Party Wall Agreement - nightmare in the offing?

(19 Posts)
StrokeOfBadLuck Wed 26-Jun-13 15:28:00

We have bought a new home, and have got planning permission for a side extension. We are also going to do a loft conversion, which is where the party wall agreement comes in.

When we first spoke to our attached neighbour - I'll call him John - he said he was fine with whatever we did, and on that basis we bought the house.

We have started the building work, and it has now come to Party Wall Agreement time. He's turned out to be really unpleasant and aggressive. We've kept him informed. He didn't reply to the first letter, and is due to respond to the second letter by Friday. I suspect he'll appoint the most expensive surveyor he can find, but that?s his right.

In the meantime, when I said hello to him yesterday, he shouted and swore at me. He then claimed I said I'd see him in court when I last spoke to him, and he had made notes of all our previous conversations. But obviously I never said that. Why would I want to go to court? Our builder was quite shocked and amused in equal measures!

The neighbour on the other side is lovely, and was at school with this man. He said John was a bully then, and now. Why did I buy the house? We've always got on fine with our neighbours.

Anyway, John obviously can't be reasoned with, and it will all just take its course. But what can he do to be as difficult as possible??? Our surveyor says nothing, but I feel he just hasn't come across anyone as unpleasant before. John kept mentioning solicitors. sad

quoteunquote Wed 26-Jun-13 23:59:11

What are his concerns?

Is he concerned about sound insulation?

If you can find the route of his fears it will be fairly easy to put his mind at rest,

Is he finding the building work hard going?

lalalonglegs Thu 27-Jun-13 07:58:26

Unfortunately he can cause a lot of expense and delay if he wants to. As quote suggests, see if there is any reasoning with him and try to accommodate his wishes. If he is being a total arse, then you can appoint a 3rd surveyor to arbitrate which is another expense but does at least stop a stalemate developing. Best of luck.

StrokeOfBadLuck Thu 27-Jun-13 08:57:43

His concerns were:
We were building over a manhole cover, so now we've moved the side wall slightly so we're not.
We were going to change the roof of the existing single storey extension from a flat roof to a sloping roof, but we're not now.
The dormer window was too close to his roof, so we've moved it further away.
We'll be knocking into the party wall, and he is concerned we may cause damage. But in fact the wall is a double wall with cavity, so we don't even touch his wall (all being well!)

He's not bothered about sound insulation or the building work. He's just retired, and is planning to do building work himself.

He's also quizzed us a lot about how we can afford to buy the house and do the work. It's a three-bed semi in a cheaper area that needed a lot of work. (Anyone who bought it would be looking to extend, as that is what everyone along the road is doing.)

This is really his main concern, I think. He feels we are getting above our station, perhaps - but he couldn't object on those grounds. His house is actually his parents' old house. He moved back there when they died, so financially he's in a much better position than us anyway, and has a load more space per person!

Since we bought the house, a neighbour told me he sweeps his drive, and empties the rubbish over the hedge into his other neighbour's garden confused she's a widow who's lovely. In fact, when I mention him to other people in the village, he seems to have a bit of a reputation. I think his aim is for us to spend as much money as possible... but I guess we just have to suck it up. We're still nice and friendly to him, but I don't really like him shouting and swearing at me.

StrokeOfBadLuck Thu 27-Jun-13 09:01:45

Oops, that was a bit long! I guess I've been quite upset by it, as I hate falling out with people smile (Actually, I've always got on with neighbours, so I guess it's a new experience!)

TheFallenNinja Thu 27-Jun-13 09:05:57

Some people just live to fight and make things as unpleasant as possible. I have one next door, it's ace.

ajandjjmum Thu 27-Jun-13 09:08:21

Sorry you're having problems.

We had a neighbour a number of years ago who we had always got along with, until he asked if he could take our fence down to get access for some new soil to his garden. He then decided not to replace the fence - according to him because the posts were rotten, according to his wife, because they liked the view. Despite the fact that it took away our privacy. The one thing I learned was that everything needs to be noted and if necessary, put in writing, so that there is no confusion/misunderstanding.

Good luck - hope it's not as painful as you fear!

BrigitBigKnickers Thu 27-Jun-13 09:15:37

Actually- in these circumstances a party wall agreement can be a good thing as it protects you too.

