Ensuring your party wall notice is valid
The rules and building regulations around party walls are very important when it comes to renovation projects. Making significant changes to a party wall, which is any significant built structure lying on the boundary between one property and the next, can have a real impact on your building’s fabric – and that means you need to make any changes using the correct process. This blog post will explore why it is so important that a party wall notice is served in the correct way – and how to go about doing it.
What is a party wall?
Before delving into the issue of whether or not a party wall notice is valid, it is prudent to first clarify exactly what a party wall is. The term “party wall” refers to a variety of constructions which lie in the boundaries of two properties. Walls which separate the land of two different owners can be party walls whether they are connected to a building or whether they simply separate two gardens – although it’s worth pointing out that wooden fences are not included in this definition.
Issuing a notice
If you are planning to have some building work done around a property you own, you might be under the impression that you can simply go ahead and do whatever work you please. But that’s not always the case, and many sorts of work require the issuing of a proper party wall notice. Even some types of work being done around a party wall – even if not actually to it – can count: building work which affects the actual boundary or pre-existing structures obviously counts, but digging close to the foundations of your neighbour’s building for a new construction may also require a party wall notice.
According to the British government, it’s essential to provide notice of your works to your neighbour (or, in the case of properties which are not owner-occupied, the neighbouring owner). You have to give them a period of time between two months and one year, so it pays to get organised in advance.
Checking that it’s valid
Your neighbour is under no obligation to agree to the request, and if they don’t, a surveyor may need to be involved in order to assess the situation and then make what is known as a “party wall award” which dictates what happens next.
But you can increase the chances of a successful building process by educating yourself on what makes a party wall notice valid – and what can impact its validity. There is a wide range of case law on this, which is useful as it helps you to navigate the complex world of regulations.
First off, the case of Hobbs vs. Hart & Grover confirms that the notice has to be clear. Not only that, but the notice also has to have enough clarity for your neighbour to comprehend what you are planning to do. Following this, things can get a little more complex. A person wishing to verify the validity of a party wall notice may then choose to compare its provisions to those laid out by the Party Wall Act of 1996.
Depending on the type of notice being issued, the requirements might change. The Act specifies, for example, that some types of notice require you to list names and addresses of some of the participants in the discussion. Other types, however, do not. This is where professionals who are highly experienced in the world of party wall notices can help, as they can ensure that you issue your notice correctly and do not put your project at risk with an invalid notice.
What about adjoining owners?
On the face of it, obligations with respect to party wall notices may seem like things that are the sole responsibility and obligation of the owner of the original property (the person issuing the claim). But this is not true, and it is in fact the case that those who receive party wall notices – or, in other words, the neighbours – also have some obligations in practice.
If a person receives a party wall notice from a neighbour, their actions at that stage can later be used against them due to a legal concept known as estoppel. This means that if the neighbour behaves in a way that suggests that the party wall notice from the original neighbour was valid then they may actually be making it valid – perhaps if they object improperly, or do it too late. So even if you have received a party wall notice, you could still cause problems for yourself – and it’s best to hire a firm offering party wall services London so that you don’t fall into this trap.
Working with professionals
In theory, party wall notices can be issued by private individuals. There has been something of a trend towards doing this in recent years thanks to the rise of the Internet as there is a myriad of different templates available to pick from.
But the validity issue means that working from a template can leave you exposed to liability if you get it wrong. An error as small as omitting a name, or an element of your plans which seems insignificant to you but which is important to your neighbours, could make your notice invalid and set you back in terms of both time and money. By using party wall surveyors London, you can ensure that everything goes smoothly – and that your project has the best chance of completing as planned.
Ultimately, making changes to a party wall is not something to take lightly. The process is quite rightly regulated to ensure that only responsible changes to these walls can be carried out – and that’s why the serving of the correct notice is so important. But by engaging the services of a professional, you can ensure that all notices pertaining to changes to a party wall are issued correctly and without any room for error. Contact us today to see how we can help.