Handling party walls properly is not only a legal requirement but a crucial aspect of responsible renovation. Following the best practices for handling party walls will help you avoid legal disputes and structural damage, as well as ensure the safety of neighbouring properties.
What are Party Walls?
Party walls, also known as shared walls, are walls that separate two adjoining properties.
They are typically built along the boundary line that divides two houses so that one half of the wall’s thickness lies on each side. These walls attach you to your neighbours not only physically, but legally too.
When renovating, it’s crucial to maintain open communication and comply with laws and regulations, such as the The Party Wall Act 1996. Neglecting to do so can lead to legal disputes with neighbours.
Party Wall Agreement
A party wall agreement, sometimes referred to as a party wall award, serves as a legally binding document that specifies the scope of party wall works, methods, timing, and financial responsibilities for designated construction or renovation activities. This agreement also addresses the allocation of costs associated with the work and any fees incurred by surveyors.
Obtaining a party wall agreement is an essential step when undertaking construction or renovation projects that impact a shared party wall. This document can be procured through the services of party wall surveyors, defining the terms and conditions governing the proposed work. Once both parties involved have endorsed the agreement, you are authorised to proceed with the planned construction or renovation activities.
Here are some things you should consider before starting renovation work on party walls.
Communicate with Your Neighbours
Before starting renovations that involve a party wall, you must discuss the proposed work with your neighbours. Open and respectful communication is crucial. Discuss your renovation plans with them, keeping them informed about the project’s timeline, potential disruptions, and how you plan to mitigate them.
Obtain Necessary Permits and Approval
Before you start your renovation, ensure you have all the required permits and approvals from local authorities. Compliance is key to avoiding legal complications.
Create Agreements with Neighbours
Consider creating formal agreements with your neighbours regarding the renovation. These agreements can outline each party’s responsibilities, expectations, and any financial arrangements for potential damages or repairs.
Hire a Professional Party Wall Surveyor
We strongly recommend hiring a party wall surveyor if you’re planning on undertaking renovation work that affects a party wall. These are qualified professionals responsible for impartially assessing the proposed work’s impact on party walls and neighbouring properties, and helping you deal with all the legalities. Hiring a party wall surveyor in London is easy, and it will help you guarantee that all best practices are followed.
Best Practices While Undertaking Renovations
These are best practices to follow during your renovation journey to ensure the process is smooth, safe, and compliant with all legal and ethical obligations.
Minimise vibrations and noise: Renovation projects can generate vibrations and noise that are likely to disrupt your neighbours. To minimise these disturbances, schedule noisy activities during reasonable hours, use vibration-dampening materials where applicable, and inform your neighbours of your construction schedule.
Use protective measures for the party wall: Implement protective measures to ensure structural integrity of the party wall during construction. Depending on the scope of your renovation, this could involve using scaffolding or installing temporary supports.
Inspect and monitor the party wall regularly: Keep an eye out for any signs of damage or issues that may arise. Proactive monitoring allows you to address concerns promptly, preventing small problems from escalating into costly complications.
Insurance and Liability
Ensure you are covered by insurance: Renovation projects always carry some level of risk, and there’s always a chance that something could go wrong. If something happens that causes damage to your party wall or neighbour’s property, you could be held responsible for not only repairs, but compensation too.
Be aware of your legal liabilities: If you’re not sure about your legal liabilities, your party wall surveyor will be able to advise you.
Things to Consider After Completing Renovations
Completing the renovations doesn’t mark the end of your responsibilities regarding party walls — there are still a few things to consider.
Conduct Final Inspections and Assessments
Once the renovation is completed, conduct a comprehensive final inspection of the party wall. The purpose of this is to ensure that the wall is in the same (or better) condition than it was before the renovation began. Carefully examine every aspect, looking for any signs of damage, wear, or weaknesses that might have arisen during construction. If you notice any issues, address them promptly.
Restore the Party Wall (If Necessary)
If your renovation project requires any alterations or temporary modifications to the party wall, it’s your responsibility to ensure that the wall is properly restored to its original condition. This could involve removing scaffolding, temporary supports, or any other protective measures that were put in place during the renovation.