Extension design above by Gareth, architect from Haringey, London. See more and shortlist them for your home project here.
Before we answer the question, ‘Do I need a party wall surveyor’, we’ll address the more important question, ‘Do I need to serve a party wall notice?’ as you may not require a surveyor if the matter can be resolved amicably between you and your neighbour directly.
What is a party wall?
A party wall is a wall that separates you from your neighbour, usually between semi-detached houses or terraced houses. It also refers to garden walls built over the boundary line.
When do you need to serve a party wall notice?
You will need to serve a party wall notice on your neighbour if you plan to carry out any work involving the party wall, or if you plan to excavate close by to the party wall (within three or six metres, depending on the depth of the new foundations). For home projects, party wall awards are commonplace if you are doing the following work:
- loft conversions/extensions
- digging foundations for an extension
- demolishing internal walls that require structural support from the party wall
- inserting damp proof courses.
Do I need a party wall surveyor?
The answer is not necessarily, and it depends on the complexity of your project in relation to the wall and/or the co-operation of your neighbour. To answer this property, we’ll go through the steps required to gain party wall consent:
1. Serve notice
The first step is to serve notice to your neighbour. This means sending a letter, which can be done for free using a standard form document. You would usually enclose a reply letter and envelope for the neighbours to sign and return. I’d strongly recommend having a chat with your neighbour BEFORE posting the letter so it doesn’t come as a surprise. It’s usually helpful to give reassurance in person that your works will not adversely affect them.
2. Neighbour’s reply
After the notice is served your neighbour has 14 days to reply. Here are the possible outcomes:
- The neighbour gives permission (assents) in writing that the works can commence. In such cases, and for smaller straightforward domestic projects, it’s usually NOT necessary to appoint a surveyor. You as an owner will still have a responsibility to make sure any damage caused during the course of the work is repaired. It’s worthwhile taking a photo and written record of the condition of the wall before work starts, and get this agreed with your neighbour. This will help resolve potential disputes, e.g. if new cracks appear or worsen as a result of your work. You may decide that you would prefer to hire a party wall surveyor to undertake this condition survey before the work starts, to minimise the chance of disputes.
- If the neighbour does not give permission at this point (dissents), which includes not replying within 14 days, you will require a party wall award and a party wall surveyor.
3. Choosing your party wall surveyor(s)
It’s most common for you and your neighbour to appoint just one party wall surveyor between you. They will need to be impartial – their job will be to act in the interest of the wall only.
However, sometimes the neighbour will insist on using their own separate party wall surveyor, in which case you will need one each. This will be a more expensive scenario for you, as you will be liable to pay both of their fees.
4. How much does a party wall surveyor cost?
Usually, a party wall award and single surveyor will cost around £1000.
How much detail is needed in the party wall notice?
You need to describe the works to the wall precisely – your party wall surveyor or architect can help you with this. If you are excavating you will need to include full structural details. The standard forms are different for excavations and party wall works, so check carefully that you’re using the right one, and be aware that you may even need both types.
Should I serve notice on the freeholder or leaseholders?
Both actually – the freeholder and any neighbours who have a lease longer than a year.
When should I serve a party wall notice?
You have to give two months’ written notice on building works which affect a party wall or boundary, or one month’s notice for excavations.
Building work must start within a year.
Ask your architect
Your architect will have had a lot of experience in dealing with party wall issues – some may even be able to act as your party wall surveyor.
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Emily Design for Me