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Semi House Party Wall - Loft conversion

Discussion in 'Building Regulations and Planning Permission' started by george29, 6 May 2017.

  1. george29

    george29

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    Hello,

    Have just read the above sticky about party walls etc but would value some advice on our situation.

    Our neighbour has said that they intend to install some steels into their gable end across to our party wall as the basis for a loft conversion.
    The party wall is twin breeze block with cavity.

    We get the impression this is a diy job and that the plans have not been approved and building regs site inspections etc will therefor not be made.

    Find this surprising as it would clearly create problems for them when trying to sell their house.

    However our concern is how it may affect our property / relationship with them.

    Any suggestions on the best way to deal with this situation and to protect our house against any physical problems.

    Do not think they will like us suggesting the idea of doing it the proper way will full approvals, though we are sure they know they should.
     
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  3. tony1851

    tony1851

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    Although they do not need plans, they DO need to make a Building Regulations application, and to allow an inspector to check the work as it proceeds.
    The neighbours should also apply the provisions of the Party Wall Act, as there will be increased load on the wall (regardless of it being a cavity wall).
     
    Last edited: 7 May 2017
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  4. This could well depend on how friendly you wish to stay with your neighbours. Tony's pretty good at these things, but I suspect a steel in their half of the party wall won't have much impact on you, but what is the construction of you're roof. Are there trusses holding the roof up, or purlins either side and a clear space in between. If there are trusses, and they put in steels and remove the trusses, but do a crap job, then the roof could drop.

    They can create a "loft room", but as you say, it won't exactly be legal, and it wouldn't increase the number of rooms in their house, but that's their choice. It's up to you to make sure your house isn't damaged in the process.
     
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  5. GeoffJ

    GeoffJ

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    Check out the Party Wall Act advice and explanatory booklet at this address https://www.gov.uk/guidance/party-wall-etc-act-1996-guidance

    I tend to advise residents in my area that ask me about this problem to either:-
    a) Use the draft letter in the explanatory booklet to serve notice on their neighbour that they expect the works to be completed under the PWA
    b) Forward the weblink AND explanatory booklet to the neighbour proposing the development. This is positioned as a helpful pointer toward using the PWA. And then follow-up with (a) if they do not take the hint.

    Once you have the use of the PWA established all your interests are pretty well protected. And it costs you absolutely nothing.
     
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  6. Nakajo

    Nakajo

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    Your interests are protected either way - although it's sensible to photograph the wall prior to works taking place
     
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  7. ^woody^

    ^woody^

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    It depends on whether you will be prepared go to court to injunct the work if they don't serve a part wall notice on you. If not, that's it for the Party Wall Act.

    Whether they apply for Building Regs are nothing to do with you.

    Or you can actually ask if they are applying through building regulations, rather than merely thinking that they are not.
     
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  8. GeoffJ

    GeoffJ

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    You only need the county courts to stop the works if you have sent the initial PWA letter. This process is not complex or particularly costly.

    Under the PWA you have a surveyor that will agree the terms upon which the works may proceed and will review the method statement for the works. These will protect your interests and provide for dispute resolution should there be any issues with compliance or damage. The PWA agreement will also formalize any agreement so there should be fewer instances such as unexpected working on a Sunday or public holiday, or unexpected need to clear cars out of the way for cranes etc.

    The other thing that the PWA can do is to require is that the builder has indemnity insurance - this tends to preclude the DIY-option and serves to further protect you as you could sue the builder if the work is faulty.

    It is also free to you.

    The only reason NOT to use the PWA would be that the works are considered very minor - or you are very very comfortable that the neighbour can and will make good any damage.

    From the way the OP is set-out I think there nervousness about the way the neighbour may choose to proceed with the works.

    FYI - most builders hate the PWA regulations - but you have to ask why and consider if that is a good thing?
     
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  9. chappers

    chappers

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    Mainly because they are cumbersome, costly, open to vexatious contest, exploitation from unscrupulous surveyors, toothless and provide no further protection to either party than already exists in common law.
    The act is no substitute for good neighbourly relations and an open dialogue between both parties and provides nothing that couldn't be sorted by a quick signed document between the two parties.

