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Party Wall Agreements - how nasty can it get?

(34 Posts)
TondelayoSchwarzkopf Tue 15-Feb-11 20:40:30

So we had plans drawn up and submitted for loft conversion / extension and submitted for permitted development / building control on 31 Jan.

We've been away and I got copies of the plans done today to give to our neighbours for party wall discussions. However, next door neighbour banged on the door this afternoon with a letter. It turns out some chartered surveyor firm has seen our PD app on the local authority site and sent him some scare marketing letter promoting their services for party wall agreements. He wanted to know what the hell was going on and didn't like the fact that a third party had notified him before we did. It put me on the back foot and he had a huge number of questions that I can't answer - not being a builder or architect.

So I now have drafted up an official letter of notification and a copy of party wall regs and am hoping a bit of soft soap will bring him down off the ceiling. I can see his point of view and why he's a bit neurotic but seriously, all we're talking about is a joist in the party wall. I'm not selling it to a railway company or turning it into a asbestos factory.

Does anyone have any experience of managing the neighbours when it comes to party walls?

NB: I'm not naive and am fully expecting to pay for their surveyors and agreement but I don't want to agree any more than that.

lalalonglegs Tue 15-Feb-11 20:47:33

I think it was a mistake to apply for consent without informing him - that would always get someone who enjoys getting worked up even more worked up, iyswim. He can't make it get officially nasty but, of course, he can get make sure that you obey the letter of the law if he wants to (no half inch of scaffolding pole hanging over his property etc). I would spend a lot of time grovelling - if you had an architect or building company draw up the plans, blame it all on them and say that you didn't know that they were putting it in while you were away and of course you were going to speak to him first, it's all been a terrible mix up, how can we make things right? He can't stop you doing the work but he can make it time consuming and expensive by continually querying it and demanding surveyor's inspection at every turn over perceived damage or contraventions of the agreement.

Best to paint on your warmest smile and placate him as best you can.

TondelayoSchwarzkopf Tue 15-Feb-11 20:57:48

What do you mean by consent? I haven't applied for consent to anything. We do not require planning permission - it's within permitted development.

I will do the grovelling but I refuse to see how I've made a mistake. grin I took advice from several surveyors and my own architect and none mentioned getting neighbours party wall agreement prior to proceeding with building control and permitted development.

Of course I will be ass-licking central to him though.

lalalonglegs Tue 15-Feb-11 21:08:32

Apologies, I meant building control notification.

Legally you haven't done anything wrong but, if you have easily ruffled neighbours, then it was tactically a mistake not to mention it as they tend to get in a flap when they find out information through another means. Of course, he could have flown into a fury anyway but, if he is that way inclined, he will see your "non-disclosure" as an attempt to try and do the work without his getting his agreement.

I'm surprised that none of the people you spoke to suggested getting your neighbours onside at the earliest possible opportunity but, I stick by my advice - grovel copiously and blame it all on them grin.

TondelayoSchwarzkopf Tue 15-Feb-11 21:16:43

Oh OK. That was not my intention at all - I am really compliant and a Good Girl. To give you some background I barely know my neighbour - I have met him once or twice in the 6 months I've lived here. We just don't seem to bump into each other - I did mention it to my other neighbour as I bump into her a bit - so it's not something I was witholding.

Also we only got the plans done 2 weeks ago and have not even got a list of builders to get quotes from so to me it is very early in the process and well within the legal requirement but of course he won't see it that way. So yes, grovel is the way to go.

Horton Tue 15-Feb-11 21:20:46

Grovel. And point out to him (nicely) that it is permitted development and all that engaging a solicitor is likely to do to the eventual outcome is to land him with a large bill.

alicatte Tue 15-Feb-11 21:25:43

You have to have a party wall agreement (if the building work involves a party wall) when you apply for building regs. There is a way round it which involves building the loft conversion some specified distance inside the boundary so that the only involvement of the wall is a steel joist. I had that option when I converted my loft. My neighbours didn't and had to get me to sign a 'posthumous' party wall agreement when they applied for building regs (mind you their building company was Eastern European and didn't realise what was needed).

I'd grovel too.

TondelayoSchwarzkopf Tue 15-Feb-11 21:25:47

He IS a solicitor grin - though not I believe in property law.

Hmmm - maybe found the root of the problem there ... grin

TondelayoSchwarzkopf Tue 15-Feb-11 21:27:40

Is that true Alicatte? I was not told that at all by my surveyor and architect.

I believe that as it's permitted development - the loft conversion is wothin the boundaries you define so maybe that is why he didn't mention that.

lalalonglegs Tue 15-Feb-11 21:30:35

I thought you had to apply for party wall consent a minimum of 8 weeks before the work starts rather than when you apply for building regs. After all, if building control want amendments to your plans then you would be serving your neighbours with the wrong information initially and you would need to get their surveyor to have another look which would just add to your bill.

Foxinsocks Tue 15-Feb-11 21:33:04

omg I don't know where to start for you

we did work under permitted development and duly sent the party wall to our neigbours (NB our builders wouldn't even THINK of taking this on till it was done and both the architect and the surveyor told us to get it done asap)

nice neighbour (who did the same work last year) signed with no problems

horrid neighbour, who did the same work without a party wall the year before grrr, refused to sign and called in a surveyor which we had to pay for. I cannot tell you how LONG this went on for. Months and months of negotiations between our surveyor and her surveyor of which we had to foot the entire bill.

Then she was a total pita throughout the building work and a total pita at the end.

