For many homeowners, that dead space in the loft is a perfect way to add an extra room to a property and also increase the eventual sale value. For growing families in particular, the option of moving home when a new baby arrives is often not viable or desirable. Spending money on a loft conversion therefore seems like a sensible course of action to take.
If you are just beginning to think about building an extra room in your loft, then the first thing you need to be aware of is the Party Wall Act. It is legislation which stipulates that you have to inform you next door neighbour about the work being undertaken.
The Party Wall Act is designed to protect both you and your neighbour when home improvements are undertaken. If you fail to take it into account, you may be left with a sizeable bill when someone complains to the council or takes legal action against you.
What is a Party Wall?
This is a wall that is on the land of two property owners such as the joining wall in a semi-detached house. It can also include other walls between properties and can include structures such as floors and ceilings (in respect of flats).
If your build is near to or going to effect a party wall structure, then you have to bring your neighbour on board if you want to avoid any problems. Not only are they going to be inconvenienced by the work that is undertaken during your loft conversion but they might also have concerns about the future integrity of the party wall or structure.
You will have to serve what is called a party wall notice to your neighbour informing them of the work that is going to be undertaken. This needs to be done at least 2 months before the work begins and at least a month before any notifiable excavation starts. The notice has to be served to everyone living in the adjoining property or who is going to be affected by the work – for instance a landlord who is renting out the property.
This will include submitting plans to the neighbours which may change, for a variety of reason, before you have started work. If this happens then you don’t need to put in a new party wall notice but can simply give them the revised plans.
Making sure that you follow procedure when it comes to party wall notification is vital. There are a number of things that can go wrong with any conversion and not having informed your neighbour through the appropriate channels could lead you to being sued or an injunction taken out to stop the work being carried out. Either way, failure to comply could cost you a good deal of money before you even have your loft conversion up and ready to live in.
While you can actually create the party wall notice and serve it yourself, it may be wise for such a big undertaking as a loft conversion to get a solicitor to do it for you. The owner of the property might not be the person who is living in it, so you will need to search the Land Registry for details. A professional will also make sure that you have all the right documentation and information that are needed.