A Quick Guide on Party Wall Agreements – What are they? Do I need one?

Before starting any renovation that touches your party wall or any adjoining structure, you are legally obliged to let your neighbour know about your project and obtain their consent, and reach a party wall agreement.

But what if your neighbour has an issue with your renovation and you become “in dispute”? Appointing a party wall surveyor will be your next port of call: they will help you reach and sign a party wall agreement.

If you’re wondering what a party wall surveyor does, when a party wall surveyor gets involved or what even is a party wall agreement, then read our guide for answers including when to hire a surveyor and how much they cost.

what does a party wall surveyor do?

What is a party wall agreement?

A party wall agreement is a legal agreement between you and a neighbour with whom you share a wall that stands on both your lands (either forming part of your house or as a garden wall), regarding potential building works you are planning that affect that wall.

There is no official form for party wall agreements, but typically they include:

  • a description of the work to be carried out

  • how and when it will be carried out

  • an identification of any potential protection needed to prevent damage

  • an agreement on conditions

  • and an agreement on access to the neighbour property if needed.

Although it’s always best to discuss with your neighbour in person, an agreement should always be in writing in avoid later disputes.

What does a party wall surveyor do?

A party wall surveyor is here to help you reach an agreement with your neighbour in case you struggle to reach an agreement on your own. The party wall surveyor should act impartially and serve both parties. Once a party wall agreement has been reached, the surveyor(s) will write a so-called “award”, which is a legally binding document. Similar to a simple agreement, the award will include :

  • What work should be done 

  • The manner and timescale of the project

  • And who will pay for what 

There are no required qualifications to become a party wall surveyor but usually they tend to have a good working knowledge of the Party Wall Act. If you disagree with the award you can appeal it in court within 14 days of receiving it.

What types of work would require a party wall agreement?

Under the Party Wall Act, you must contact your neighbour for the following type of work:

  • Any work done along the party wall

  • Any excavation within 3-6m of the limit depending on how deep you are digging

  • Any changes in the party wall structure

For example, this could  include : 

  • Works to the actual party wall (repairs, making taller, etc..)

  • Excavating for the foundations for an extension within 3m of the boundary

  • Removing a chimney breast that is touching the party wall

  • A loft conversion requiring cutting beams in to a party wall

  • Basement extensions close to the boundary 

At what stage do you need a party wall agreement?

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You don’t need a party wall agreement to get a planning permission, however you are legally not allowed to start work on your house before obtaining consent from your neighbour. If you start without your neighbour’s consent, you take the risk of facing a penalty. You must give notice to your neighbour between two months and a year before construction starts. 

In order to reach a party wall agreement you can choose to appoint a party wall surveyor early on for a flat fee to help you give your neighbour notice but you can also choose to do this part alone, especially if you have a good relationship with your neighbour and the work is relatively simple. If you need help you can also use letter templates made by the government.

If you cannot reach an agreement with your neighbour, then you must get a party wall surveyor involved to act impartially. They will help reach an agreement by writing an ‘Award’. Although not necessary, it can be wise to start this process before you submit planning to give you enough time to reach a party wall agreement and not delay the construction start date.

Who pays for a party wall surveyor?

Typically there are two different scenarios. If you agree on it, you can choose to appoint one surveyor between both neighbours or else each appoint their own. In the first instance, the person investigating the works will typically pay for the surveyor, in the second scenario they will have to pay for both surveyors.

If the two separate party wall surveyors cannot reach an agreement, a third impartial surveyor will be appointed to write a final award. In this case the cost of the third surveyor is, again, usually paid by the person doing the works.

How much does a party wall surveyor cost?

The average cost for getting a single party wall surveyor to write an award is around £1,000 however this price may vary based on the complexity of the project. It is obviously cheaper to only appoint one surveyor for both parties especially as it avoids the risks of having to appoint a third surveyor.  The type of project also has a big impact on price, for example an award for a basement extension will cost you closer to £2,700. 
Remember that if you need party wall agreements with several neighbours (for example, if you are extending a terrace house you are likely to need an agreement with each side) you might need to pay for two awards and reach separate agreements with each side.

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