Writing as the owner of a surveying practice that undertakes a large volume of party wall work I have to say I’m happy that not all party wall notices are consented to but it does concern me how poorly the Act is understood by the general public and how many unnecessary party wall disputes arise as a result of that poor understanding.
If you are a building owner considering undertaking works that fall within the scope of the Act following these 5 steps should greatly increase the chances of obtaining a consent when party wall notice(s) are served.
Party wall notices, compete with cover letter, acknowledgment forms and drawings can look very official and may be daunting to the average homeowner if they arrive out of the blue. If your proposed work is covered by permitted development your neighbours will not even have been forewarned by the planning office.
To help smooth the way I would recommend that you make them aware as soon as the first set of drawings are available or even earlier. Call to see them personally and talk them through the proposals.
If your neighbours have concerns and you would like to try and alleviate those concerns or even amend your plans slightly to allay them it’s best that those discussions takes place as early as possible.
A typical concern is the risk to small children or animals during the works – to overcome this your could have your Architect produce an additional drawing showing the location and design of a hoarding that will go up in advance of the boundary fence coming down.
You might even consider amending the design of your extension slightly if it guarantees a consent when notices are served – there may be an element of the design which really bugs your neighbour but which you do not consider critical; the key to any successful negotiation.
Every day we receive calls from building owners that are gearing up to commence work the following week but have either not yet served notices or have served and just been notified of a dissent.
Nobody likes to be rushed when making important decisions so if the notices are served late there’s a good chance that your neighbour will seek advice from, and ultimately appoint, a surveyor; particularly as you will be responsible for their surveyor’s reasonable fees.
It is possible to serve a valid Party Structure Notice without any drawings attached but I would not recommend it – if you’re asking your neighbour to consent to some works it is important that they understand the details of those works and the potential effect on their property.
Don’t include a complete set of drawings (they don’t need to know your electrical layout!) but select those that show the works covered by the Act and ideally include a plan that shows at least some of the adjoining property.
It may be that all your neighbour wants is the condition of their property recorded prior to any works commencing so that any damage can be easily identified, but they may not realise that they can make their consent conditional upon you arranging and paying for a schedule to be prepared by a surveyor.
The combined fees of two appointed surveyors are likely to be approx. 5 times greater than the cost of a standalone schedule of condition so this is something that you may wish to offer. An accurate schedule will protect both owners in case of damage being reported.
There are of course some owners who will never consent to a party wall notice, mainly because the fees are paid by the building owner, but there are also many unnecessary party wall awards produced when a consent could have been secured with a bit of forward planning and consideration.