A question many people ask us when providing a quotation for a loft conversion is – ‘Can my neighbours stop me from having a loft conversion?’
If you sense your neighbour could be difficult or you do not have a good relationship with them, this can be a real worry.
This article will explain your rights, your neighbours’ rights and the best way to approach them. It will also explore the potential obstacles and outcomes.
Firstly, do you need planning permission in your loft conversion?
Currently, if you want a loft conversion and it does not exceed 40 cubic meters for a terraced house and 50 cubic meters for a detached or semi-detached house, you do not normally need planning permission. Read our article https://www.jefferyandwilkes.co.uk/planning-permission-for-loft-conversion/
If your loft exceeds this or there are plans to alter the roof space, then you may need to apply for planning permission.
When you apply for planning permission, a notice is normally put up on the nearest lamppost outside the house and a letter of the proposed works is posted through to the immediate neighbours ‘affected by the works’.
Everybody (not just your neighbours) will be given the opportunity to make public comments on the application within the 21-day public consultation period. Although everyone can comment on the application, it’s likely that only your neighbours are aware of the application as they are the only ones given a direct notice. The council will consider and justify whether what they have said is reasonable and if it truly affects their enjoyment of their property/ land.
Planning permission usually takes around 8 weeks to receive a decision, including this 21-day public consultation period.
What are some of the reasons a neighbour might object?
• The proposed works will block their natural light. In your home, just over half the room should be lit by natural light
• Privacy issues – If big windows or Juliette doors are shown on the plans a neighbour may complain it will affect their privacy
• Use of room – For example, if on the plans your loft conversion is proposed to be a music studio, the neighbour could contest about noise
The council usually notice anything that isn’t classed as acceptable in the proposed works, but comments are usually made by others to reiterate the potential issues.
Although a neighbour may complain using the above issues, it does not mean permission will be automatically rejected.
What happens if planning permission is not granted?
If planning permission is rejected, then you have two options
a) Appeal against the decision
b) Amend the plans bearing in mind the reasons for the rejection
What action could my neighbour take if planning permission is granted, but they are still not happy?
In worst case scenario, if your neighbour is still adamant about stopping these works, they could try to take the council to court. This would usually be an unfruitful and expensive task on their side but nevertheless would cause delays and hassles for your project. This scenario is very rare though.
If your loft conversion falls under permitted development, you will not need to apply for planning permission and public comments cannot be made.
However, if you have researched and been told your project is within permitted development but you are either unsure or concerned that your neighbour still might contest this then apply for the certificate of lawful development. This will give you peace of mind and to avoid any unnecessary delays if the neighbour decides to be difficult. It only costs approx. £86+VAT
Party Wall Award
The second area that could cause an issue is the Party Wall Agreement Act http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1996/40/contents
Check out our article here for more information on the Act https://www.jefferyandwilkes.co.uk/what-is-a-party-wall-agreement/
If your property is attached to another then you have a shared party wall.
The neighbour must be notified of any potential risk that could happen as a result of the works to the structure of the wall.
You will therefore have to serve notice to your neighbour.
The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 only applies if you are doing works directly to a party wall for loft conversions. This means any steel beams/ removal of chimney breasts etc.
A knowledgeable surveyor will be able to serve the correct notice for the works. At Jeffery and Wilkes, we charge £85+vat for the notice per applicable adjoining owner.
Your neighbour will have 14 days to respond to the notice. We recommend drafting them a form to reply with, so they just need to fill it in, but it is important to have in writing within the 14 days that they are OK for the works to go ahead.
If they dispute or do not reply within the 14 days it means they have dissented to the notice and surveyors will need to be appointed and a party wall award agreed.
All the costs of this will be paid by the building owner proposing the works.
Each owner of the property has the right to choose which surveyor they wish to appoint. They can either use the same surveyor or choose separate ones.
The cost of each surveyor can be as much as £1500 per party so be prepared for costs of around £3000 per adjoining owner and if they cannot come to an agreement on rare occasions a third surveyor is appointed to make the final decisions.
At Jeffery and Wilkes our prices are very reasonable, we charge £795+VAT for one party (for 12 hours work) which is normally the time it takes to complete an award. If there are many complications to the award after the first 13 hours, we will charge £95+VAT per hour thereafter
The surveyor(s) will carry out an assessment of the Part Wall noting the condition etc.
This should also include a condition survey of the side of the party wall with pictures and finishes.
This is a protection for both sides, so it will be clear if any damage was already there or has been caused by the building works.
Then the surveyors will work to draw up a party wall award laying out specific terms likes section 8 right to access etc
Serve a party wall notice as early in the project as possible, usually once the drawings are concluded, so that you can avoid losing unnecessary time.
The Party Wall process benefits both parties as it finalises any concerns about protection to the neighbouring property and timeframes for the work etc.
Once the award is signed and served to all parties, both the adjoining owner and building owner has 14 days to appeal the award in the county court.
The Best Approach
When you are in the initial stages of planning the works the best thing you can do is go and visit your neighbour face to face.
Explain to them the works that you propose to do, apologise and assure them you will do everything to cause minimal disturbance to them.
Find out at that point if they have any concerns and address those concerns there and then to reassure them.
If they are not happy and tell you they will object, do not lose your temper or get annoyed, Try to imagine being in their shoes and how frustrating it can be for the neighbours next door to start major building works, builders around every day, noise etc. The more empathetic you can be to them, the more likely you will get them on your side. A bottle of wine and box of chocolates can help to soften the blow.
In most cases, neighbours cannot stop the works from going ahead but they can certainly cause delays and frustrations in the process, do everything you can to keep them on your side to avoid the hassle.
Download our FREE e-book on creating your ideal loft conversion right HERE
Jeffery and Wilkes
Jeffery and Wilkes are one of London’s leading design and build firms. We can take away the stress and hassle by managing the full project from the very beginning to completion. We will apply for planning permission on your behalf and arrange the party wall award if it is required.