Neighbours being difficult about our extension

(49 Posts)
Ghanagirl Tue 24-Apr-12 20:09:20

I need some advice/ space to vent we have decided to extend our 1930's semi we live in NW London and can't afford to buy larger property nearby we have boy/ girl twins who currently share 2nd bedroom as third is teeny, have planning permission for loft and L shaped extension, it's probably going to cost over 100,000 pounds now the neighbour is being difficult about party wall agreement and trying to get other neighbours onside, they have one grown up son and have a small rare extension which we didn't object to, she's still being friendly and her husband is talking to my other half but it got a bit heated yesterday starting to feel really stressed, can she put a spanner in works?

Blu Tue 24-Apr-12 20:16:40

What is it you need a party wall agreement for?

As long as you have plannning permission fr everything you are doing, then they can no longer object. Presumably they contested the planning notice? And the council gave you permission (or it is withing permitted development) and they are using their energies trying to be difficult over the party wall agreement?

Talk to your solicitor - presumably the party wall agreement is being drawn up by a solicitor?) and see what power they could actually have - and talk to the loft conversion people or your architect and see if there is a good way of doing the extension without needing an agreement.

And I would try and be calm and reasonable with them - say you understand why they don't want building works etc, but it's just one of those things, and if you move out (as you might have to if you can't extend) the next people will probably also build - because you would be selling with pp in place! So there is little point in them trying to block something which has been agreed by the council through our democratic processes. I would tell them that their own house could be hard to sell and / or lose value if they start a dispute with you, or make it impossoible to develop their own house.

SwedishEdith Tue 24-Apr-12 21:18:46

Is the extension going to extend to within 3 metres of their wall? If it is, and will be below the level of their foundations, you will need a PWA.

How do they know about the extension? There are structural engineering firms who prowl around council websites looking at planning applications and then contacting the immediate neighbours to scare them about PWA much like ambulance chasers. Your neighbours can insist on an independent structural engineer which you have to stump up the cost for. If you're still talking to them, much better to try to allay their fears by showing them the plans.

SwedishEdith Tue 24-Apr-12 21:21:34

But they can't stop the extension, no.

Ghanagirl Tue 24-Apr-12 21:25:26

They didn't object to the council when we applied for planning permission, I presume because they realised they wouldn't have valid grounds because there are a number of similar conversions on the street and we wouldnt be blocking access to daylight. Hubby doing party wall agreement but if they dispute it then both sides need to hire a surveyor to come to agreement, it's just more money and the delaying of project, was just starting to get excited about project but now anxious :-(

Itsjustafleshwound Tue 24-Apr-12 21:26:48

What are their objections ?

Ghanagirl Tue 24-Apr-12 21:39:21

Thanks for replies, it will be within 3 metres of wall so we will need party wall agreement. SwedishEdith you're right we had planned to tell them once we gained planning permission, but a surveyor contacted all our neighbours us included and warned them of the perils of letting your neighbours build. I know they can't stop us but think they can delay and cost us thousands which will eat into our already tight budget. Honestly she's like hyacinth bouquet, she was the same when the people to the rare of our (not hers) were building she kept warning me they had moved the fence an inch or two!

SwedishEdith Tue 24-Apr-12 21:57:57

Yes, PWA seems to have created as many problems as it was, presumably, meant to solve. Thing is, if your dig your foundations before issue PWA, it then invalidates the whole process. It is not retrospective and there are no penalties for not complying with it not that I would ever suggest that you do that, of course

Fiolondon Tue 24-Apr-12 21:59:06

At least a couple of sections of The Party Wall etc Act 1996 will apply. As someone else said you will probably be digging new foundations within 3m of the boundary. You will also be taking support off the Party Wall so will want to cut into it for beams etc. You may also want to raise the brickwork. Under the Act you have rights to do this as long as you do not compromise the ability of your neighbours to do the same or similar. You have rights to access their property in order to carry out the work. You have obligations to pay for the repair of any damage and any fees (surveyors, engineers) for advice for them and you. You can ask them to pay for half of the cost of any structure that they would like to make use of in future (eg if you raise the party wall to form a dormer at roof level or they enclose against your ground level extension).

It is possible to make the agreements yourself in the spirit of the act, but as you say things can get heated. Dirt, noise and disruption are not things neighbours relish - especially when they discover that they cannot stop the work progressing. They do, howver often make it very difficult and expensive to proceed if things get nasty!

You should arrange to have a condition survey done of the neighbour's side of the wall. Photographs are not enough, there must be sketches and written descriptions of all cracks, marks etc on their side. They should be provided with a copy of this report and be asked to sign it off. Obviously it is in their interest to not point out any cracks beforehand as they can use the appearance of cracks later to justify having you redecorate their house!

