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Leaseholders and The Party Wall Act

Wednesday, 21st July 2010 | by: Peter Barry

Complying with the Party Wall Act can get really expensive if the adjoining properties are converted flats.

Take this typical example – an owner of a mid-terrace house adding a full width single storey extension to their property. The properties on either side have been converted in to 3 flats and the Freeholder is a property investment company. It is likely that 16 Party Wall notices will be required for 8 adjoining owners. If every owner were to go out and appoint their owner surveyor there would be a total of nine surveyors involved and a total bill for surveyor’s fees of anything up to £15,000.

Thankfully that is a worst case scenario but it does highlight the need for your surveyor to properly manage the process. Let’s look at a few possible scenarios and the most suitable approach.

Before serving notice you should obtain the full details of all the adjoining owners from the Land Registry website. If you are fortunate each of the affected leaseholders will own a share of the Freehold – as each owner only requires one notice you need only serve on the Freeholder in that scenario.

If there is a separate Freeholder then you will need to establish which of the leaseholders require a notice. If your proposals involve excavation work then you should include any leaseholder that has an interest in the part of the structure that your excavation is adjacent to. If you are doing work to the party wall, such as cutting pockets in to it to insert beams, you will need to notify only those leaseholders whose properties line up with yours.

Once you have established which owners are due a notice I would recommend putting their details to one side and serving only on the Freeholder. Freeholders rarely consent so it is likely that surveyors will be appointed and an award prepared. As part of the process schedules of condition will be prepared covering the flats of the affected leaseholders. This demonstrates to the leaseholders that their flats are being considered in the Freeholder’s award and should increase the chances of a consent when the notice is served. It would also help to keep the costs down if the leaseholders were to appoint the same surveyor as the freeholder so you should put that option forward in the cover letter to the notice.

Sometimes the situation arises where the leaseholder of a flat wants to extend to the rear of their property or in to the roof space. Notice can also be due to other owners in the same building; be they leaseholders or the Freeholder. Any significant work is also likely to require a license to alter from the Freeholder so a sensible approach would be to go with one or the other. I would recommend that the safeguards be put in place as a condition of granting of the license but it be issued with deemed consent under the Party Wall Act. The other leaseholders will also be more likely to consent if they are reassured by the fact that the work is being carried out under license.

As with all party wall matters the chances of a successful outcome are greatly increased with good communication – if you stick a notice through your neighbour’s door addressed to ‘The Owner’ (which would be invalid anyway) don’t be surprised if their first reaction is to Google ‘Party Wall Surveyors’.