We had a similar problem with our neighbours when we had an extension built a few years back. The party wall surveyor took photos of every crack and current damage in their house so they could not at a later date say it had been caused by our building works.

However although a bit pedantic- our nieghbours are fairly reasonable- yours sounds like a nightmare.

WeleaseWodger Thu 27-Jun-13 09:51:49

Do not be smiley nice to a bully who shouts and swears at you. He will think you're a pushover and will keep pushing. I don't understand why you would change the roof on YOUR extension based on what he approves of. Who does that!?

I had a neighbour who once shouted down the phone at me about a problem I was trying to help with as if I was his manservant. I refused to engage with him thereafter and only kept to business like emails (we never actually saw each other despite being neighbours due to both of our traveling schedules). He was a nice and polite as could be thereafter - and you could tell if I didn't stand up to him and let him know how to make his way back to the line he crossed -- he would still be barking orders down at me.

Man up and start treating this like a business negotiation.

He will never be a nice neighbour and your only concern now is to set a very clear boundary with him or he will bully you. If he's doing building work himself, make the same demands he's made of you. When he tells you to piss off, use that as justification to null all the stuff you've changed to appease him (unless you actually want to keep it).

StrokeOfBadLuck Thu 27-Jun-13 12:47:07

Yes, my mistake was in thinking we had upset him, and were therefore at fault. In fact, anyone would have upset him. I was so naïve in thinking we could all be friends, and trying to placate him.

Oh well, what's done is done now. He was wanting some guttering replaced, and I was thinking I could pay for that, so he didn't feel so bad about the trouble we were causing him. But actually he's causing us trouble really, by being so aggressive.

My only excuse for being such a mug is that my mum was very difficult, so I spent all my childhood placating her. I’ve just carried that on. smile

quoteunquote Thu 27-Jun-13 13:47:57

We were building over a manhole cover, so now we've moved the side wall slightly so we're not

You had to as you cannot "build over manhole covers", you would have to have an access hatch, move the manhole, with the water board approval, so he was right to be concerned, who suggested building over it?
.
We were going to change the roof of the existing single storey extension from a flat roof to a sloping roof, but we're not now

What effect would that have on him?

why was he worried?

. The dormer window was too close to his roof, so we've moved it further away

Well depending how the roof was joined, that could be a concern,

We'll be knocking into the party wall, and he is concerned we may cause damage. But in fact the wall is a double wall with cavity, so we don't even touch his wall (all being well!)

this is why party wall is there, it can and does have an effect,

He's not bothered about sound insulation or the building work

It part of building regs, so it has to be addressed, I would go far and beyond anything building regs suggests, when it comes to insulation and soundproofing.

He's just retired, and is planning to do building work himself

super important that you both have clear guidance and control then.

He's also quizzed us a lot about how we can afford to buy the house and do the work. It's a three-bed semi in a cheaper area that needed a lot of work. (Anyone who bought it would be looking to extend, as that is what everyone along the road is doing.)

This is really his main concern, I think. He feels we are getting above our station, perhaps - but he couldn't object on those grounds. His house is actually his parents' old house. He moved back there when they died, so financially he's in a much better position than us anyway, and has a load more space per person!

This is some of the reason he is finding it hard, humans find change hard, especially when it is forced on them

Since we bought the house, a neighbour told me he sweeps his drive, and empties the rubbish over the hedge into his other neighbour's garden she's a widow who's lovely. In fact, when I mention him to other people in the village, he seems to have a bit of a reputation. I think his aim is for us to spend as much money as possible... but I guess we just have to suck it up. We're still nice and friendly to him, but I don't really like him shouting and swearing at me

I empty my leaves up and pruning and dump them over my neighbour wall, her compost is on the other side,she does the same to me lower down the gardens, I also throw buckets of slugs and snails over another neighbours wall every day, his ducks love it, but passersby(on popular footpath) often rase eyebrows when they see us actively trowing slugs and snails over, they can't see the ducks and chickens below.

He shouldn't behave the way he has towards you,

We avoid these things happening before we start builds, by having meeting(as many as it takes) with any local residents or neighbours, to discuss and address their worries.

We put a huge effort to forward planning diplomacy because it can end up costing a lot of money if you don't, the client (yourself) has to live in the community after the build, deeply unpleasant if there has been problems, and we feel we have a greater obligation to all who are effected by the build.

