Freeholder is Developing our Roof space – Should we be Notified under the Act?

by The Party Wall Surveyor

Question

Me and my partner live in and own a flat as a leaseholder. I am on the top floor of a 2 floor building with 2 floors. The freehold was put up for sale in November with approved planning permission to add 2 flats above us in the roof space. This will involve changing and making the roof larger to accommodate. I have never been consulted as to how this would effect my flat and how the works would be carried out.

The new freeholder has sent out letters informing is that work will begin in the next two weeks, will last for 4-6 months.  They want to send a surveyor to examine our’s and the two other top floor flats ahead of the works. My reading and basic understanding of the act would be that he should issue notice under the party wall act to us as the the work will be happening adjacent to my property’s ceiling. 

In addition to this a number of other issues are yet to be addressed by the freeholder such as us having a water tank in the loft, as do other flats, access for cars around the site during works, safety of the building and surround area during works, and the safe habitation of our flat when the roof will inevitably be taken off.

Could you please advise if my understanding is correct regarding the act and a notice should be issued? And if one should and then isn’t issued what our steps would be if works were to begin?

As a further bit of background prior to the freehold being sold a different developer approached us. They said that with the roof having to come off and other works, they could not see a way the work could happen without us having to vacate the property for at least 2 months. They wanted to come to and agreement with us before any works began. Obviously this is a different entity that has brought the freehold but I don’t see how the same issues around vacating the property during works wouldn’t apply.

Answer

You need to think it terms of party structure i.e. the structure that divides your demise from the area being developed and whether it will be affected in one of the ways described in section 2(2) of the Act. Based on your description below, the party structure wall be the ceiling of your flat/floor of the roof space.

Ceiling joists are not generally strong enough for use as a floor to an occupied space so I think it’s likely that the freeholder will install a separate floor over the existing. That makes it less likely that they will have to directly affect the existing structure.

The ways that a party structure could be affected that would require notice to be served include temporarily exposing it to the elements or cutting projections away from it but this could only be determined by reviewing the construction drawings.

It’s possible that you have separate rights under the terms of your lease but that would be beyond the scope of this website.