We wish to undertake a Loft Extension. What initial steps do I need to take under the Party Wall Act?

by The Party Wall Surveyor

Question

I have bought a semi-detached Victorian house which needs some refurbishment work done to it and I would like to add a loft room. Therefore to do this I will need to put steels into the party wall and it is my understanding that I need to inform my neighbour that this is happening by sending them a party wall agreement letter. I also printed out the party wall agreement for him so that he could read up on it himself. I have also shown him the plans so that he is aware of the work that is to be done. Unfortunately he does not want us to build the loft room and therefore has objected to the council, however we pursued this under permitted development and got permission to build it.

Apart from the loft I still need a party wall agreement for a steel that we need to put into the ground floor as the previous owner has put in a very strange brick wall which I want to take out and replace with a steel. So basically I need to find out how to progress the situation because the neighbour has not signed the party wall agreement and I believe that I need him to do this for the steel on the ground floor let alone the loft. Could you please advise how I should progress this. i.e. What happens if he just totally refuses to sign the agreement? Can I still carry on the works? Can he stop the works taking place because he has not signed the letter?

I have offered the service of appointing a party wall surveyor but as of today he has not agreed to this either. We have not fallen out with the neighbours so it is possible for me to contact them. In fact I have just written him a note – as he was not in to remind him about the agreement as we only just got permission to build last week. I should also point out that my house is currently empty so I cannot just pop in to talk to them. Also I have made the assumption that if I get a Party Wall Agreement that this will cover both the downstairs and the loft as it would be an agreement for the whole wall.

Answer

When you refer to an ‘agreement’ I’m assuming that you mean either a Party Wall Notice or an Acknowledgement to a Notice.

The first step is to serve a notice on your neighbour – he will then have 14 days in which to consent; this is done by completing the notice acknowledgment to that affect, signing it and returning it to you. Alternatively, he may choose to dissent to the notice, either by stating so on the acknowledgement or by not replying at all – if he chooses to dissent he must appoint a surveyor and so must you. You can both appoint the same surveyor who would then take on the role of ‘Agreed Surveyor’ but that can only happen if your neighbour agrees.

By dissenting to the notice your neighbour will not stop the work but it will mean that a dispute has arisen which must be resolved by way of a Party Wall Award.

If your neighbour hasn’t replied to your notice after 14 days you must write to him confirming that he is now deemed to have dissented and must appoint a surveyor. If he does not appoint a surveyor within a further 10 days you will have to do that on his behalf.

You should include both the steels for the loft and the ground floor on the same notice. Be careful that the notice is correctly drafted as if it turns out to be invalid you will have to start the process over. If you are sure that he is going to dissent you would be better to get a surveyor to prepare the notice on your behalf. 

Follow-up

To clarify the Agreement that I was referring to was actually a Party Wall Notice and a letter of acknowledgement for them to sign to either consent or dispute.

The description for the Party wall notice was:

‘The proposed works are a loft extension and removal of internal walls’

Hopefully this will be a good enough description for the notice to be valid. I used the letters that you can download from the RICS website as the basis of the Notice and letter of acknowledgement.

Answer

The description is a little broad but should not affect the validity of the notice. The only part of the works that is actually notifiable is cutting the pockets in to the party wall so that the beams can be inserted.