A party wall is any wall between you and your neighbours. Be they above below or beside (a floor is still called a party wall) It includes a fence. Any work you carry out on your property that can have an effect on your neighbour’s property comes under the party wall act. This means cutting into the wall to put in floor joist etc for loft conversions. Removing a disused chimney breast etc, even hammering that could shake off roof tiles. It does not mean drilling a hole for screws to hold a shelf up or other minor work.
The Party wall agreement is a simple document that states you what you are planning to do to your property, who will carry out the work, and that you promise to make good any damage caused by the work. They should re-name it a good neighbours agreement because as a good neighbour you would do all these things anyway. The agreement just makes it formal.
The second part of this is the survey of the current state of your neighbour’s property. It’s advisable that you take photos of the wall/floor in question before and after to ensure there are no conflicting recollections later. I use video if I can. The survey can be written by any third party including the builder. Only the owner or occupier of the property is excluded from writing it.
As long as you both agree on everything in the survey, it’s not necessary to bring in a licensed surveyor or a third person surveyor.
If your neighbour so wishes he/she may appoint their own surveyor at your expense(that’s right, at your expense). They can, and will, charge you to survey the property before and after. But for their 40 pieces of silver they will not write the agreement. You will write it or have it written. The surveyor will inevitably demand it to be written in the manner that a chartered survey is requested to do so(even they don’t have to). It makes it a long winded and cumbersome document. The act does not require this and you are within your rights to write it in any way that is clear and legible.
Party wall can be a nightmare of the neighbour isn’t co-operative but bear in mind the acts purpose is to allow you to carry out whatever work you see fit. Its jut there to ensure you fix any damage you make and sets out an impartial way of documenting the condition of the property.
So how do we smooth the waters?
Put the kettle on again. Have a chat to your neighbours over a cup of tea. Tell them what you are planning to do assure them that all will be done to a high standard and let then voice their concerns before it gets expensive. Most likely they will be happy with a basic agreement.