If there is any way you can take a step back, offer a reconciliation, find a way to get back on friendly working terms, invite him for lunch, I would do everything in your power to get back to friendly terms,one for a stress free life, and it will save you a lot of money.

I suspect the manhole cover will have unnerved him, it would be a massive red flag for me if I caught someone planning that, coupled together with the roof and dormer, he probably feels on high alert.

who ever is advising you, need to think about the bigger picture, unless you have money to burn.

stevenway Thu 27-Jun-13 15:20:26

Hello, real chartered surveyor / party wall specialist here.

However awkward your neighbour is his shouldn't be expensive or time consuming, if he will not respond to notices then you will have to appoint a surveyor for him, this is a legally binding appointment and there is nothing he can do about it providing correct procedure is followed.

Be alert if he has appointed one of the firms of surveyors who follow up [some say ambulance chase] planning applications, they are generally competent but know how to charge - don't be afraid to challenge their costs if they are excessive.

The party wall act is all about rights and responsibilities, you will have a number of rights to do what you want to do. Those are statutory rights that a neighbour cannot just say no to.

The responsibilities are usually things like how any damage would be put right, making sure you are insured etc etc.

From your list most of it can be ignored, my comments -

We were building over a manhole cover, so now we've moved the side wall slightly so we're not. – probably not a party wall matter but now not an issue

We were going to change the roof of the existing single storey extension from a flat roof to a sloping roof, but we're not now. – probably not a party wall matter and not an issue

The dormer window was too close to his roof, so we've moved it further away. – not a party wall matter, possibly a planning issue but if you have the consents and he doesn’t like it then its tough. You do have a right to raise the party wall so you could go right across - he might not like it but he couldn't stop it.

We'll be knocking into the party wall, and he is concerned we may cause damage. But in fact the wall is a double wall with cavity, so we don't even touch his wall (all being well!)

Definitely a party wall matter, very usual and straightforward and you have a right to do this.

So sounds like just steels into the party wall, should take no more than 6 weeks to resolve and any fee over about £700 per surveyor is definitely questionable [might be a bit more in London and a bit less in the country]. The surveyors would struggle to disagree over this if it is properly designed and drawn etc so reference to the third surveyor is not going to be necessary. Even if it is he will determine who pays his fees and if next door have been plain unreasonable they are likely to cop for all the costs.

Make sure your pw surveyor has a bit of experience and spine and push on.

Party wall awards may be considered unnecessary but if something goes wrong - even a little thing - they are more than worth the investment. Think of them as a pre-nup for building works - everyone knows how a problem is resolved and most of the time [99%?] it means that even more expensive lawyers and courts can be avoided.

With an awkward neighbour deciding to ignore party wall procedure can get very legally expensive very quickly!

Regards Steve

StrokeOfBadLuck Thu 27-Jun-13 16:06:16

quoteunquote
Manhole cover - this actually quite an interesting issue, as now all these sewers count as public sewers, and you need permission from the water board to build over. I'm sure you know more than me. We had the water board surveyor round, and he thought there would be no problem, as our manhole cover is right next to the other neighbour's. We just needed the proper support, which was included in the drawings. When John later raised a concern, we decided to move the manhole cover, leaving it outside. It seemed like a sensible compromise, and we could see he might be concerned if he had a blocked drain, although he has a manhole cover and the other cover is adjacent to ours.

Roof of the single storey - he thought the slope would take away light. As he was concerned, we just left it as a flat roof.

Dormer window - yes, we agreed it might be a concern, so we moved it.

Party wall - yes, we agree it might have an effect, so are happy to have the party wall agreement.

Insulation - we are having a professional build, with proper insulation.

Change - yes, everyone finds change hard, and we consulted him before we even decided on the extension, and he was fine about it. I think that is what upsets me the most.

Neighbours - we know all the neighbours, as it is a small village. This was the only neighbour I hadn't met before we thought about buying the house. We met him before we bought, and he seemed fine, even when we talked about the extension.

Yes I agree re it's easy to get the wrong end of the stick. I have given him the benefit of the doubt each time. However, after he shouted and swore at me last time (not for the first time) and I was feeling really bad that I had upset him, our other neighbour then told me what he had been like at school. The party wall surveyor and the builder have both said it's him, not me. In fact, I have had other residents in the road come and offer sympathy. Someone said he had a problem with women.

