Chris Cooper, Partner at Hamilton Darcey takes a look at works being carried out on adjoining properties.

With a lack of activity in the property market people are resisting an often stressful and costly move and are opting to stay put. They are then looking to maximise their property value and useable space, by altering or extending.

When works are being carried out to an adjoining property it is important to understand the implications from both a technical perspective and a neighbourly matters standpoint.

Let’s consider the technical implications…

If you are a flat owner and you have been notified of works due to take place to an adjoining property within your block or find contractors have turned up to carry out works to the neighbouring flat, these are the first steps we would recommend you follow:

  • Speak to your neighbour and find out what the proposed works involve,
  • If you have a Property Manager, speak to them and find out if they are aware of any works proposed to take place at the property,
  • If there are, ask for the details of the works and whether a Licence for Alteration is in place, being considered or is required,
  • Check your post to see if any Party Wall notices have been served (to the owner’s registered address), and
  • Check the Local Authority Planning website (especially important if the building is Listed or in a Conservation Area).

If a Licence for Alteration is in place prior to the commencement of works, it is likely a Chartered Surveyor will have reviewed the works from a technical perspective and advised the Landlord about any implications for the adjoining properties within the block. The Surveyor is often retained by the Freeholder to monitor the works and assist the Property Manager with any onsite concerns and act as Mediator between owners should a conflict arise. A schedule of condition of your property is usually produced prior to works commencing. This is advisable in order to record the condition should the works cause damage to your property.

Many blocks have ‘house rules’ or a Guidance Note specific to the building regarding what is and isn’t permitted. If there are no house rules or procedures to deal with alterations works to flats, it is probably a good idea to consider getting these set up in order to control and manage alterations in a building. As a Chartered Surveying Practice, we regularly advise and assist Property Managers and Landlords with setting up such procedures to ensure proper measures are in place.

Property Managers will be able to advise on the terms of the lease to determine whether proposed works are in breach of the lease or require a Licence for Alteration.

Now on to neighbourly matters…

It is often best initially to deal with matters personally; speak to your neighbour and show that you are reasonable from the outset and take this opportunity to make them aware of any concerns you have.

Certain works will also invoke the Party Wall etc. Act 1996, meaning a Party Wall Notice will need to be served on the adjoining owners of buildings or property undertaking works. If notice hasn’t been served, check the Local Authority planning website and you can download any relevant plans or ask for these from the building owner/Property Manager. Once you have these, speak to a Chartered Surveyor who specialises in this field. At Hamilton Darcey, we will provide free advice as to whether or not party wall notices should have been served and will assist you with speaking to the Building Owner where this is the case. We will also advise on your options if the works are not notifiable.

A major concern with building works is noise nuisance. If you consider the noise to be at an unreasonable level or at unsocial times you can contact your local council and find out what their guidelines state.

Although the thought of building works to a neighbour’s property can fill you with dread, we would recommend that your initial approach is reasonable and that you understand that works are undertaken for a variety of reasons. Maintenance works are often required and can be mutually beneficial (both from a technical and aesthetic point of view). If you request a copy of the programme of works and understand when the noisy/disruptive works are due to be undertaken, try and plan around this or work with them to get through the works amicably.

Remember the saying, ‘you have to break an egg to make an omelette’. Building works have to take place but have to be carried out in a reasonable, considerate and diligent way.

Chris Cooper MRICS MCIArb is a Partner at Hamilton Darcey, a RICS regulated Chartered Surveying practice based in London. Hamilton Darcey have a wealth of experience spanning a range of disciplines, including major works project management, statutory compliance, neighbourly matters and technical due diligence, they act as a trusted advisor to both individuals and corporate entities.