Alistair Redler, Senior Partner, Delva Patman Redler
In the excitement of planning extension works to your home it is easy to forget all about your neighbours and their concerns. However, even the smallest additions to your home can cause significant disruption to your neighbour’s everyday lives,whether this be in increased noise levels, restricted views or restricted access to their home.
Whilst these disturbances cannot always be avoided, unnecessary conflicts with your neighbour can be if you follow the principles of communication, consideration and limitation when undertaking extension works to your home.
While it may seem obvious, it is essential to always inform your neighbour that you are planning to undertake works. This should not just be a short discussion, they need to be shown the plans and understand what these works will entail. Understandably, people often get very upset to hear about a planning application being submitted without their prior knowledge.
It is also important to encourage your builder to communicate effectively your neighbour particularly about items of work that are going to cause disturbance such as noise vibration dust or blocking driveways. Being transparent with your neighbour helps ease tensions and avoid any nasty surprises!
It is crucial to put yourself in your neighbour’s ‘shoes’ and think about how the proposed works will actually affect them. Are there ways of working that can be adopted to minimise noise and vibration? Or will the works be likely to cause damage that will mean they may have to live through repairs afterwards. While these considerations may result in some changes to your initial plans the less intrusion on your neighbours the less stressful the project will be.
In circumstances where the works require access to the adjoining land, which can be permitted if the works come under the Party Wall Act, then it’s essential work out in advance how that can be done in a way that causes the least disturbance, interference with security and risk occupants. For example, a scaffold wall in the garden poses a risk to unsupervised small children and pets so it’s a good idea to discuss with your neighbour their concerns and any ideas they have to improve the situation.
Another important consideration is whether the works will cause disturbance to quality finishes in the adjoining owner’s property or plants that are valuable to them. Once again, this requires open communication and a degree of flexibility and care towards your neighbour to find a suitable arrangement that will avoid causing such damage or offer suitable compensation for doing so.
Showing consideration to your neighbour extends to who you appoint to manage the extension works. It is essential to employ a competent party wall surveyor, ideally a recommended chartered surveyor who is regulated by RICS. A surveyor working for a low fixed fee may be fine if there are no complications, although, they may not have the knowledge or will to commit further when the going gets tough. Furthermore, a surveyor doing a minimal low cost job for a building owner may mean that the fees charged by the adjoining owner’s surveyor will be justifiably higher potentially causing further friction.
That being said, maintaining a healthy relationship with your neighbour is two-sided. If you are the neighbour of the property undergoing extension works try to be friendly to the builder so that you become someone they have consideration for rather than a potential nuisance to be avoided.
Similarly, if you are the neighbour and need to appoint a party wall surveyor, don’t appoint a surveyor mainly on the basis of them having a reputation for being difficult to developers. Such surveyors will often escalate disputes which can sour relations between neighbours and result in costs being incurred by an adjoining owner that are unnecessary. Good surveyors should be able to ensure that the works are lawful and sound, and provide appropriate reassurance to adjoining owners as a result. Bad surveyors may just escalate unnecessary disputes – and while the extension works will have a set completion date, repairing a damaged relationship with your neighbour does not!