Having building works carried out next door is sometimes noisy and inconvenient. Although most proceed without problems for neighbours, some do escalate into complex issues, and one should be prepared for this.
Extensions and Loft Conversions
If your neighbour has deposited plans for a home extension or a loft conversion, then this may, in some situations, trigger The Party Wall Etc., Act 1996, and require the serving of notices, but not always. Builders working next door might require access to your property so they can build a wall, excavate a foundation trench, pour concrete, or obtain access to a roof or guttering. In some cases, this will be allowed in law providing they serve notice in good time. However, in other cases, you may decide to refuse access, or give limited access with conditions.
What could possibly go wrong?
What if the builders trample over your plants and damage your fence or patio paving? Or install a flue which discharges fumes or extract air from a bathroom over your property? Or perhaps, damage roof tiles, external finishes, parapet walls or flashings?
The Party Wall Etc., Act 1996 confers various rights and obligations to the building owner and the adjoining owner(s), if the work falls within the Act. In most cases, the Adjoining Owner’s surveyor’s fees are paid in full by the Building Owner who wants to do the work. Even outside the Act, it is possible to have a surveyor draw up a ‘schedule of condition’, which can be considered as an independent record of the finishes and evidence of existing cracks and defects before work starts.
Working adjacent and close to a neighbour’s wall or property can be tricky for contractors. Any damage must be recorded and dealt with promptly.
Occasionally, builders will expose old defects to neighbour’s walls and footings which have been hidden for many years. Professional advice will be essential.
Trespass to your property
Trespass isn’t just about people wandering onto your property. It can be, for example, when your neighbour’s builder puts a rainwater gutter over your side of the boundary, (when it previously was not), so it is technically on your property, and when they needed your formal written consent to do so.
This oversailing gutter past the (red dotted) boundary line may be considered as a trespass in certain situations.
Such issues can be avoided or challenged, if identified early enough in the study of proposed development plans and drawings by a building surveyor.
Access to your land and property
Under The Party Wall Etc., Act 1996, there is limited provision for specific works and access to adjoining property. However, for general maintenance work, it may be in the interest of both parties to allow access to say, a flank wall for repointing of brickwork, re-rendering, or redecoration to prevent dampness. The Access to Neighbouring Land Act 1992 is one option to apply formally for access for maintenance purposes if consent is not forthcoming, but does not apply generally to improvements and new work, but can be applicable to repairs.
Cable TV companies sometimes run their cables in neighbour’s guttering or fixed on adjoining walls without consent.
Some actions may seem quite trivial at the time, but could eventually result in neighbour’s disputes in the future, perhaps when trying to sell, or lease their property.
Giving consent for access is one thing. However, one usually is wise in providing strict conditions to limit that access to your land and property. For example, builders not to block vehicle drives for extended periods, protection of paving, plants and shrubs. This also includes protection of fences and walls, diverting rainwater safely and temporarily, when gutters and pipes are renewed.
Also, if there will be neighbour’s builder’s scaffolding on your land, where will it be positioned, how will it be supported, will they want to drill into your wall or paving to make temporary scaffold fixings?
Pipe failures and excavations
You certainly don’t want your pipes, cables and drains to be damaged due to the building works. Excavations can sometimes cause vibration, pipe failure, subsidence of foundations, or similar. We are not saying this is a frequent occurrence, but it does happen.
Party Wall Award / Licences
An experienced building surveyor can look at the situation and quickly assess the key issues, which can then be listed and incorporated into a schedule of condition and /or licence to be granted for building works and builder’s access. Such conditions can often be incorporated within a formal Party Wall Award, if the Act applies.
Even if it does not apply to the situation, the duration and extent of access for builders should be limited, perhaps in a set of simple, written conditions.
Gaps and spaces between extensions
One often finds physical spaces or gaps between external walls of adjoining home extensions, and these might vary from a metre or more, to hardly anything at all. A view needs to be taken as to how that gap between properties on different sides of the boundary is dealt with.
Should a metal weatherproof flashing be dressed into the brickwork and overlap to your side, or just left completely open to the elements? What will be the impact on building maintenance, dampness? A building surveyor can advise, and help negotiate a practical solution to avoid, or minimise future problems here.
The disappearing builder….
What if the builder goes off the project to work elsewhere, and leaves your paving, garden, and access route in a mess for weeks or months? There needs to be careful thought and agreement between the parties before work starts, and the programme of works, to help control this situation.
Rectification of builder’s damage
By accident, it turns out your wall got scraped by the builder’s JCB excavator, your begonias trampled over, your new York stone paving stained with horrid mortar spots, your drains collapsed and disturbed by the excavated trench for the extension affecting the drainage flow. What now?
Clearly, someone acting on your behalf could help co-ordinate the remedial works with the builder and neighbour. Otherwise, it’s solely down to you. With a building surveyor in place, acting in your best interest, the whole process becomes a lot simpler.
Repairs should be done in a timely manner, be durable and professionally done, and access for those repairs needs to be reasonable. In practice, redecoration of disturbed external finishes is often left until the last thing, before the builder leaves site.
Will I escape surveyor’s fees as an Adjoining Owner?
There are, however, some special situations that might occur which means you might have to make a financial contribution to surveyor’s fees and building works. For example, if your neighbour wants to rebuild a party-fence wall, but you want part of that wall higher, than required by him.
It would then be reasonable to have to contribute something financially for the extra height or detailing. Or, if a wall is built on the boundary, and you intend to use part of it for your conservatory lean-to, as a party structure/shared wall. That might also incur some contribution of costs. The Party Wall Surveyor London(s) would set out the apportionment in a formal Award document. This is a sort of contract, between the parties.
Arun Associates,chartered building surveyors, have experienced professionals who act as party wall surveyors for building owners and adjoining owners. Feel free to call us (020) 8381 3910 if you wish us to review and discuss your neighbour’s project.