We've done extensions done over the years, and lived next to building work, and never had a problems. I've done nothing but be conciliatory, and I'm beginning to think that's my problem. I'm just always friendly and nice, and he is just plain horrid.

StrokeOfBadLuck Thu 27-Jun-13 16:16:46

stevenway
Yes, I’m happy to have a party wall surveyor, and even happier that John is having his own, even though we will have to pay. I hope that will make him happier, as we really don’t want to cause him distress.

He has apparently just appointed someone, and let our surveyor know.
In fact, our own surveyor is charging more than £700, as we are not far out of London. smile Our surveyor seems to have plenty of experience, and is really nice and helpful. But John has been saying that he’s been making notes for when it comes to court, and so on.

soberton Mon 23-Sep-13 19:33:41

Hi
I just wondered if you had any more updates ref overall costs of Party Wall Agreements, have read this thread with interest as we're thinking about a loft conversion in our mid-terraced late victorian house and the professional loft conversion company who came to do a feasibility study stipulated that nothing would go ahead without a PWA. Whilst neighbours on one side would probably be ok (and in fact the majority of work - L shaped dormer inc en-suite, would be on the side of the roof facing their house. That house is rented but the Landlady is ok with the idea in principal!). My real fear is that the neighbours on the other side would be as obstructive and awkward as possible, mainly due to issues going back to their building work last year where they did an extension (without PWA or any ref to it) and some of our property was damaged - it was put right in the end but we had to press them to get it done. They had people 'moonlighting' during evenings (inc power tools after 8pm) weekends & bank hols, on and off all through the day, and one of their relatives told us that we were "f***ing unreasonable to complain about our lack of privacy.
They later had to engage a different builder to put right a number of faults! I'm really sorry to hijack your thread and rant but would love some advice on whether we could put a ceiling on their PWA costs so they couldn't just be as difficult as hell at our expense. Ps I'm on the south coast in Hampshire.
I'd really appreciate your feedback.
TIA

ScrappyDoo1 Wed 20-Nov-13 11:32:22

Hi
we are in the process of renovating an old victorian terrace which was previously lived in by a 100 year old lady. We have added a dormer and a very small extension. When we first met our neighbour he was odd - no welcome, but 'do you know there is damp in my bedroom caused by your parapet?'. We told him we would be replacing the roof and were sure the builders would address the issue. Which they did. We showed him the plans for our extension and dormer which he seemed happy with.
Once work started he came storming round to my current house (we haven't moved to our new property yet as it's inhabitable). He shouted at me "we need to talk! Your roofers are cowboys to HSE and I'm reporting you to planning". He has definately reported roofers but even HSE couldnt understand his complaints. He would not come to the door when my husband called round to speak to him. He has come storming into our property when the builders were trying to open up the original fireplaces - they left the door open. Our building works are under permitted development and we have employed private building control. The footings for the extension are not as deep as his and we now have a separate cavity wall because he was being so difficult. Our dormer is not attached to his property at all.
He has called the police, a solicitor and a surveyor. We are confident we are within our rights completely, however his solicitor is asking us to pay his surveyor fees.
Basically he's a really horrible man who cannot be reasoned with - my husband has tried talking to him, but he says he doesnt want us to build the extension.

AnneElliott Wed 20-Nov-13 11:41:28

Some neighbours can be so difficult. At our previous house one side had done a lift conversion and extension but did not want us to do the same.

They also thought we were getting above our station as we were much younger than them!

I have to say that PWA are a total pain. DH is a surveyor and the trouble they cause (with crap neighbours) has to be seen to be believed. Be wary of who he appoints though. As Steve said, ambulance chasers are rife and one that DH client had recently was so very dodgy. He's now being investigated for fraudshock

PoppyInTheFog Wed 20-Nov-13 12:39:50

I think you have to pay for his survey to be done.

lalalonglegs Wed 20-Nov-13 12:52:49

Regardless of whether the dormer touches his property, if this is a new loft extension, you will have had to have put steels into your house which will more than likely be tied into the party wall and for that you will need a party wall award. Check if there is any work being done that affects the party wall and, if there is, agree immediately to pay your neighbour's surveyor fees. He is within his rights to get an injunction against you to stop all work if you have done anything to the party wall without his agreement.

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