Cost to us? We lost 3 months of time because of the delays, in the end we had to fork out about £5k for her surveyor. She then tried a fast one at the end and listed a whole load of things wrong with her house which had fuck all to do with us - even her surveyor admitted she was chancing her arm but that if we wanted her to sign, we needed to agree to do right some of it as there was no proof that we hadn't caused it (similarly there was no proof we had).

I point blank refused and in the end she did sign but it was HELL!

alicatte Tue 15-Feb-11 21:33:22

In my neighbours case it was just a mistake. I signed a postdated agreement. It was just a mistake and no big deal.

cece Tue 15-Feb-11 21:33:54

I have built two extensions within two properties. Both needed party wall act agreements.

I agree with the advice given. Grovel. Blame it on others. Spend time going through the plans with them - I think you have to give your neighbour a copy of the plans anyway.

They cannot stop you but they can make it more expensive and difficult. Plus you then have to live next door to someone you have argued with.

Best to get their agreement with a blessing. I have done both - happy to sign and for us to go ahead and also the falling out and no longer able to communicte with neighbour apart froom in writing. I know which I liked best!

Foxinsocks Tue 15-Feb-11 21:34:14

and what got me is that she had done the same work last year and not bothered with a party wall. If I'd known what a nightmare she'd be for us, I would have sued her!

Horton Tue 15-Feb-11 21:35:18

You do have to have an agreement. But you don't need to have any kind of surveyor or solicitor involved with this. Your builders/architect should have supplied you with the forms your neighbour needs to sign, I think. Ours did. Go round and be really nice (armed with correct agreements for signature) and GROVEL!

We had no trouble with our neighbours but didn't talk to them until we had consent for the works (extension). He sounds like he might be a bit of a nightmare.

alicatte Tue 15-Feb-11 21:38:01

or is that a predated agreement. I am really not sure and have had a big glass of wine just to confuse myself (and it is only Tuesday).

From what I understood at the time (many years ago now) permitted development only means that you don't have to apply for planning permission (unless the work involves 'foundations') but a 'party wall agreement' is a separate issue and just part of the regulations for building.

hoxtonchick Tue 15-Feb-11 21:38:53

my neighbours have really annoyed me. they are having MASSIVE building work done, honestly the whole house is going to be redone & have moved out. so we are the ones suffering, it feels like the builders are in our kitchen drilling at 8am. they also keeping having skips delivered at 6am. the first we heard of it was when the planning application from the council came through the door.

honestly, it makes my blood boil. i have the party wall surveyor's number on speed dial & have been making heavy use of it. so i am probably like FIS's nightmare neighbour but they have gone about it SO BADLY. and breeeathe....

Foxinsocks Tue 15-Feb-11 21:40:05

and it doesn't matter what sort of planning permission it requires - permitted development or full. It's because you are doing work on the party wall.

I forgot to mention that we hadn't needed our surveyor (other than the basics) so we then had to employ him to fight our side of the argument which added another £3k so it did end up costing us nearly £10k extra basically because she was being spiteful (at the end of the day, nothing changed and the plans were fine the way they were - we actually did a far more thorough job than she did without the party wall agreement!).

If your neighbour is determined to be difficult, nothing you can do but go along with it with gritted teeth. Those companies send those letters the minute the plans go into building control. They obviously work as that's what triggered our neighbour off too!

Foxinsocks Tue 15-Feb-11 21:43:45

lol hoxton

no you see, we were really nice and went round and explained the whole thing before we even put the plans in and got their tentative go ahead

was only once she realised she might be able to get half her house done up on our account that she became interested lol. Her builders were there for almost a year and she moved out because it was 'too traumatic' for her lol yet we had to put up with it and she NEVER even bothered to come round and tell us what was going on! Our stuff was over and done with in 6 weeks.....

anyway, don't start me off lol. I know how you feel hoxton!

Foxinsocks Tue 15-Feb-11 21:52:00

oh and at the end of the day, her surveyor and our surveyor asked to come round for a cup of tea and privately told me that she was the most aggressive and downright stubborn and almost fraudulent individual he had ever encountered (yeah well he obviously wasn't so appalled that he didn't want to earn his fee lol). ..

not sure that made me feel THAT much better when counting the cost of all of her delays - added almost 20% <weeps>

Foxinsocks Tue 15-Feb-11 21:52:40

I will shut up now

(ours was only a joist too!)

hoxtonchick Tue 15-Feb-11 22:31:41

oh it sounds so traumatic foxy. is your house gorgeous now? i am partly jealous of next door, their house is going to be amazing grin. they will still be twats though....

noddyholder Wed 16-Feb-11 08:13:47

I didn't think party wall agreements were about consent more informing.This neighbour is being ott.You do not need to speak to him before you start planning your room.Often designers architects builders etc deal with this sort of thing and I can assure you the neighbours aren't their first port of call!

TondelayoSchwarzkopf Wed 16-Feb-11 09:40:44

Well, I am putting on my best frock and taking round the plans and agreement letters tonight with a full speech about how sorry I am and how naive I've been as this is our first building project.

In the 1 or 2 occasions I have had a chat with him previously, he has been lovely. I think the surveyors letter just put the wind up him - as it is designed to do.

Thanks for your experience FoxinSocks - sounds absolutely horrid and I hope you have a lovely house now. The value a loft conversion and extension will add will be far in excess of £10k so I am not going to modify anything and if it does turn out nasty we can always sell. grin

[Pollyanna emoticon]

foxinsocks Wed 16-Feb-11 18:55:53

Lol at they will always be twats

House is great, well the upstairs is. The downstairs now looks dreadful in comparison. The whole experience has put me off building work for a lifetime ;-).

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