Part 1 – An Introduction (1)

Martyn Brown Party Wall Matters

The Posts 

This is the first of an initial series of 10 posts about Party Wall matters that are specific to London Mews. Each post is written with the Mews owner in mind, either as someone carrying out development works (referred to in the post as a ‘developer’) or as someone with development works occurring next door (referred to in the posts as a ‘neighbour’).

This post is one of 3 that provides a general introduction to Party Wall legislation and explains the issues likely to affect either your or your neighbour’s Mews property. The remaining posts deal with Party Wall legislation and procedures, and their shortcomings, in more detail and they include typical Party Wall case studies and related issues for Mews Owners and their neighbours. The five subjects covered are posted as follows:

  • 51/1 - Party Wall Matters (1)  -  An Introduction (Parts 1, 2 and 3)
  • 51A/1- Party Wall Matters (2) – Basic Procedure (Parts 4 and 5)
  • 51B/1 - Party Wall Matters (3) – Specific to your Mews (Part 6)
  • 51C/1 - Party Wall Matters (4) – What could go wrong and what to do about it (Parts 7 and 8)
  • 51D/1 - Party Wall Matters (5) – Sundry Associated Issues (Parts 9 and 10)

Introduction

If you are the owner of one of the approximately 8,000 or so Mews properties in London, or are a friend, acquaintance or agent of an owner, it is likely that sooner or later you may become involved in or made aware of Party Wall matters, either when undertaking your own works or as a consequence of neighbours undertaking alterations or extensions.

Because close proximity to others is common to Mews it is very likely that your property will be affected when your neighbours seek to change their properties, either by extending them or by making internal alterations, or maybe even by excavating beneath them to form a basement, which is a current trend.

Fig 51A/1:Devonshire Close – Diagram showing Mews in close proximity of a development site
Fig 51A/1:Devonshire Close – Diagram showing Mews in close proximity of a development site

Mews properties because of their size, location and history often have many   neighbours, probably more than with other property types in London – see Devonshire Close diagram. These neighbours will usually be on either side of you (unless, of course, you are at the end of the Mews) but may also be in the main houses behind you. Based on the example below a deep basement project could require around twenty notices to be served if the adjoining properties have part of their building or structure within 3 metres and the neighbouring owners include flats with leaseholders, freeholders and ground landlords.

Hopefully your neighbour will personally inform you of such intended developments and vice versa if you are developing your Mews. However, your first encounter with party wall matters may be when you receive, through the post, officious looking documents that relate to development plans for neighbouring properties. These letters and their related forms (notices) will explain obligations and rights in terms that are almost guaranteed to bring the blood to the boil for even the most mild-mannered people.

The Surveyors issuing such letters and forms do not intend to confuse or obfuscate but are just complying with standard practice that is designed to ensure that legal rights are properly covered. Unfortunately, the documents are not easy to read and can appear heavy handed, especially when action is demanded of you within 14 days.

Whilst you can respond yourselves, remember that help is always available in dealing with them from experienced surveyors. Just send the notices and letter and other information to your surveyor and he will be able to deal with it on your behalf.

Further advice from MBA Surveyors

This post and the others in this series in no way attempt to provide specific advice on specific party walls issues relating to any particular mews property. Being general in nature it is no substitute for any professional advice you will need with your own Mews property.

If you are unsure whether you need to issue a Notice please contact us. We will then be happy to advise you further.

Additionally, and for more information on the legislation please refer to the Government’s Explanatory Booklet.

Party Wall etc. Act 1996. http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1996/40/contents