If you are an owner of a terraced or semi detached dwelling contemplating a loft conversion, this could involve some kind of work to the wall or walls between yourselves and your neighbours, these walls are classed as Party Walls and therefore you have certain responsibilities under the act, being defined as a 'Building Owner' under 'The Party Wall etc. Act 1996'.
The Act requires a 'Building Owner' of a property intending to carry out works to a party structure to serve notice on any affected adjoining owners.
An adjoining owner cannot stop someone from exercising the rights given them by the Act, but can influence how and when the work is done.
What could my neighbour do?
There are three options available to an Adjoining Owner and these are described as follows: - 1. They may consent to the works described in the Notice. 2. They may dissent from the works described in the Notice and appoint a recommended surveyor to act as an Agreed Surveyor. 3. They may dissent from the works as described in the Notice and appoint a Surveyor of their own choice.
The Act envisages that, in most cases, there will be agreement about proposed works between the relevant owners. Therefore, it is obviously best to fully discuss your planned conversion with them prior to serving notice.
A friendly discussion will allow you to explain the scope of the works and should reassure them that the work involved is relatively minor and of a straight forward nature.
However, you must receive consent to the works in writing by getting the adjoining owner to complete the counterpart of a Party Structure Notice.
What if we don’t get on with our neighbours and they refuse?
Should the Adjoining Owner decide not to reply to the Notice within 14 days or dissent from the works and fail to name a Surveyor to act for them, then a ‘10-day Notice' will need to be served requesting that they do so. If they fail to respond to this a surveyor will be empowered by the Act to make an appointment on their behalf so not to cause unnecessary delay to the commencement of the building works. Unfortunately, the surveyor's fees are generally the responsibility of the Building Owner.
Please note that the Party Wall Surveyor is a 'statutory appointment': he or she has no Client and cannot be dismissed or instructed. The role is to act in the best interests of the wall and parties to it and, therefore, it is quite acceptable for an adjoining owner to both dissent from your proposals and to agree to the appointment of an agreed surveyor to act for both of you. It is equally acceptable for an adjoining owner to consent to the works and this will not deprive them of their legal rights or common law protection.