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Avoiding party wall aggro

There is nothing like an adjoining
building project for encouraging conflict between neighbours 

Some of this potential aggro can be removed if a Party Wall Agreement is in place.

A Party Wall Agreement is designed to take much of the uncertainty and factual differences out of the arena, and ought in most circumstances to ensure that disputes do not arise.

There are a number of issues which can worry a house or flat owner when neighbours initiate building work, including structural stability, intrusions over the boundary lines, garden walls and (possibly) trees.

A Party Wall Agreement may also be drawn up whenever a neighbour proposes excavation development within 3 metres (about 10 feet) of the common boundary.  In some cases where deep excavations are proposed, this can extend to 6 metres.

The initiator of all work covered by the Acts concerned has an obligation to serve a Notice on his neighbours, and if no such Notice is given it can be demanded.  If work actually starts without one, then an injunction can be obtained to halt work until the correct procedures are followed.  An Agreement is itself not obligatory, if both parties agree it is not needed, but only then.

The Agreement, or Award, is drawn up by party wall surveyors.  Each party appoints their own independent surveyor (who can also be an architect or engineer) who will draw up the documents; the two surveyors will then come to an agreement, which is legally binding. Sometimes a single surveyor can be jointly appointed, but unless work is clearly uncontentious, this is not recommended.

The appointment of a professional, who has experience of party wall matters, is recommended.

The documents will usually establish the condition of each property before work starts, so as to avoid arguments later if cracks or other defects occur. Drawings and specifications are usually attached, and in many cases structural calculations are required.

There will also be conditions on when and how work can proceed, i.e. on working hours, noise, intrusion, clearance of rubbish etc. If work has necessarily to extend over the boundary, for example for access or scaffolding, then conditions for this are established.  An adjoining owner has some degree of right to this, but it must be established as necessary (not just economical).

It is important to know that all costs of a Party Wall Agreement should be paid entirely by the developing site owner.

Party Wall Agreements are separate from the provisions and requirements of Planning Permissions and Building Regulations.