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All new loft conversions in the UK must comply with the Party Wall legislation and the building regulations though they do not normally require planning permission.
Briefly, the legislation requires that anyone carrying out work involving shared walls must give their adjoining neighbours notice of their project.
Which, after all, is only fair and only what any decent neighbour would do anyway.
Unless you can’t stand the people next door to you of course – but we’ll get to that shortly.
The Party Wall Act also applies to boundary walls, garden walls etc., but in regard to loft conversions obviously relates to the walls shared by neighbours (owners, lease-holders and long-term tenants) of a semi-detached house or on both sides of a terrace.
At this point it should be stressed that the Party Wall Act is completely separate from planning permission and the building regs.
And, even If you have approval from building regs for your loft conversion, you must still comply with the Party Wall Act.
The good news is that it isn’t that much of a hassle. Not compared to everything else you’re going through anyway.
Your Rights Under The Party Wall Act
The Act basically allows you to work on a party wall. For example:
* To cut into the wall to support a load-bearing beam.
* To demolish and rebuild the wall. Warning - forgetting to put the wall back may result in neighbours wandering freely through your home.
* To increase the height and/or thickness of the wall.
* To insert a damp proof course through the wall.
How Do I Give Notice To My Neighbours?
Firstly, discuss your project with your neighbour. It is far better to find out if they have any objections now - before you serve notice.
This will enable you to amend your notice if necessary and also ensure that your neighbours give their consent to you quickly and without problems.
Drawing up your notice is easy and, as there are no official forms, you don’t need to involve a solicitor or the local council. Your notice must be in writing and you must ensure it includes:
* Your own name and address (both spouse’s if co-owners).
* The address of the property you will be working on.
* A description of your loft conversion project including plans if you wish.
* The date that work will begin.
You can then either post the notice to your neighbour or, a better idea, take it round personally and deal with any queries there and then over a cup of coffee.
Tip – it may not be a good idea to serve the notice on a neignbour if your teenage kids and fifty of their mates have just held an all-night barbie and rave in the back garden. Let them catch up with their sleep first!
If the property next door is empty, address your notice to the owner and pin it to the door.
When Do I Give Notice To My Neighbour?
You must serve your notice at least two months before you plan to begin work. If you fail to begin work within a year of serving the notice you will need to go through the whole process again.
It should be noted that there is no enforcement to actually serve the notice under act. So what’s the point?
Well, if you start work without serving notice to your neighbours they can obtain a court injunction to stop the work and could even have grounds to claim financial compensation.
As always, the advice here is to do things properly and by the book. Serve that notice on your neighbour and don’t run the risk of your loft conversion running into difficulties.
What Happens When My Neighbour Receives The Notice?
Hopefully s/he simply gives their consent in writing and off you go. End of story. You need do nothing else. But if your neighbour disputes/disagrees with or ignores your notice and fails to give written consent within fourteen days a dispute is deemed to have arisen.
It may simply be that the neighbour doesn’t agree with the wording or minor details of your notice. In that case, under the Party Wall Act, they can serve a counter-notice detailing their objections which you then have another 14 days to come up with another written notice agreeable to all.
This all sounds very complicated but if you have consulted fully with your neighbour prior to serving the original notice then there should be no problems getting the required written consent. Just remember to keep copies of all written notices.
OK, that’s all very well but…..
I Can’t Stand The Old Battleaxe Next Door.
Believe me. I know the feeling. But, don’t panic. A neighbour who you think may object to your loft conversion through spite cannot just scupper your plans by using the Party Wall Act.
As long as you do things properly there won’t be a problem. There may even be some smug satisfaction when the neighbour-from-hell realises s/he can’t stop the work. See our advice on party wall act disputes for more info.
For more info see the related pages below
A Look At The Permitted Development Rules
Vermiculite Loft Insulation is an echo-friendly alternative to traditional insulation materials
The old loft water tank will need to be moved if the roof space is being converted into a habitable room
Structural calculations for loft conversions are of course hugely important to ensure safety and that the proposed plans meet building regulations