Can My Neighbour Stop Me Building An Extension?

When it comes to building an extension for your home, you have quite a few options available to you. You can build up or to the side, and it is entirely your choice if you are working within the confines of your own property.

Now obviously, you do have to seek planning permission for certain modifications, but did you also know that you may have to ask your neighbour for permission if your extension intrudes upon what is known as the party wall?

Basically, if your planned extension will cross the boundary line between your property and your neighbours, or affect a wall that you both have ownership over, then you will have to seek permission from them, according to the Party Wall Act 1996.

Planning Permission

Usually, smaller extensions do not require planning permission from the local authority to get sorted.

You can normally make whatever modifications to your property that you want, so long as you keep to certain predefined parameters with regards to space and the total capacity of the extension.

However, where you will typically begin to run into problems is when you have a larger extension in mind.

Part of the planning process involves your local authority listing tour application publicly on their website.

This offers people an opportunity to register complaints and questions about the extension.

The council will generally write to your neighbours to advise them that a planning application has been submitted and this letter will also direct them toward the website and request their comments.

This is generally where your neighbours will register a complaint if they have any, as they are going to be made directly aware of the plans as they are your next door neighbours.

The planning officer dealing with your planning application would then need to take all of these comments into consideration.

The two most common objections received by neighbours are loss of daylight or loss of visual outlook.  If your Architect or Designer takes these into consideration, or perhaps more importantly demonstrates on the plans that these factors have been taken into consideration then even if your neighbour objects to your extension there is a good chance that the planning officer will still recommend your planning application for approval.  

The obvious exception to this is when you want to make an extension which will affect the wall that is jointly owned by you and your neighbour, specifically the wall which exists between the two properties. This is called the party wall, and is something that will require you to file party wall notice for.

Party Wall Notice?

You might be wondering what the party wall notice is, and how it will affect the overall project that you are attempting to complete?

You may also be wondering why you would need to serve a notice on your neighbour – especially if as part of the planning process detailed above your Local Authority have already written to them and asked for their comments, and no objections have been received.

Well, let’s take a look at it together.

The Party Wall process is entirely different to the planning process

A Party Wall Notice is written notice that you intend to make alterations to your home that may affect their property.

For an extension, the most common notices relate to the following elements of your project:

  • You are intending to build on or very close to the boundary.
  • You are excavating within 3m of your neighbours home or any outbuilding upon their land
  • You intend to make use of their existing extension wall to enclose your extension.
  • Your contractor will require access onto your neighbours property to carry out specific elements of the build such as pointing brickwork or rendering the side wall of the extension.

For the above types of notices you are legally required to serve these One month in advance to the planned extension, or on the dates specified inside the notice.

If your works include alterations to the party wall structure such as removing chimney stacks or inserting steel beams into the party wall then legally you are required to serve these Two months in advance to the planned extension, or on dates specified within the notice.

Because of how the party wall notice works, your neighbour is then given 14 days to respond to it.

If they agree with no problems, you are free to get on with your extension. However, if they disagree, a dispute is triggered, and then you are required to hire a party wall surveyor on one or both sides in order to facilitate the awarding of a party wall agreement.

Is This Likely?

Statistically speaking, this is not likely to occur. Most neighbouring owners will only voice a concern if they feel that there will be excess damage to their party wall, if there is some kind of obstruction, or the extension will cause an unforeseen issue. In most cases, the majority of neighbours are happy to let you get on with things and will either consent to the works or consent to the works subject to a schedule of condition.

If your neighbour consents to the works subject to a schedule of condition this basically requires your party wall surveyor to attend their property shortly before work commences and carry out a photographic and written schedule of condition to your neighbours property.

If any damages occur to your neighbours property due to your building works then these can be referenced against the schedule of condition and clearly identified and attributed to your build.

In our experience the Schedule of Condition, although incurring an additional cost for requiring a surveyor to carry out the inspection and prepare a report is in fact beneficial to both parties as it can also identify fraudulant claims for damages by recording damages to the property prior to any building works being carried out.

We now work with a few builders who even pay for us to carry out schedule of conditions to neighbouring properties even if they have consented, simply to protect themselves having fallen foul of fraudulant claims for damages previously.

If your contractor is offering this service, then no doubt he has succumbed to this on one of their previous extensions.

We find in most instances, problems can be avoided if you take the time to explain to your neighbours what you want to do, and help them to understand the process.

Detailed drawings, a written explanation of what you want to do, and talking with them about the process over a cup of tea is a good way to make sure that you have a positive relationship with them, and be prepared to compromise on a few small things.

It is always best to avoid any potential dispute that could occur, because this will trigger a dissent and thereafter a protracted debate between you and your neighbour as to whether or not you can build your extension – and of course the additional expense of Party Wall Surveyors.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, you are going to want to make sure that you file the correct notices for any works if you are going to be interfering with the party wall. Most extensions don’t necessarily include the party wall at all in the equation, which means that you have time and freedom to do whatever you want to, whenever you want.

With that being said, you will have obviously planned out your extension, and if you know that you’re going to interfere with the party wall, it may simply be a better idea to adjust the extension slightly to compensate for this. Alternatively, simply carry on with the process, but make sure that you file all the paperwork correctly, because if it does go to a dispute, a party wall surveyor for your neighbour will be examining your documents carefully. Understandably, if they find a discrepancy, your entire extension could be in jeopardy.

London Office:

4th Floor, Silverstream House,

45 Fitzroy Street

Fitzrovia

London

W1T 6EB

0800 464 7131

Essex Office:

282 Leigh Road

Leigh on Sea

Essex

SS9 1BW

0800 464 7131