If you live in a terrace or a semi-detached property and intend to convert your roof space, it is almost certain that the works will be covered by the Party Wall Act 1996.
It is not the conversion itself that is notifiable but the parts of the work that have a direct effect on the party wall. The ceiling joists below most roof spaces were not designed to withstand the types of load that are imposed by people and heavy furniture. It is, therefore, necessary to install a new floor when converting. As most connected houses are deeper than they are wide that new floor is generally supported on beams that span from side to side.
Where the beams meet the party wall they will normally be supported by cutting pockets into half the thickness of the wall, inserting the beams (and a padstone or spreader plate to distribute the load) and making good. It is the cutting out of the pockets that is covered by the Act and must be notified to your neighbour. Beams are also often used to support the roof of the rear dormer where it meets the ridge.
When undertaking work that falls within the scope of the Party Wall Act notice must be served on any affected neighbours. There are three types of Party Wall notices but for work directly affecting a party wall, such as cutting out pockets for beams, it is a Party Structure Notice that must be served. It is essential that certain information is included:-
- The name and address of the building owner (the owner having the work done)
- The address of the property where the work will take place
- The name and address of the adjoining owner
- A brief description of the proposed work
- The date on which the work will commence
If any of the above details are missing, the notice and everything that follows it will be invalid. Perhaps surprisingly, it is not necessary to attach drawings to a property structure notice although it is considered to be good practice.
The notice of this type of work is two calendar months although that will not normally be the key time period. Most adjoining owners that are happy to consent are also happy to waive the remainder of the notice and if an adjoining owner does not consent it is the time it takes for an agreement (technically called a Party Wall Award) to be drawn up that is critical rather statutory notice period.
The best way to avoid disputes under the Act is to keep your neighbours informed from an early stage. Even before you apply for planning consent let them know what you are proposing and give them a copy of the plans as soon as they are available.