There are three ways that neighbours can impact your project. These ways aren’t necessarily showstoppers, but they will take time and money to deal with.
- They can object to a planning application
- They can cause trouble when you need to ask for a party wall agreement
- They can restrict access to builders whilst building the house
If you get on with your owner occupied neighbours
This the best-case scenario. The best tactic to keep neighbours onboard is to let them know what you are doing, in advance and throughout the project, and to show them your workshop drawings as they are hand drawn so your neighbours can easily see your options, mention issues and suggest changes where necessary. You should listen to them, understand their concerns and address them where possible- Are you going to be replacing a fence panel? Have they just put some landscaping down, and can you reinstate it? Most neighbours will be happy to support you as long as you listen to, and act on, their concerns.
If you don’t get on with your neighbours
This isn’t necessarily a showstopper, but it will cost you more time and money. You may face issues with the party wall agreement.
The Party Wall Agreement
The party wall agreement is the agreement you’ll need when building on or close to the boundary, or if you are building within 3m of the neighbours building. This is needed, for example, if you are bearing a piece of steel onto a shared wall, it’s likely to cause cracking, so the neighbours need to know what’s going on and to consent to it. The easy thing would be to have our party wall surveyor to serve a party wall notice that the neighbour’s consent to, so the neighbours can keep an eye on what’s going on throughout the build. If they don’t consent to it, they can ask for schedules of conditions, and there will be an increased charge. In the worst case, the neighbours can appoint their own party wall surveyors at your expense. Usually, all this is just formality, as the party wall surveyors will just check that what you are doing is appropriate, and the neighbours will consent.
If the property isn’t owner occupied
If the property is rented and you know the landlord, you may need to get agreement from both parties: the tenants and the landlord, so if you are in contact with them, touch base with them and be friendly, as it is a bit trickier if it goes through formal channels. The same applies if it’s a housing association property- you’ll need to get permission from the housing association as well as from the tenants. If it’s a commercial property, they will be very keen to know what’s going on, and they are more likely to object and cause issues with party wall agreements. If it is a multiple occupancy, you will need agreement from all parties in the multiple occupancy and the landlord. If the house is up for sale and you get permission from the current owners, be sure to tell the estate agents what you are doing, and when the property changes hands you will need a new party wall agreement with the new neighbours.
The main takeaway is to be nice. Alan came out with a great expression: “Don’t go into your neighbours with hobnail boots, go in with bedroom slippers;” it is about diplomacy, so you shouldn’t go in aggressively- you are going to be doing work next to them.