While Planning Permission is seen as the main legal obstacle to extensions and renovations, the Party Wall Act 1996 is also crucial.
Party walls are shared by two or more “adjoining owners”. Properties can have one or many party walls. For example, a semi-detached house will often have a party wall with a neighbour on one side, a mid-terrace on two sides. Flat owners often have multiple party walls.
Party walls also apply to walls built between gardens and other parts of a property, but these are not always joint-owned and don’t always qualify as party walls. To qualify as a party wall under the Act, the boundary must fall in the middle of the wall, not to one side.
When you wish to carry out works to or near a party wall, you’ll need to serve a Party Wall Notice. You need written consent of the adjoining owners before carrying out works – failure to do so is a civil offence, at least.
If you cannot obtain a Party Wall Agreement, you’ll need to rope in a chartered surveyor to conduct a full assessment. They will then serve a formally drafted Party Wall Notice that provides a path towards a Party Wall Award, which permits the proposed works.
This article will review the costs involved in a party wall agreement, factors that affect the cost, plus other common questions surrounding party wall agreements.
Party Wall Agreement Costs in the UK
There are a few possible scenarios here:
- Surveyor inspects wall(s) and creates a formal Party Wall Notice (minimum expected)
- If the neighbour(s) agree, the surveyor can create a schedule of conditions (generally recommended anyway)
- If they dissent, an Award will be required
- The Adjoining Owner(s) agree to use the same surveyor as you, who inspects both walls
- The Adjoining Owner(s) want to use different surveyors
- In rare situations, a third surveyor is required to adjudicate between two surveyors that can’t agree
If the neighbours (the Adjoining Owners) agree, you’ll only need to pay for the Party Wall Notice. Schedules of condition are optional, but recommended.
Of course, if you know your neighbours very well, then schedules may not be required – but don’t rule out the possibility of something going wrong!
If the neighbours don’t agree, the Award comes into play.
Prices exclude VAT. Here are the respective costs for the main scenarios:
|Party wall surveyor (per hour)||£150 - £250|
|Inspect drawings and serve notice||£100 - £200 (per neighbour)|
|Inspect property & prepare schedule of condition||£400 - £600 (per neighbour)|
|Party wall agreement||£400 - £600 (per neighbour)|
|Total Project Cost|
|Loft Conversion||£900 - £2000+|
|House Extension||£1200 - £2500+|
|New Build||£1500 - £3000+|
|Basement||£1800 - £4500+|
The ideal scenario is approaching neighbours with a notice and receiving permission.
It’s highly recommended that the surveyor draws up a schedule of condition to document the properties involved, even if you get on with your neighbour.
Party Wall Surveyor Cost
A surveyor will typically charge between £150 – £250 per hour for their time, but it can range anywhere from £90 – £450 per hour.
This will normally be less than 3 hours, but depending on certain factors, a surveyor will need more time.
Factors Affecting The Cost of a Party Wall Surveyor
There are many factors affecting the cost of a party wall surveyor, including:
- Size of the property and complexity of the job
- The quality of any architectural designs already in hand
- Number of Adjoining Owners
- The risk to Adjoining Owners’ properties
- Whether the Adjoining Owners agree or dissent
Most party wall surveyors charge by the hour, and each project will vary in length. The more complex the project, the more expensive it’ll be. Some also charge per the project, offering transparent all-in-one fees for a range of projects.
What Work Involves Party Walls?
Many loft conversions, extensions and renovation projects involve party walls, unless you live in a detached house.
In a semi-detached home, party walls likely border the property beside you (but not usually the garage side, if connected there too). You might have two or more party walls in a flat or terraced home.
Here is a list of common projects that often involve party walls:
- Adding, removing or changing chimney breasts on party walls
- Any excavation work taking place within 6m of the party wall, where that work intersects with a 45-degree angle to the neighbour’s foundation
- Any excavation work within 3m of the party wall, going deeper than the neighbour’s foundations.
- Any work that involves cutting into the party wall (e.g. inserting some forms of insulation)
- Demolishing the wall
- Extensions placed on party walls, or involving excavation of those walls
- Many loft conversions, if there’s work to the party wall between houses or flats
- Work involving ‘party structures’, which includes floors and ceilings
- Work to some garden walls (usually only brick or concrete walls)
- Work to the adjoining walls between semi-detached and terraced houses
Not all works involve the act. There’s no problem if you want to:
- Perform small alterations to the wall that don’t involve cutting into the wall
- Make alterations to walls on your boundary (including garden walls)
- Conduct works to temporary fences between properties
Making Sense Of The Party Wall Act
The Party Wall Act is a tricky one. It’s not designed to prevent development. In fact, it’s designed to mediate a path towards successful development while reducing risk for all owners of the party wall. After all, all adjoining owners have a right to the wall.