    The intentions of the act were good, to enable reasonable development when amicable agreement couldn't be reached, but as I said when amicable agreement can't be reached then the failings of the act rear their ugly heads.
     
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  11. GeoffJ

    GeoffJ

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    I agree that disputes will arise and the PW surveyors may or may not be helpful. The hurt neighbour may need to resort to the courts even with a PWA.

    However, given that your scenario is "a dispute has arisen" - it is much better to deal with that dispute starting from the PW agreement and the formal evidence that defines "initial state". Without that documentation, any claim for remedy stands a significant risk of being dismissed as hearsay, opinion, or misunderstanding.

    With that documentation the "true" gap between reasonable expectations and reality can be more quickly established, and communicated to any 3rd party that is charged with resolving that dispute.
     
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  12. chappers

    chappers

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    Very true and in simple developments with reasonable neighbours the cost of a PWA can be kept to sensible amounts, though in these cases a simple statement of condition or proposal can be drawn up between the parties.
    The issues I have are when a very simple development goes into a PWA dispute and gets totally out of control you end up with 3 surveyors involved, possibly one being a planning application chaser who wants to bump up the costs, reports on this and that, just to build a basic extension or loft conversion.
    Certain more complex developments probably couldn't proceed without a PWA agreement.

    But you asked the question as to why many builders hate the PWA and I was giving you reasons from a builders point of view, the reasons are not to do with shirking responsibility. A responsibility that exists regardless of the act. Often the cumbersomeness, process and cost of implementing the act is disproportionate to the risk involved.

    I know the OP was coming at this from the other side and there is nothing for him to lose by getting the neighbour to invoke the PWA, but as Woody said previously, it's pointless insisting, unless you are willing or able to take out an injunction before the neighbour completes the works that fall under the remit of the act, in the event of the neighbour failing to do so.
     
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  13. george29

    george29

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    Thanks for all the comments guys, learning a lot.

    We assumed that to have a PWA meant that it showed all the correct structural designs plans and building regs applications were present and correct and that would give us the confidence that it would be done correctly / protection in event of structural problems .

    Think asking or trying to enforce them to use a PWA etc will make things that bad, we might as well move out now, seriously !

    Sounds that if the worst happened its a case of suing him, as the diy builder /owner, and that all we can really do, is take pictures of our house with a witness in the frame to prove everything is sound before they start any works.

    Also have to go on the basis he does not want to collapse his own roof ( its split level by 2ft so we each have a separate roof) though you only have to watch the tv programs to see the disasters that do happen ...
     
  14. chappers

    chappers

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    A PWA agreement is an agreement between the two parties that can be as vague or detailed as each of you require, it can cover everything from design and appearance right through to access you may give him to carry out the works, to hours he may work, whether he can have the radio on ,how your land may need to be reinstated on completion of the works etc etc etc. You can ask but you can't force him other than by injunction and there is no penalty in law for not invoking the PWA
     
  15. ^woody^

    ^woody^

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    Ring up the council's building control dept, and in a nonchalant way, just say that your neighbour is having a loft conversion and will the council want your number to call you when they need to inspect your side of the loft wall where the steel beams are going.

    They won't, but it is an innocent inquiry that has the effect of notifying the council of the work.

    Don't worry too much about a party wall notice, as in this case it does not give you anymore protection than you already have in common law. You may want to take a few clear photos of the loft party wall though, to see if anything changes. But a cavity wall is better for you than a solid wall would be as your half should not be affected at all.
     
  16. tony1851

    tony1851

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    The intention was to provide more work for surveyors.
     
  17. ^woody^

    ^woody^

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    It used to be confined to the London area for many years (centuries), and was something to do with a fire they had down there a while back.

    They either expected more fires nationwide after 1997, or thought that the rest of the country was missing out on the fun. You dont need to be a surveyor to join in the shenanigans. :cautious:
     
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