How to prevent neighbour disputes when renovating

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Key things to consider to prevent neighbour disputes 

Michael Carr, BSc, FRICS, FCIArb, MEWI, is a Chartered Building Surveyor with 35 years’ experience in private practice and co-founded Kempton Carr Croft. Michael has built up considerable experience as an advisor and Expert Witness relating to valuation, landlord and tenant, construction, boundary and Party Wall disputes as well as dealing with reports on issues of professional negligence.

Here he offers his expert advice on the benefits of conducting thorough risk analysis and issuing the correct notice of works to your neighbours – via a Chartered Surveyor – prior to works commencing near to or on a boundary line or party wall:

 

If you are considering a building or renovation project on or near the line of junction with another property, you should know your responsibilities surrounding the Party Wall Act and appoint an experienced Chartered Building Surveyor to advise you prior to commencing works. This will ensure you can continue your project with the peace of mind that you have taken all the necessary steps to ensure the works are compliant, will run smoothly and that neighbour objections, disputes or injunctions are much less likely to occur.

 

Thorough risk analysis

A Chartered Surveyor will provide a comprehensive risk analysis on site before an improvement or build project goes ahead. The aim being to foresee any potential damage or adverse consequences that could occur as a result of the proposed alterations to the land and building structures near or astride party and boundary lines.

A surveyor will have the experience and knowledge to foresee potential areas of concern that may otherwise be overlooked by a homeowner or architect.

Case study

I recently worked on a case where a homeowner hadn’t taken professional advice prior to commencing an excavation in his garden for a summer house. After digging down, without correctly supporting the sides of the newly exposed area, large amounts of earth shifted. This caused extensive cracks to appear at the base of his neighbour’s house and their driveway to pull apart from the building.

This is an example of how what is seen as a relatively simple procedure, ‘digging a hole’, can have huge consequences without prior considered analysis and support of the site and its surrounds.

This resulted in the works being stopped after an injunction was issued by the neighbour, and a large bill to fix the damage caused to the adjoining property.

Notice of works

By instructing a surveyor to issue notice of works and a party wall award following their site analysis in advance of works commencing you are much less likely to be faced with an injunction or neighbour dispute.
With experience in dealing with multiple stakeholders when more than one boundary or party wall is involved, the ability to understand complex plans, leases and building regulatory requirements, a Chartered Surveyor is a key ally to have.

Should you fail to serve notice of proposed works and your neighbour(s) object or you damage their property, you could be served with an injunction and made to stop work until disputes are resolved. Leading to escalating costs, potentially unsecure buildings and tensions with multiple adjoining stakeholders including tenants, leaseholders, freeholders and land owners.

Party Wall Award

A party wall award provides a framework for preventing and resolving disputes in relation to party walls, boundary walls and excavations near neghbouring property. It is drawn up by a surveyor and sets out the work that will be carried out with specifications of how and when it will be conducted for example, not at weekends.

Specification of any additional work required such as protective precautions required to prevent damage will be included along with a record of the condition of the adjoining property before the work begins. So that any damage caused in the process of works can be properly attributed and made good.

Know your responsibilities:

A Party Wall award must be issued when:

  • New building are constructed at or astride the boundary line between properties
  • Excavation within 3 or 6 meters of a neighbouring property depending on the depth of the hole or proposed foundation
  • Works are being undertaken that are likely to affect the part wall structurally, including placing additional loads on the wall or demolition of chimney breasts or internal walls.

For a user friendly but comprehensive overview of party walls, see the communities and local government Party Wall Act 199 explanatory Booklet.

 

Remember these key things to prevent neighbour disputes when renovating 

  • Know your responsibilities surround the Party Wall Act 
  • Appoint a Chartered Building Surveyor experienced in Party Wall matters
  • Issue a notice of works and a Party Wall Award via your surveyor 
  • View this article in My Renovation Magazine