Can a Neighbour refuse a Party Wall Agreement?

If you want to carry out building work in an area that has shared boundaries with neighbours, there are clearly defined rules under the Party Wall etc.,Act 1996 that you will need to follow.

The most important obligation you have is to serve notice to any adjoining owner. This needs to be done well before any work commences and your neighbour will need to agree to the work being carried out. If there is a dispute or the adjoining neighbours decline to provide a written consent, a dispute is deemed to have arisen, and then a party wall surveyor will have to be engaged.

Party Wall FAQs Article

What is a Party Wall?

A party wall is a wall that stands on the land of two different Owners, to a greater extent than just a footing below ground different building owners. It is a shared structure that can either be part of a building or something like a masonry garden wall Properties like semi-detached houses are likely to have a party wall between them.

What is a Party Wall Agreement?

A party wall agreement is an legal document between two parties, where one Owner is desirous of executing rights under the Party Wall etc., Act 1996and it’s designed to lessen the potential for dispute and encourage resolution if there are objections. The Party Wall Award sets out the rights and obligations of both sets of property Owners.

According to the Party Wall etc., Act 1996, you must tell your neighbour about the work that you intend to undertake (which falls within the remit of the Party Wall etc., Act 1996) before that project is begun.

This would be the case, for example, if you were planning to build on the boundary, carry out repairs or work on an existing party structure or you wanted to carry out excavation work or digging in the general area, within specific horizontal distances from a neighbouring structure, and to a lower level than the underside of the existing footings to that structure

What are your obligations?

You must tell your neighbour what you plan to do through a formal, written party wall notice. This Notice has to include various information, for it to be a valid Notice. Whilst an ‘Owner’ desirous of carrying out works under the Party Wall Act can draft and serve a Notice themselves, some Owners may ask a Party Wall Surveyor to do so.

You do not need to inform the owner of an adjoining building if you are carrying out minor works to a party wall  such replacing electrical wires in pre – existing chases or conduits or putting up structures such as shelves.

You need to give your neighbour a minimum of 2 months' notice, in writing, before you carry out the work. You can also discuss any changes to the intended scope of Party Wall Act related works with them before this.

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Can a neighbour refuse a party wall agreement?, Harding Chartered Surveyors
Can a neighbour refuse a party wall agreement?, Harding Chartered Surveyors

Can a Neighbour refuse consent to a Party Wall Agreement?

The short answer is yes. There are a number of responses a recipient of a Party Wall Notice might have:

  • They may outright refuse to give their consent for work to be carried out. This is known as a ‘dissent.’
  • They might agree to the work and sign it off so you can get started, with those aspects of the work that fall within the remit of the Party Wall Act
  • They might consent, but subject to the instigator of the Building works funding a Schedule of Condition of the Adjoining Owner’s property. This protects both sets of Owner’s interests.
  • They may not reply, or respond to any written correspondence.
  • They might ask for changes to the work you are carrying out or even ask for additional work to be undertaken at the same time.

If you can’t agree, the dispute resolution process normally involves hiring the services of a party wall surveyor, or Surveyors (one for each Owner). Their job is to take an impartial look at the Building Owner’sproposals, and what is reasonable, having regard to how the Party Wall Act is worded

Let’s say you want to replace a stone wall with a brick wall. The adjoining building owner may well refuse consent because they think that the aesthetic appeal of a stone wall is better than a new brick wall. This is what the neighbour might think isperfectly legitimate reason to refuse consent, if they are served a Notice detailing such works. The Party Wall Surveyor(s) would resolve the matters that are in dispute between the relevant Owners, insofar as those matters relate to the Party Wall Act

Let’s say you’re repairing a stone wall. The adjoining owners may well agree to the repair but might issue a counter notice that you need to use traditional mortar that combines cement, sand and lime.

When do you need to hire a party wall surveyor?

The dispute resolution process when it comes to party walls will depend on what the disagreement is. If it simply relates to some parts of the building work or changes that can be altered, then you may be able to reach an agreement with the relevant Owners, in writing, without Party Wall Surveyors being instructed..

If there are more unresolvable differences that are likely to affect the work you want to carry out or could stop it completely, then you will need to hire the services of a Party Wall Surveyor. Just because the adjoining owner is disputing your proposal does not mean it can’t go ahead. The party wall surveyor will look at the plan independently and decide what both parties will need to abide by.

You can appoint a party wall surveyor yourself, together with the neighbour (known as an Agreed Surveyor).

You can also appoint a Surveyor on the recipient of the Notices behalf, in certain circumstances, in the event that no response is received to a Party Wall Notice, and follow up letters. It’s not unusual if there is a ‘dispute’ for both sides to hire their own wall surveyor.

The party wall award is a legal document which sets out the work that should happen, how it is carried out and when as well as how much is to be paid and who needs to pay.

What is a party wall ‘counter-notice’?

A party wall counter-notice is a written request from the neighbour to state that they would like additional or alternative work undertaken apart from what you have proposed. In most cases, your neighbour will be expected to pay for this extra work as well as potentially provide access to the party structure on their side of the property.

Party Wall Agreement Timelines

There are strict timelines when it comes to party wall agreements. You will need to inform the owner of the adjoining property at least two months before you intend to carry out the work. This needs to be done formally in writing.

Once your neighbour has received the party wall notice, they have 14 calendar days to respond. If they consent all is well and good.

If they refuse, or do not provide a formal response, then you need to hire a party wall surveyor, if you have not done so already

Your neighbour also has a month from the initial party wall notice to issue a counter notice with any additional requirements, should they be minded to do so. You have 14 days to respond to this. Again, all communication must be in writing.

What if adjoining building owners ignore your work proposal?

It may be the case that the adjoining building owner does not respond. This does NOT imply consent. In fact, according to the way in which the Party Wall Act is worded this means that your neighbour has dissented and you will need to employ the services of a party wall surveyor.

Usually, a reminder letter is issued to the Owner who has not yet replied to the initial Notice. The adjoining owners then have 10 days to respond and appoint their own surveyor, or have a Party Wall Surveyor appointed for them.

In most cases, the dispute resolution process should move relatively smoothly but it’s important to make sure that all documentation is accurately completed, and records kept of what was sent, and when

Building a good relationship with your neighbour

One way to make sure that your party wall agreement goes without a hitch is to build a good relationship with the adjoining owner(s) and consider taking into account any reasonable design changes that they may prefer. Good communication is key and it doesn’t need to be a complicated or protracted process.

Finally, when work does begin, it’s important to stick to the terms of any Party Wall agreement and Design changes, or changes in the scope of work which are executed without due notice, or discussion can give rise to expensive legal challenges.

Having a Party Wall Award in place, the contents of which are followed can be of assistance, when a property is conveyed at a later date. Thus, our advice to Owners is that Party Wall Awards are kept or filed in a safe place.