To save money you could ask a surveyor to just do the condition survey for you, but if you think things are getting tricky already you should maybe consider getting a full service where the Party Wall surveyor drafts and serves the notices. If the neighbours feel that they want independent advice, they can employ their own surveyor to advise them and you have to pay. You would also have to pay should they need a structural engineer's advice too.

Whether you go the full route depends on which part of London you live in and the attitude of your neighbours. "Wealthy" neighbours always have the full complement of advisors and seem to enjoy making it as nasty as possible. Less "well heeled" neighbourhoods are more relaxed and it can be a "gentlemen's agreement" based on an exchange of letters. Effectively you are gambling on whether or not they are likely to sue you for damage to their property as it is unlikely your DH will have a firm grip on the nuances of The Act unless he does this for a living or the architects are really "on it".

So in summary they cannot stop the work, but if you let it turn nasty they can drag it out and make it more expensive than it need be. If you haven't already, get around there with your best smile on and a big bunch of flowers whatever you decide to do! Under no circumstances must you stop talking to them and as someone above said, make sure things stay friendly, professional and civil at all times. Good luck

Fiolondon Tue 24-Apr-12 22:00:39

sorry cross posted - swedish the neighbour can stop you by turning up with the police and/or a court order if works proceed without agreement.

Ghanagirl Sun 29-Apr-12 07:54:54

Aaargh! Looks like its going to dispute stage so upset as my DH is engineer so knows what he's doing we have had detailed structural drawings which we have submitted to them, which to be honest I don't think they understand, he's a maintenance man she's an administrator, it's just going to cost us more money and our budget already tight, feel like telling her she's taking food from my babes mouth (yes I'm being bit dramatic) but she's really p'ing me off as I know she's the driving force not her DH, anyone gone down this route with neighbours and still had a good relationship when work completed?

DaisySteiner Sun 29-Apr-12 09:00:51

which to be honest I don't think they understand, he's a maintenance man she's an administrator

If you come across as being this patronising in real life, I'm not surprised things are getting heated! I don't think it's unreasonable at all for them to be concerned about the structural integrity of their home. Really, you're just going to have to suck it up and maintain politeness. A friend of mine had an issue with a tree on their boundary which their neighbours wanted them to cut down. It was all conducted through solicitors so they could remain as detached as possible from the whole process. Surprisingly they remained friends!

Instead of seeing her as being a problem, try and see it from her point of view. You're about to embark on an extension which will create a certain level of disruption, noise and nuisance to them when they will get no benefit at all from it. Indeed, the foundations could theoretically damage their home. You should be trying to do everything you can to keep them sweet IMO out of consideration.

Ghanagirl Sun 29-Apr-12 09:29:53

Daisysteiner, As I said earlier I'm venting/asking for advice here so I can maintain politeness, I'm not being patronising I'm being honest she doesn't understand when the neighbours behind our house ( not hers) were putting up an extension she gave me a blow by blow account of what they were doing each day as I was trying to get my twins off to nursery, we've only communicated with them about this through the builder they have appointed to speak on their behalf and despite her trying to whip other neighbours up I've remained incredibly polite, but at the end of the day we do have planning permission

Ghanagirl Sun 29-Apr-12 09:34:52

And as for disruption, both her and the neighbours across the road did major renovations just as I brought my twins home from hospital after 5 weeks in Special care but I know it was just bad timing and I only complained to my mum or DH and let them get on with it!

QOD Sun 29-Apr-12 09:39:29

These sort of laws do my head in, my friends neighbour just bloody did the work and ignored my neighbours concerns, the builders drilled thru into her hues loads of times and their loft extension is practically on top of HER kitchen extension. And no one gives a fart, building regs people just went "meh"

I don't understand why some people get away with it and some can stop things (that sound reasonable)

wonkylegs Sun 29-Apr-12 09:42:59

You need to get a party wall surveyor involved - shop around there can be a huge amount of variation in quotes. They can't stop the work going ahead but the addition of yet more costs can be a pain - I'm sure your engineer DH knows about this but I've found over the years that giving both sides this booklet means they understand what the party wall act is www.communities.gov.uk/publications/planningandbuilding/partywall and it helps reduce difficulties. As it spells out what rights people do and don't have. Many people see the PWA as a stick to beat their neighbours with when they don't want them to extend but have no valid planning objections. It isn't it's actually a way to facilitate development without causing long term issues but it can feel onerous and can be a bit annoying on top of everything else. But tbh you should budget part of your cost for this kind of thing from the start (I would always advise a client to) as hopefully you won't need it but at least there is money in the pot from the start.