The Party Wall Act applies terms to both the Adjoining Owner and Building Owner, which are the two key parties involved in the act.
The Building Owner is the individual that wants to undertake work to the party wall, whether that be an extension, loft conversion, renovation work or something else.
Leaseholders and tenants will have restricted covenants to take into account, too – being the Building Owner doesn’t guarantee you the right to work on the party wall, and you might need to seek permission from the freeholder or landlord first.
The Adjoining Owners are those who also own the party walls. However, these are a little harder to define. There are at least three ways to be considered an Adjoining Owner:
- Someone receiving profits from the property or land, i.e. the original freeholder or possibly a leaseholder. So, if you want to undertake
- Someone who possesses the land, including leaseholders and freeholders. However, this doesn’t include people on an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST), the most common type of short-term tenancy in the UK. In the case of leasehold, the lease agreement must be longer than one year.
- Someone in contract to buy an adjoining property, whether leasehold or freehold.
In some situations, tracking down the Adjoining Owners is tough. To complicate things further, non-receipt of the Party Wall Notice or non-response within 14-days is deemed “dissent”, meaning you’ll have to seek an Award.
Party Wall Notices, Agreements and Awards
There are three key terms to be aware of when dealing with party walls:
- Party Wall Notices
- Party Wall Agreements
- Party Wall Awards
Party Wall Notices
Party Wall Notices are provided by the Building Owner to the Adjoining Owners.
A Party Wall Notice is a written document that explains the work planned, whether cooperation is needed, any risks, access requirements, etc. These must be typically served at least 2-months before the work is planned (in the case of a Section 3 notice – more on that shortly).
While there’s no legal format for a Party Wall Notice, these should be drafted by a surveyor. Planning serious works to a party wall without a proper survey and formally drafted notice is probably a waste of time.
There are three kinds of Party Wall Notices:
- Section 1 Line of Junction Notice: Involves new constructions to adjoining lines of junction. Normally only apply when someone wants to build a wall on a shared boundary, most likely in the garden. Requires a 1-month notice period.
- Section 3 Party Structure Notice: The most common notice, involving works on the party walls. Requires a 2-month notice period.
- Section 6 Adjacent Excavation Notice: A less common notice that is only relevant when the Building Owner wishes to excavate near the Adjoining Owner’s walls or foundations. Requires a 1-month notice period.
The vast, vast majority of notices are Section 3 notices.
Party Wall Agreement
Once a notice is submitted, the Adjoining Owners have 14-days to agree to the works or provide a written objection.
A Party Wall Agreement is written permission for you to carry out the works. They may also serve a counter-notice which requests you carry out work that benefits them in the process (they will have to pay for it).
If they fail to reply in 14-days or disagree with the works, this is called dissent. In this scenario, you can change the plans to reach an agreement, or seek a Party Wall Award.
Prior to carrying out works, it’s usually essential to ask a surveyor to produce an official schedule of condition for both sides of the wall(s). This documents the walls before work occurs, ensuring an official record of the wall (e.g. any cracks). This helps avoid disputes during or after the work.
Party Wall Award
If the Adjoining Owners fail to reply or dissent, A Party Wall Award involves an official survey of the works by a Party Wall surveyor.
In this situation, the Building Owner will appoint a surveyor. However, the Adjoining Owner can request their own surveyor, which the Building Owner will have to pay for! This is obviously worth avoiding at all costs.
The Party Wall Award will form a legal pathway towards work, also setting out the requirements of the neighbour(s) to cooperate, risk mitigation, etc.
It’s worth noting that Party Wall Awards can be issued even when the Adjoining Owners are totally unresponsive. Once served, the Adjoining Owner has 14-days to appeal.
Finding a Party Wall Surveyor
Party wall surveyors play a statutory role in mediating the party wall process and providing a path towards agreement. It’s highly recommended that one chooses a RICS surveyor to inspect the wall(s), provide a schedule of condition, and mediate an Award if it’s required.
Some architects and building firms will work with surveyors and may even provide one as part of their service.
Get Prices on Party Wall Agreement Near You
We’ve done our best to give you a good idea of what you can expect to pay for a party wall agreement.
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To Sum Up
The Party Wall Act inevitably interacts with many extensions and home improvement projects. If you live in a semi-detached or terraced home, or a flat or apartment of any kind, then works to your property may involve the Act.
With any luck, your neighbours will readily agree to your proposed works. Even if this is the case, it’s still wise to produce a schedule of conditions, which documents the state of the party wall before work.
If your neighbours don’t reply or dissent, you’ll need to obtain a Party Wall Award. This can be quick and easy or very long-winded. The average costs of a Party Wall Award vary from a few hundred to £5,000 and above.