Planning permission not the only hurdle for extending home

Anna Tobin
BB3XB7 New pitched roof being built to replace flat roof
BB3XB7 New pitched roof being built to replace flat roof

In recent years it has become much easier to extend your home. With Permitted Development Rights, planning permission doesn't always need to be sought and this has led to many more homeowners looking at extending their homes.

This doesn't mean that there aren't other hurdles to cross, however.

The millions of home owners who live in a semi-detached or terraced property with shared walls may need to reach a Party Wall Agreement with their neighbours prior to building. The wall or walls that you share with your neighbours are Party walls.

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The Party Wall Act

The Party Wall Act was created to minimise disputes between neighbours concerning shared walls and building work being undertaken in close proximity to a neighbouring property. It sets out steps for homeowners to allow them to carry out their work, whilst protecting the interests of their neighbours. The homeowner planning the work has to first of all notify their neighbours at least two months in advance of any proposed work they plan to carry out, this is often done via their designated Party Wall surveyor. Find a Party Wall surveyor in your area.

If the neighbour is happy with the proposal then the work can go ahead as planned once you have received written agreement from them. If the neighbour expresses cause for concern and doesn't agree to the proposal then the Party Wall Act states that both parties must appoint an agreed surveyor who must act impartially to decide what will work best for the Party Wall in question.

Your neighbours can also decide to employ their own surveyor, the reasonable costs of which you will have to pay.

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The Party Wall Award

The surveyor or surveyors will then need to draw up a Party Wall Award. This will specify the work that is due to be done and state the current condition of the parts of the neighbouring property that could be impacted by the works.

The building owner who is doing the work generally covers these costs. If the two surveyors can't agree on the terms of the Award, it can be passed to a third surveyor to decide. Although rare, If either party still is unhappy with the terms of the Award they may have cause to appeal it at the County Court.

If your neighbour is compliant, the cost of the Party Wall Award should not amount to more than a few hundred pounds. If a dispute occurs it can run into thousands.

Further information on the Party Wall Act can be found on the government website here.

Scotland and Northern Ireland

Party Wall legislation doesn't apply to Scotland or Northern Ireland, anyone building in these areas concerned about work on a party wall may want to seek the advice of a surveyor before starting work.

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