps for the unwary. But if you live in a terraced or semi detached property, then one thing you need to do before anything else is to take some party wall advice from an expert.
About party walls
Party walls are those which are shared by neighbouring properties – so they have your home on one side of them and your neighbour’s home on the other. Any structural work that affects party walls requires specific permission from the owners of all parties.
In the case of a loft conversion in a semi detached or terraced home, the chances are, party walls are likely to be involved, which means party wall agreements will be needed in addition to any applicable planning permission or building regulation approvals.
Specifically, you need a party wall agreement if you are planning on carrying out any of the following works:
- Cutting into a wall.
- Raising the height and/or increasing the thickness of the party wall.
- Demolishing and rebuilding the party wall.
- Underpinning the thickness of the party wall.
Staying legal with your loft
In most cases, the first item, cutting into a party wall to take the bearing of a beam, will apply for your loft conversion, which means the Party Wall Act (1996) will need to be taken into consideration.
The Act states that you must notify your neighbour or neighbours by providing them with Party Structure Notices at least two months before the work is due to begin. In essence, these notices outline what you intend to do, and give your neighbours the opportunity to consent, object or appoint their own surveyors before the work gets underway.
Issuing former notices needs to be done to keep you within the letter of the law, but you should also exercise a little common sense. In most cases, an informal conversation with your neighbours is the most sensible preliminary strategy to adopt.
Once you’ve talked through your plans with them in principle, you can then hand them the notice as a formality, and they are far more likely to give their official consent.
Dealing with problems
Nine times out of ten, your neighbour will not object and all will be well, but there is always the chance of a problem. The legal situation is that you must allow your neighbours 14 days to respond to the Notice, and if no consent is received after that time, it is assumed that they have dissented.
This does not mean you can’t proceed, but it does add an extra level of complication, as an additional survey will have to be performed to protect your neighbours’ interests.
Always have your party wall agreement in place before setting a date with a builder – a delay in the party wall agreement could force building to delayed, and this could cost you money.