SoupDragon Sun 29-Apr-12 09:49:34

"we have had detailed structural drawings which we have submitted to them, which to be honest I don't think they understand"

Have you tried sitting down at a table with the plans, your neighbours and some tea and discussing it with them in great detail to allay their worries?

IsItMeOr Sun 29-Apr-12 11:17:53

That's good advice wonkylegs, and consistent with what our surveyor advised when we extended using an existing party wall.

Ghanagirl - I think you are being unrealistic thinking that you wouldn't spend any of your £100k budget on ensuring you do no harm to your neighbours' property.

From memory we budgeted £1k for making good if needed, and also the cost of the surveyor to do the PWA properly - there's a report with lots of photos of neighbours' side of the wall before we did any work. This protects both of you.

If you don't want stress, then your best way to avoid it is to actually do this properly. Many people clearly don't do this, but then they don't really have a leg to stand on if their neighbours give them hassle.

Good luck - the building is going to be stressful enough without hassling like this over something that could be pretty easily avoided, for probably only 1-2% of your total budget.

Ghanagirl Sun 29-Apr-12 11:42:50

Thanks for advice we did put aside about £800 for this but our builder thinks it might be moresad we did invite them round to discuss and her husband came with his builder friend and asked for additional structural drawings which we had done at a cost £1000 and since weve given them to the neighbours we have invited them back to talk it through but they keep coming up with excuses, I understand it's going to be disruptive for them but we've also endured building from neighbours when our twins were tiny and just put up with it, they didn't object when the council approved the plans because legally they have no grounds as we're end of terrace the other side were okay until she spoke to them then they had issues which have managed to resolve, I'm not a horrible person just out grown our house and can't really afford to move, if we did move the next owners might want to extend as well, just feeling frustrated and anxious about the whole process

TalkinPeace2 Sun 29-Apr-12 12:58:17

With our extension I gave each of my neighbours copies of the planning drawings and then went to their houses and marked out with bamboo canes where each of the new bits would be, what they would see before during and after

an hour of being really polite
and making sure that when the knock throughs for the loft were done they were at work etc etc (ie treating them as human beings worthy of my respect) it all went swimmingly.

The MONTHS with no fences between our gardens went smoothly because we communicated
and the week that we had to borrow electricity and water from them, I hid a bottle of bubbly in their fridge while unplugging our extension leads.

BrigitBigKnickers Sun 29-Apr-12 13:31:24

Remember a party wall agreement can protect you too.

The surveyors take photographs inside the neighbours properties so every crack/ wonky floorboard/wall in the wall is recorded- this protects you as they can not at a later date say that your extension has caused problems to their property.

Unfortunately if your neighbour demands a party wall agreement you will have to pay for it but I think in the long run it can be a good thing.

We had a similar situation with our neighbours who had agreed to our extension before we even had planning permission (we showed them all the drawing and said we would not go ahead if they objected.)

One of these bloody "ambulance chasing" party wall surveyors sent all the neighbours one of these scare tactic letters which resulted in us having to get this agreement (although we did not choose the company who had sent the letter.)

It was a pain but I could see the value of it when I saw the photos of huge cracks in our neighbours newish patio and garden wall (built near where the foundations of our planned extension would be). Without this evidence they could have easily sued us for damgage and we would have been none the wiser.

If your neighbours are objecting they can get an injunction to stop the work but once a party wall agreement is in place they will have no powers.

Ghanagirl Sun 29-Apr-12 13:35:14

Thanks for all your sound advice need to factor into the budget champagne flowers and chocolates! smile

PorkyandBess Sun 29-Apr-12 15:07:19

I don't think your neighbours are being 'difficult' by asking for a PWA. It's there to protect both sides affected.

When they come to sell, they may be asked to provide evidence of a PWA.

TalkinPeace2 Sun 29-Apr-12 15:17:54

and it has to be said that bottles of £15 Lidl champagne (£40 in any other shop) go a very long way.
The £300 I invested in fizz was some of the best money I spent.
When the plasterer leaves site, wrapping a bottle in silver foil and handing it to him ensures goodwill in a way that NOTHING else does

Ghanagirl Sun 29-Apr-12 15:28:00

porkyandBess they haven't asked for it yet I'm presuming they will want which is fine as another mumsnetter pointed out it can protect both side the reason I say they are being difficult is that they have asked for extra drawings etc put every time hubby suggests they come and talk they make excuses and they have spoken to other neighbours to try and get them to also weigh in, we normally get on with them fine although I know she gets worked up about parking and suchlike

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