Top tips for home summer building projects

The Association of Building Engineers (ABE) is calling out to home-owners in South Yorkshire with some advice for anyone planning a summer building project now the days are getting longer.

Anyone who has ever built an extension, converted a loft or tried to remove a chimney flue may be familiar with the potential disputes with neighbours that can often be created. So how do you make the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 work for you when you have building projects to carry out?

Rhys Taylor, past President of the Association of Building Engineers and director of consulting building engineers and architectural designers, Taylor Tuxford Associates, knows how to avoid the potential pitfalls of dealing with the Act.

“Essentially, if you are proposing works that materially affect a party structure, want to build a new wall on the boundary line or intend to excavate within three metres of your neighbour’s buildings, then the Party Wall Act may well apply to your project.

“I have compiled my top five tips for dealing effectively with the Party Wall Act process:

Before you serve the Notice

Talk to your neighbours and find out if they have any real concerns about your proposed project – if so, you may be able to adjust your designs sympathetically so that when the Notice is served, they will agree to it without the need for a formal dispute.

* Cover your back

When you serve the Notice on your neighbour, at the same time offer to fund the cost of an independent Pre-works Condition Survey of their property. Not only will this give your neighbour confidence that you are going about the project in a workmanlike manner, but it will reduce the risk of unnecessary arguments later on, as it will be easier to identify whether any new damage has actually been caused as a result of your works.

* Make sure that you get a written response to your Notice

If your neighbours have verbally indicated that they are happy for the works to proceed don’t be fooled into thinking that you do not need them to reply to your written Notice – you do. They must give written confirmation within 14 days whether they agree or disagree to the works being carried out. If this doesn’t happen then a formal dispute arises, surveyors need to be appointed and significant costs will be incurred.

* The Act is there to help you

If you serve a Notice for the construction of a new wall on the boundary line (what the Act calls the “Line of Junction”) you gain some rights of access onto your neighbour’s land under the Act that otherwise you would not have. For example, if you are building up two storeys and need to erect scaffolding, this may be crucial.

* Can I avoid serving Notice?

If you are certain that your neighbour will oppose your Notice, then in order to avoid a potentially costly dispute process you could consider designing your project in such a way that the proposed works do not fall subject to the Act. An experienced practitioner will be able to advise you on ways this can be achieved.”

The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 is considered by many to be the single most significant new factor affecting minor works projects in England and Wales (outside of the Central London Boroughs) that has been introduced over the past 25 years.

“The Party Wall etc. Act is there to assist and protect us all as home-owners and it does its job well in the large majority of cases,” Rhys explained.

“There is no substitute for taking sound advice from an experienced specialist practitioner – preferably at an early stage on the project rather than just prior to starting work – but by following the Act’s guidelines and timings there is every chance your works will be carried out without a hitch.”

For further information about the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 and how to get hold of a local surveyor or Building Engineer to help with home improvement works call ABE on 01604 404121 or visit the website at Association of Building Engineers