Loft Conversions and the Party Wall Act

by Justin Burns on January 15, 2013

  • Sumo

If you live in a terraced or semi-detached property and intend to convert your roof space it is almost certain that the work will be covered by The Party Wall etc. Act 1996.

It’s not the conversion itself that is notifiable but the parts of the work that have a direct effect on the party wall. The ceiling joists below most roof spaces were not designed to withstand the types of load that are imposed by people and heavy furniture. It is therefore necessary to install a new floor when converting and as most connected houses are deeper than they are wide that new floor is generally supported on beams that span from side to side.

Where the beams meet the party wall they will normally be supported by cutting pockets in to half the thickness of the wall, inserting the beams (and a padstone or spreader plate to distribute the load) and making good. It is the cutting out of the pocket that is covered by the Act and must be notified to your neighbour. Beams are also often used to support the roof of the rear dormer where it meets the ridge.

When undertaking work that falls within the scope of the Party Wall Act notice must be served on any affected neighbours. There are 3 types of party wall notices but for work directly affecting a party wall, such as cutting out pockets for beams, it is a Party Structure Notice that must be served. Although there are various templates available online there is no prescribed format for party wall notices. It is however essential that certain information is included:

  • The name and address of the building owner (the owner having the work done)
  • The address of the property where the work will take place
  • The name and address of the adjoining owner
  • A brief description of the proposed work
  • The date on which the work will commence

If any of the above details are missing, the notice, and everything that follows it, will be invalid. Perhaps surprisingly, it is not necessary to attach drawings to a Party Structure Notice although it is considered to be good practice.

The notice period for this type of work is 2 calendar months although that will not normally be the key time period. Most adjoining owners that are happy to consent are also happy to waive the remainder of the notice period and if an adjoining owner does notice consent it is the time it takes for an agreement (technically called a ‘party wall award’) to be drawn up that is critical rather than the statutory notice period.

I often get calls from owners that are unclear on the difference between a notice and an award. The important point to remember is that an award is only required where an adjoining owner does not give their consent when served with a notice and the owners go in to ‘dispute’.

In my experience the best way to avoid disputes under the Act is to keep your neighbours informed from an early stage. Even before you apply for planning consent let them know what you are proposing and give them a copy of the plans as soon as they are available. If the first time your neighbour hears from you is when you ask them to sign a form, drafted by your builder, asking them to waive their rights under the Act then don’t be surprised if, when you are forced to serve a valid notice, they decide to dissent and appoint a surveyor.

Justin Burns
Justin Burns has extensive experience in the London real estate sector. He works for and he enjoys sharing his insights and knowledge on various property blogs. For lease extension North London information, visit the link.
Justin Burns

Latest posts by Justin Burns (see all)

Previous post:

Next post: