Garden Offices and The Party Wall Act

Thursday, 20th August 2020 | by: Justin Burns

A recent survey found that almost three in five (59%) said that after lockdowns lift, they would like to work from home some or all of the time in their current job. The creation of a home office space is therefore going to be a priority for many people in the months ahead. If you have the luxury of a spare room that’s great but won’t be the case for most London based property owners.

One option is to extend into the loft but that expensive, in the region of £40,000 for a basic conversion, and in many cases the roof space will either already be used for accommodation or a conversion will not be viable. A better option may be an annexe at the end of the garden.

Garden offices are growing in popularity as, being a standalone unit, much of the work can be done off site making it a cost-effective option. There’s also something therapeutic about leaving the house to go to work; even if it is just a few steps down to the end of the garden. I used to know someone who claimed to drive around the block each morning before starting work as it put him in the correct frame of mind.

Working on laptop

Garden offices that are less than 2.5 metres high and used for occasionally working from home rather than the operation of a business will generally fall within an owner’s Permitted Development Rights but that’s something you should discuss either with your Architect or the building supplier.

You may think that a new building at the end of the garden would not fall within the scope of the Party wall etc. Act 1996 but that’s not always the case. As confirmed by the ‘etc.’ in the name of the Act it covers more than just work that directly affects the party wall – it also covers ‘adjacent excavation’ and new walls at the boundary.

The first point to consider is whether there are any shared or adjoining structures within 3.00m of the foundations to the proposed annexe. Structures would include garden walls and brick-built sheds but not timber fences or sheds. If there are, and the foundations to the proposed annexe are deeper than those to the shared or adjoining structure, notice under section 6 of the Act will need to be served.

Upon serving notice, the adjoining owner must either consent or appoint a surveyor. If they appoint a surveyor, you must also appoint a surveyor so that a party wall award authorising the works can be agreed and served. The owners can concur in the appointment of a single Agreed Surveyor. If the notice has not been responded to within 14 days the adjoining owner will be deemed to have dissented and must appoint a surveyor.

The other scenario in which it may be necessary to serve notice is if the external walls of the annexe are at the boundary. If so, notice will need to be served under section 1 of the Act. You could of course keep the wall back a couple of inches from the boundary to avoid serving notice but taking the work outside of the scope of the Act also removes any rights of access provided by the Act and it may be difficult to construct the building without access. I would suggest building right up to the boundary thereby maximising the internal area and gaining access. Adjoining owners are not typically concerned about buildings at the end of the garden as they pose little risk to their property.

The procedure is different with a section 1 notice in that there is no deemed dissent. If the adjoining owner has not responded to the notice within 1 month you will be free to commence your works and start dreaming of many happy hours watching the cricket on TV when you should be working.

If you require some free party wall advice in relation to your proposed garden office you’re very welcome to contact us on 020 7183 2578 or by email.

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