Avoid neighbour disputes over party walls and extensions

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has published new guidance on how to avoid upsetting the neighbours over building works involving party walls and extensions.

The free impartial advice guide is for anyone, including landlords, looking to consider construction work to extend or retrofit their property and to help them understand the rules around dealing with construction around or on boundaries, also known as party walls.

With the average home extension currently estimated to cost between £15,000 and £125,000, and new incentives for homeowners to reduce the carbon homes produce it’s important for homeowners to know this type of construction is covered by legislation.

Anyone in England and Wales needs to ensure they follow specific procedures when undertaking building work that involves construction or excavation on a boundary, adjoining and shared walls or close to neighbouring buildings.

The new guide not only gives advice for building owners, reminding them of their legal duties as well as providing advice for adjoining owners or occupiers, but also highlights the need to use chartered professionals who understand but the law and latest construction techniques and can help keep disruptions to a minimum.

And, for when situations become tense, it also lists how to deal with a dispute and details how experts will be appointed, and cases settled.  

James Kavanagh, RICS head of land and resources standards, says: “The pandemic made many people review how they use their home space, and many will have looked to extend their homes to meet homeworking demands.

“Chartered surveyors play a central role in supporting people looking to make home improvements.

“As more people look to extend their existing home, or indeed improve the energy efficiency of a property, this new consumer guidance sets out clear guidelines to help consumers avoid falling out with their neighbours, protect them against the risk of rogue traders and reduce the risk of a dispute.”

Michael Cooper, director and head of neighbourly matters and building surveying at Coopers Building Surveyors Ltd, adds: “Building an extension or significant alternations can be very stressful not least for the owner doing the work but also the neighbours who might be affected.

“The Party Wall etc Act 1996 is designed to enable works and lessen the tensions between neighbours and it provides a simple dispute resolution protocol handled by chartered surveyors, architects, and engineers.

“In the right hands this act can keep the peace between neighbours and reduce tension and concerns to a minimum before works commence.

“Building an extension is not simple and requires robust construction knowledge for successful application of the procedure.

“The procedure is meant to be dealt with by capable trained RICS surveyors or other chartered individuals and property owners are advised to consider choosing surveyors wisely as the act doesn’t define the credentials of those acting as surveyors.”