I am planning a Loft Extension, with my Neighbours looking to extend their Kitchen at a Later Date: What are the Implications under the Party Wall Act ?

by The Party Wall Surveyor

Question

I live in a terrace house and was planning on commencing work on a loft conversion in the next 3-4 weeks so have asked my neighbours to sign a party wall agreement.  One of neighbours as refused to sign this. He has not stated any issue with the actual work I plan to carry out, but has told me he wants to extend his kitchen flush up to our adjoining garden will which would require me to sign his party wall agreement.

He has told me I now have to wait for him to get plans drawn up, find a builder etc so we can sign each others party wall agreements at the same time as he is concerned I will not agree to his work.  From my perspective i think he is not using the act in the intended manor and basically blackmailing me into agreeing to his work (which ironically i wasn’t too happy about but was going to agree for the sake of relations).

I have tried all the nice approaches to reason with him but he is not budging and happy for it to go to dispute – which i understand will almost certainly go in my favour as the work really has no impact on him in the slightest.  However obviously this means additional expense to me and delay to the work.  My only regret is that i mentioned a month ago that the work would commence in mid October – as he made no objections at that point i didn’t ask him to sign as i didn’t anticipate an issue (but obviously he has changed his tune a little now)

Do you have any idea of the time/cost if I start getting surveyors involved?  Could you also advise me on the realistic repercussions if I start the work without his consent?

Answer

When you say ‘signing an agreement’ I assume that you are referring to an acknowledgement to a party wall notice. If your loft works involve cutting into the party wall you are required to serve a Party Structure Notice – upon receipt of that notice your neighbour can either confirm his consent in writing or dissent and invoke the Act’s dispute resolution procedures. Those procedures would require you each to appoint a surveyor.

None of this would prevent your work from going ahead but as you say it would delay matters (the statutory notice period is 2 months) and cause you to incur additional costs.

Regarding fees, I don’t know which part of the country you are in but the average hourly rate for a party wall surveyor in the London area is around £120 plus VAT. If your neighbour is intent on delaying matters he will insist that you each appoint separate surveyors (as opposed to an ‘Agreed’ surveyor). Your surveyors fee is likely to be somewhere between £600 and £800 plus VAT and your neighbour’s surveyor’s fee (for which you would be responsible) a little higher.

There are no penalties for ignoring the act but you run the risk that your neighbour will obtain an injunction to stop the works; which would be costly and delay your works further. You would also be in a weak position if damage was to occur and you had not followed the proper procedures.

It appears to be costs rather than consents which are at the root of the problem. Your neighbour is concerned that having consented to your works you will dissent to his and incur him additional costs – he must realise that if he dissents to your notice you are more likely to do the same when his arrives.