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Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions: 

Do we require a Party Wall Agreement?

Loft conversions for terraced and semi-detached houses always require a Party Wall Agreement. That’s because various RSJs (steel beams used to support the structure) will rest on and inside the party wall. Even though the beams will rest only on your half, a Party Wall Agreement has to be entered into to avoid any disputes arising once work has started.

Party Wall Act 1996

The Party Wall Act provides a building owner who wishes to carry out various sorts of work to an existing party wall with additional rights going beyond ordinary common law rights.

The most commonly used rights are:

  • to cut into a wall to take the bearing of a beam (for example for a loft conversion), or to insert a damp proof course all the way through the wall
  • to raise the height of the wall and/or increase the thickness of the party wall and, if necessary, cut off any projections which prevent you from doing so
  • to demolish and rebuild the party wall
  • to underpin the whole thickness of a party wall
  • to protect two adjoining walls by putting a flashing from the higher over the lower, even where this requires cutting into an adjoining owner's independent building.
If you intend to carry out any of the works mentioned, you must inform all adjoining owners. In fact, you must not even cut into your own side of the wall without telling the adjoining owners of your intentions.

The Act contains no enforcement procedures for failure to serve a notice. However, if you start work without having first given notice in the proper way, adjoining owners may seek to stop your work through a court injunction or seek other legal redress.

An adjoining owner cannot stop someone from exercising the rights given to them by the Act, but may be able to influence how and at what times the work is done.

The Act also says that a building owner must not cause unnecessary inconvenience. This is taken to mean inconvenience over and above that which will inevitably occur when such works are properly undertaken.

The building owner must provide temporary protection for adjacent buildings and property where necessary, and of course is responsible for making good any damage caused by the works or must make payment in lieu of making good if the adjoining owner requests it.

It is obviously best to discuss your planned loft conversion works fully with the adjoining owners - although a professional adviser can do this on your behalf - before you give notice in writing about your loft conversion plans. If you have already ironed out possible snags with your neighbours, this should mean that they will readily give consent in response to your notice. You do not need to appoint a professional adviser to give the notice on your behalf.

While there is no official form for giving notice, your notice must include the following details:

  • your own name and address (joint owners must all be named, eg Mr A & Mrs B Owner)
  • the address of the building to be worked on
  • a full description of what you propose to do (it may be helpful to include your attic conversion plans but you must still describe the works in words)
  • when you propose to start (which must not be before the relevant notice period has elapsed).
The notice should be dated and it’s advisable to include a clear statement that it constitutes a notice under the provisions of the Party Wall Act 1996. You may deliver the notice to the adjoining owner in person or send it by post. Where the neighbouring property is empty or the owner is not known, you can address the notice to "The Owner", adding the address of the premises, and fix it to a conspicuous part of the premises. You do not need to tell the local authority about your notice. The notice should be served two months before the planned starting date for work to the party wall. The adjoining owner may agree to allow works to start earlier but is not obliged to, even when agreement on the works is reached. The notice is only valid for a year, so do not serve it too long before you wish to start.

Agreements must always be put in writing.

If you cannot reach agreement with the adjoining owners, the next best thing is to agree with them on appointing what the Act calls an "Agreed Surveyor" to draw up an "Award". The agreed surveyor should NOT be the same person that you intend to employ or have already engaged to supervise your building work. Alternatively, each owner can appoint a surveyor to draw up the award together. The two appointed surveyors will select a third surveyor (who would be called in only if the two appointed surveyors cannot agree).

In all cases, surveyors appointed under the dispute resolution procedure of the Act must consider the interests and rights of both owners and draw up an award impartially. Their duty is to resolve the matters in dispute in a fair and practical way. Where separate surveyors are appointed by each owner, the surveyors must liaise with their appointing owners and put forward the respective owners' preferred outcome. However, the surveyors do not act as advocates for the respective owners. They must always act within their statutory jurisdiction and jointly prepare a fair and impartial award. The surveyor (or surveyors) will prepare an "award" (also known as a "party wall award"). This is a document which:

  • sets out the work that will be carried out
  • says when and how the work is to be carried out (for example, not at weekends if the buildings are domestic properties)
  • specifies any additional work required (for example necessary protection to prevent damage)
  • often contains a record of the condition of the adjoining property before the work begins (so that any damage to the adjoining land or buildings can be properly attributed and made good)
  • allows access for the surveyor(s) to inspect the works while they're going on (to see that they are in accordance with the award).
If this hasn’t answered your query, or you’d like to discuss the best way to talk to your neighbours about your planned loft conversion, please do give us a call on or by email.

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