Can My Neighbour Stop My Loft Conversion?
A question we get a lot when providing a quotes for clients is “can my neighbours stop my loft conversion?”
If you have bad neighbours it can be difficult to communicate and this can be a real worry when it comes time to do any major home related projects.
This article will explain your rights as well as your neighbours rights and the best way to approach the situation. It will also go over the potential obstacles and outcomes.
Do you need planning permission for your loft conversion?
Currently, if you want to get a loft conversion and it does not exceed 40 cubic meters for a terraced house, or 50 cubic meters for a detached or semi-detached house, you do not usually need planning permission.
If your loft conversion plan exceeds this or you want to alter the roof space, then you may need to apply for planning permission.
The way it works when you apply for planning permission is a notice is normally put up on the nearest lamppost outside the house. Also a letter of the proposed work is made available to the immediate neighbours that could be affected by the work.
Planning permission neighbours rights
There is a 21-day public consultation period where anyone involved will be able to make comments on the application. Although everyone can comment on the application, in most cases it’s only your neighbours that are aware of the application as they are the only ones that are given direct notice.
The council will consider and justify any comments they have and if they will actually be affected by the conversion. It takes about 8 weeks for them to review all the information and reach a decision.
Why might a neighbour object?
- What will the new space be used for? For example, if your loft conversion is proposed to be a music studio, the neighbour could have a problem with the noise.
- The proposed works will block their view/light. In most homes, just over half the room should be lit by natural light. This can change if the new loft affects this.
- Privacy – If the plans have big windows or doors a neighbour may complain it will affect their right to privacy.
The council usually will know if anything that isn’t classed as acceptable is in the proposed works, but additional comments are usually made by others to emphasize the potential issues.
Even if a neighbour does complain using the above issues, it does not mean permission will be automatically rejected.
What happens if planning permission is rejected?
If planning permission is rejected, you have two options
a) Appeal against the decision
b) Amend the plans keeping in mind the reasons for the rejection
What can my neighbour do if planning permission is granted, but they are not happy?
If your neighbour is still determined to stopping the works, they could try to take the council to court. This is quite rare, as it would be an expensive task for them, but nevertheless would cause delays and stress for your project.
Loft conversion party wall
Another thing that could cause an issue is the Party Wall Agreement Act which you can read about here.
Basically it states that if your property is attached to another then you have a shared party wall.
If this happens to be the case the neighbour must be notified of any potential risk that could happen as a result of work done on the wall which means you have to serve a notice to your neighbour.
Note: The Party Wall Act of 1996 only applies if you are working directly on a party wall for loft conversions. This includes any steel beams or removal of chimney breasts etc.
A knowledgeable loft conversion company will be able to serve the correct notice for the works. The price will usually be around £85 or so.
If the notice is served your neighbour will have 14 days to respond. It’s ideal to make them a form to reply with, so they can just fill it in, but it is important to have it in writing within the 14 days that they are OK for the project to proceed.
If they dispute the notice or do not reply within the 14 days, it means they have rejected the notice and surveyors will need to be appointed and a party wall award agreed upon.
The costs of this is the responsibility of the building owner proposing the works.
The owner of each property can either use the same surveyor or choose separate ones if they so choose.
The cost of the surveyor will be around £1500 per party so be prepared for costs of around £3000 for each adjoining owner. In the rare event that they cannot come to an agreement a third surveyor is appointed to make the final say.
The surveyor(s) will make an assessment of the Party Wall going over the condition etc.
This needs to also include a condition survey of the side of the party wall with pictures and finishes.
This process is a protection for both sides, so it will be evident if any damage was already there or has been caused by the loft conversion.
The surveyors will then work to draw up a party wall award which lays out specific terms like the section 8 right to access. They serve a party wall notice as early in the process as possible, so that you can avoid wasting any unnecessary time.
Once the award is signed and served to all the parties, both the adjoining owner and building owner has 14 days to dispute the award in the county court.
What about permitted development?
If your loft conversion is under permitted development, you will not need to apply for planning permission and the public has no say in the matter.
If you have done your homework and been told your project is within permitted development but you are still concerned that your neighbour still might contest then apply for a certificate of lawful development. This will give you peace of mind and can avoid any unnecessary delays if the neighbour decides to be difficult. It could be worth it for just. £86+VAT.
How to approach your neighbor
When you are in the initial stages of planning the project, the best way to deal with it is to go and visit your neighbour face to face.
Go over the works that you propose to do with them completely. Be polite and and assure them you will do everything you can to cause minimal disturbance to them.
Ask them if they have any concerns and address those concerns there and then to prevent future problems.
If they are angry and tell you they will dispute, do not lose your temper. Try to imagine what it can be like for the neighbours next door to start a big construction project with builders around every day making noise. The more empathetic you can be with them, the more likely you will get them on your side.
Can my neighbour stop my loft conversion? Most of the time, neighbours cannot stop the loft conversion from going ahead but they can certainly cause delays and stress in the process, do everything you can to keep them on your side and you’ll save yourself a headache.