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When should I serve a Party Wall Notice?

The Party Wall, etc Act 1996 specifies that you need to give your neighbours at least one month’s notice for adjacent excavation or a new wall built at the boundary and at least two months’ notice for work that involves a party structure (such as cutting into a party wall to install supporting joists).

The service of notices commences the Party Wall Award procedure which can introduce delays as you will need to make concessions for such things as technical queries and further documentation together with other considerations such as holidays and etcetera.

As it is not possible to predict the time taken by your neighbours to respond and allow access for generating the necessary documentation it is therefore important that any notices are served as early as possible. Finalising the Party Wall Award tends to be one of the last pieces of the puzzle to fall into place prior to commencement of works.  But how early can the notices be served?

Typically, Party Wall Notices are served with supporting documentation so you might to decide to proceed with the notices as soon as your architect has finalised the plans and you have decided to go ahead with the build.

However, in many cases Party Wall work is the result of a planning application (for example a ground floor extension or a loft conversion). The planning process in England & Wales is reasonably swift but the outcome is not guaranteed. Accordingly, waiting until your planning application is approved by your local planning department might be in order.  However, this could then create a delay as by the time your application is with your local authority you will almost certainly have accepted a quote from a contractor who may have agreed a start date with you.

Often, the best solution is to discuss the matter with your neighbours as early as possible on a friendly, informal basis so that they know what to expect together with a very rough timescale. We thoroughly recommend that you do this prior to making the planning application or serving notices. Your neighbours will then not be surprised when the planning application is submitted or the Party Wall Notice arrives through their letterbox. In our experience this approach overcomes one of the things that adjoining owners find most frustrating – discovering that their neighbours are planning building works by letter even though they live right next door.

Taking the time to explain just a little bit about your plans and showing some early sketches will help the process. You can also explain a little bit about the Party Wall process and let them know that they will receive some paperwork in due course.


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