Everybody loves good neighbours

“We know them really well, they’ll be fine with it”

That’s what I commonly hear when I ask how the neighbours will react to the plans for extending your home. It’s amazing how perception can sometimes be so far from reality and that’s why chumming up with your neighbours in advance of your building work is a strategic move.

Think about it, how would you feel if you saw your neighbours and their architect in the back garden waving their arms about, talking about building close to the boundary? You’d be twitching your metaphorical net curtains and perhaps rightly so. Generally people are resistant to change and predictably irrational if they don’t know what to expect.

Neighbours have the potential to make your journey from concept to completion a little bumpier that you might like, from Planning objections to Party Wall dissents they can throw more than a single spanner in the works. And whilst neighbourly Planning objections are sometimes discounted unless they’re made on policy grounds, it still doesn’t set you up for a very comfortable year ahead. Here are some tips on how to keep things on track:

5 Top Tips for Smooth Neighbourly Relations

  1. Inform them: well ahead of getting yourself an architect – let them know you’re thinking about extending, perhaps ask if they’ve also considered doing the same.
  2. Listen to them: are they concerned? If so, what in particular is an issue for them? When you come to appoint an architect, let them know about it so that they can consider how best to alleviate their concerns as well as meeting your brief.
  3. Share with them: once you’ve developed your ideas and have your plans ready – share with them, ahead of making a Planning application. There’s nothing neighbours like less than being ambushed. The local authority will let them know you’ve made an application, so get in before they hear it from somebody else.
  4. Involve them: dependent on the scale of proposals and whether it does impact them in anyway, you might consider tweaking your proposals a little in response to their concerns. I’ve had several meetings where getting client’s neighbours round for a cuppa has allowed us to mitigate any objections by simply taking their concerns on board in the first place.
  5. Manage their expectations: let them know when you anticipate the building work to be, let them know ahead of time that you’ll be sending a Party Wall Notice and what the process is.

It’s not about designing your extension by committee, and it’s not about foregoing your own aspirations to please the neighbours, but as with most things in life, communication is key to success.

There’s more to Party Wall matters than Party Walls…

There’s a reason it’s called the “Party Wall etc Act” and the etc part covers a plethora of other things that ordinarily you may not consider to be related. Party Wall matters will need careful consideration where you are carrying out building work which involves any of the following;

–              Works to a party wall

–              Building along or astride the line of junction

–              Excavating within 3m and to a lower level that of the adjoining owner’s foundations (or 6m in some cases)


What do I need to do?

In the event that you are doing building work that falls under one of the above categories you should serve notice on your neighbours under the Party Wall etc Act 1996.

What does the process involve?

The process begins by serving Notice on the relevant adjoining owners and gives them the opportunity to consent, or to dissent the work. The timescales for serving notice and obtaining a response vary dependent on the type of work that is proposed to be carried out. The legislation is an enabling Act and as such, if the adjoining owners dissent, Party Wall Surveyors will be required to be appointed to resolve the dispute, such that you can proceed with your building works. The Party Wall Surveyors will prepare a Party Wall Award which sets out any methods of working that might be required to minimise disruption and this is a legal document so that compensation can be enforced for any damage caused.

What if my neighbours are happy with the work to go ahead?

If you’re on good terms with your neighbours and you’re not digging a triple basement, you might think it’s all a bit overkill, but you will still need to serve Notice. Even if the neighbours are happy to consent, it is a good idea to prepare a Schedule of Condition. This involves a visual inspection and photographic record of how things are prior to the start of the building work so that any damage can be easily identified. It can also help to protect you from claims for any cracks etc that were actually present prior to you carrying out your building work. Where you obtain your neighbours written consent you do not need to involve Party Wall Surveyors.

Need to know more? Check out www.partywalls.org or give me a call.