Telling your neighbours, whether you have a good relationship with them or not, that they are going to have to put up with a building site next door for the next 8 months is never an easy thing to do.
It doesn’t matter whether you intend to completely refurbish your home or just build a small extension.
The noise, the dirt & dust and the builders stomping in and out everywhere is usually enough to drive anyone mad but it’s even worse when it’s not even your own home being done up and will have nothing to show for it at the end of it all!
What you’re going to learn here are some very important tips & tricks to help you out with this very touchy subject.
First I am going to put all this into context for you.
How To Get Your Neighbours Backs Up
I once worked on a project in Kensington Olympia in London that was featured on Grand Designs.
In fact Kevin McCloud just loved the place but what my clients did was unforgivable.
They pretty much violated everything I am going to share with you in this article and whilst they now live in a beautiful home, their entire street of neighbours absolutely despise them.
So the question I have for you is this: Which would you prefer – a set of neighbours who love you and your family or a set of neighbours who would be jumping with joy to see you leave or your house collapse?
“Have You Ever Been The Last To Know About Something Important?”
I bet you didn’t feel too good about it either did you? A bit peeved maybe?
Well, how would you feel if your neighbours never spoke with you and your family about a major construction project they were planning on their home and the first you knew about it was the letter from the planners or even worse – when a whole load of builders suddenly appeared next door?!
Having been designing peoples homes for more than 16 years, I can safely say that the number one thing you can do is call into your neighbours or invite them around to yours on an individual one to one basis and explain to them what you are planning to do with your house even if you think it’s only going to affect your neighbours daily lives on a minute level.
You might not think some things like parking their car in a different place or even having to walk on the other side of the road on the way to the tube in the morning is a big deal but believe me, people hate a change to their daily routine unless there is some benefit in them for it.
And if that reason happens to be your project then you can dramatically quell peoples negative attitudes towards you, your family and your project by simply sitting down with them and explain to them what you are planning to do.
The main reason for people objecting towards their neighbours construction projects is because they haven’t been shown the courtesy of being acknowledged that their daily routine will be interrupted.
All it takes is a 5 minute chat to avoid any of this.
This will save you aggro, possible issues with the local planners, solicitors fees, your relationship with these people and can ultimately save you from having to drastically change what you are planning to build to simply appease someone who only feel aggrieved because you didn’t tell them about it in the first place.
It costs nothing and yet saves a lot down the road.
Do it very early to avoid any issues later on.
When you sit down with your neighbours to tell them of your plans make sure you ask them of their concerns or anything they might be worried about.
Really listen to them and address these issues head on.
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The (Extremely Expensive) Red Tape Nightmare
If you are affecting the party wall between you and your neighbour then you will have to get what’s called a Party Wall Agreement.
This is a formal process where they can hire an Engineer to inspect your design at your expense and a Party Wall Surveyor (also at your expense) to sign the agreement off on their end if they so wish.
They actually cannot stop you from building next door to them but if you require planning permission and they can make it very difficult for you there by objecting to the planning application.
What is usually required as part of a Part Wall Agreement is what’s called a Condition Survey.
A Condition Survey is where a Surveyor or Engineer document the condition of your neighbours property before you commence your building work.
It gets typed up into a report and you will have to foot the bill for it.
This report also protects you from your neighbours trying to blame you for damage that was there before you started your project.
The unfortunate thing I have found is if your neighbour decides to get an independent Engineer or Surveyor to appraise your proposed project then these professionals will be out to squeeze every penny they can out of you.
I have worked on projects where these additional consultant fees were more than the fees for getting the project itself designed!
So be warned!
A lot of these companies have no morals about this at all and if you have rubbed up your neighbour the wrong way then they will see this as a free for all for your wallet.
They WILL make your life difficult, I can guarantee you that much.
And we haven’t even mentioned solicitors yet!
How To Avoid The Red Tape Nightmare
A way around this extra expense is to get your own Architect or Engineer to do it for you.
You will get it done for a lot less money than if you let your neighbour hire someone independently to do it for them. But for this to work your neighbour must feel you have their best interests at heart.
You can do this by pre-empting this when addressing your neighbours concerns even if you don’t require a party wall agreement.
By suggesting this to them you will quell a lot of concern, worry and fears they may have about your project.
Just get your own guys to do it early and be very clear that if in the likely event there is some damage, then you will do everything to sort it out.
And usually that’s all your neighbours want to hear.
This communicates to your neighbours that your project is well thought out, that you do genuinely care about them in all this and as a result they will feel in safe hands, understood and respected.
Everyone’s a winner.
But even if you do get to build what you want, having the pain in the neck next door neighbour who is always calling over to complain, or trying to sue you for various and usually trivial items is a real unnecessary thing to go through.
And you never know you might just need them one day to help you out. If you have any questions about this article then please leave a comment below.
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John Carston says
I appreciate that you explained the importance of building a good relationship to prevent conflicts. My cousin told me last night that he is planning to renovate their home because of their family getting bigger, he asked if I have any idea what is the best option to do. Thanks to this helpful article, I’ll be sure to tell him that it will be much better if they consult a home extension company as they can answer all his concerns.
Hi good advice but what can we do when the building works are going on and no party wall act is happening the land registry shows the legal owner has died but still on the records the new family are applying for planning permission to council and ripping apart the house no adjoining neighbours know who they are and what is going on as the owner they knew is dead nearly 2 years ago.
Great post. I will be dealing with a few of these issues as well..
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