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Hi there surveyors!  I have a question about managing freeholder disputes over alterations.
 
I live in the ground floor flat of a converted 3 story Victorian house, 3 flats, own share of freehold with the other flat owner-occupiers (one 1-bed flat at the back of the the first floor, one 2-bed flat at the front of the first floor and the second floor). I want to knock two rooms through to make an open-plan living / kitchen area. The wall I want to remove was not there when the house was built, and there's an iron beam above it holding the rest of the house up so the wall is not really load-bearing. I've had a structural engineer prepare calculations and drawings specifying some minor supporting work which may be necessary when we expose the beam and he's had a look.  The work would take 2-3 months in total I guess.
 
The issue is that my fellow freeholders look like they're going to fight this tooth and nail. We'll probably need a surveyor to draw up the docs and arbitrate. Some questions though before I decide whether it's worth the fight:
  • For a job like this, do we need a Party Wall Agreement as well as a Licence to Alter?
  • Can they object to the work on grounds of noise and disruption?  One of the couple in the 2 bed flat works with vulnerable children, is WFH since the pandemic so does everything on video calls, doesn't have an office to go to. She and her husband do however have two large double bedrooms on the second floor at the top of the house.  He works in one, she works in their living room which is directly above my living room where a lot of the work will be done.  I've suggested they both work on the second floor away from the noise but they don't want to and haven't given me a good reason.  Is this something a surveyor would be able adjudicate on in the event of a dispute, or are we getting into legalities beyond a surveyor's scope?
  • The kitchen of the new open-plan space will be below the bedroom of the 1-bed flat.  Can the owner object to the new configuration on the basis of potential extra noise from the kitchen and living room below? If so will sound-proofing the ceiling be enough to address this?
 
Many thanks in advance.
Edited by Ttrev
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1. Possibly, if you are changing how the wall attaches to the wall/floor/ceiling between you and the neighbouring house/flat.  Depends on your circumstances. A sketch would help.

2. They can object but you are allowed reasonable noise. tell your workers to keep it down, and avoid unnecessary noise such as shouting and radios.

3. If nothing you are doing increases the chance of noise then, no. If you add sound proofing then that is more than reasonable.  What are the floors constructed from? Keep photos of the conditions now and insulation being applied and complaints will fail.

 

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Thanks @saveasteading!

 

1.  SE drawings attached. The supporting work will be under the beam so not directly connected to the wall above, but does involve work on the wall of the communal hall, so I guess that counts as a party wall?

3. Floor are wooden floorboards over joists and the upstairs bedroom is not carpeted. Will take loads of photos.image.thumb.png.6b01f1b48de9407412992a4780ef0885.pngimage.thumb.png.83d4d44546c306119acd5981689ebe46.png

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As you are “tampering” with the support to a wall above then this work will come under PArty Wall, doesn’t have to be anything fancy just satisfy your neighbours that the works will be fully insured, carried out by experienced trades in an efficient and curtious manner

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The nuisance to the upstairs neighbours would be the main issue.

The side neighbours are not having their shared walls affected so this wouldn't be a party wall matter (the beam is already in both shared walls),

 

If the neighbours tell you they are ok with the work then just confirm that and you will have no issues.

If they are not happy then the next thing is to show them the party wall act and perhaps they will drop it.

 

The actual 'Act' is a lot of words but this booklet is helpful. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/preventing-and-resolving-disputes-in-relation-to-party-walls/the-party-wall-etc-act-1996-explanatory-booklet

 

Talking to the neighbours can do no harm.

The upstairs people need to know that the structure is not at risk...show them the drawings, even invite them in to see the beam.

 

Try to talk about dismantling the wall rather than demolition.

 

Do make your own mind up on this as I don't know the full circumstances, don't know you or the neighbours and have only dealt with PWA a few times.

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Thanks again.  I should clarify, it's the upstairs neighbours who want a party wall agreement, in addition to the Licence to Alter that I need from them as shared freeholders. Is that justified?

 

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 Probably yes on both counts.

It is easy to understand their concerns. 

I think you need to speak to a local Party Wall Surveyor. Might as well get on with it as they will otherwise insist anyway.

I am ducking out of any more specific advice.

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6 hours ago, Ttrev said:
Hi there surveyors!  I have a question about managing freeholder disputes over alterations.
 
I live in the ground floor flat of a converted 3 story Victorian house, 3 flats, own share of freehold with the other flat owner-occupiers (one 1-bed flat at the back of the the first floor, one 2-bed flat at the front of the first floor and the second floor). I want to knock two rooms through to make an open-plan living / kitchen area. The wall I want to remove was not there when the house was built, and there's an iron beam above it holding the rest of the house up so the wall is not really load-bearing. I've had a structural engineer prepare calculations and drawings specifying some minor supporting work which may be necessary when we expose the beam and he's had a look.  The work would take 2-3 months in total I guess.
 
The issue is that my fellow freeholders look like they're going to fight this tooth and nail. We'll probably need a surveyor to draw up the docs and arbitrate. Some questions though before I decide whether it's worth the fight:
  • For a job like this, do we need a Party Wall Agreement as well as a Licence to Alter?
  • Can they object to the work on grounds of noise and disruption?  One of the couple in the 2 bed flat works with vulnerable children, is WFH since the pandemic so does everything on video calls, doesn't have an office to go to. She and her husband do however have two large double bedrooms on the second floor at the top of the house.  He works in one, she works in their living room which is directly above my living room where a lot of the work will be done.  I've suggested they both work on the second floor away from the noise but they don't want to and haven't given me a good reason.  Is this something a surveyor would be able adjudicate on in the event of a dispute, or are we getting into legalities beyond a surveyor's scope?
  • The kitchen of the new open-plan space will be below the bedroom of the 1-bed flat.  Can the owner object to the new configuration on the basis of potential extra noise from the kitchen and living room below? If so will sound-proofing the ceiling be enough to address this?
 
Many thanks in advance.

I am (or was) a Chartered Surveyor for 25 years until I got fed up of paying the RICS £700+ a year for nothing in return apart from a monthly mag that I chucked in the bin with the plastic intact. So, let's have a look at this - 

 

  • or a job like this, do we need a Party Wall Agreement as well as a Licence to Alter?  Party Wall - probably not. License certainly yes. With reasonable L/L costs covered.  This can be legal and surveyor's monitoring costs.
  • Can they object to the work on grounds of noise and disruption? [no - covered in the License]  One of the couple in the 2 bed flat works with vulnerable children, is WFH since the pandemic so does everything on video calls, doesn't have an office to go to.[Not your problem]
  • She and her husband do however have two large double bedrooms on the second floor at the top of the house.  He works in one, she works in their living room which is directly above my living room where a lot of the work will be done. [sucks to be them for a few days]  I've suggested they both work on the second floor away from the noise but they don't want to and haven't given me a good reason.  Is this something a surveyor would be able adjudicate on in the event of a dispute, or are we getting into legalities beyond a surveyor's scope? [none of this is your problem - smash it out and all is done - it is not like you are building an effig motorway outside the house ffs.
  • The kitchen of the new open-plan space will be below the bedroom of the 1-bed flat.  Can the owner object to the new configuration on the basis of potential extra noise from the kitchen and living room below? If so will sound-proofing the ceiling be enough to address this? [No - in fact you suffer their impact noise x10 to what you will make. I lived in a GF flat conversion in Finsbury Park 30 years ago with all of the impact noise above and went to sleep dreaming of getting an Uzi and hosing the rest of the house down!
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The project might take 2-3 months but from what you say I think most of the noise will be demolishing the wall. I suspect that will come down faster than you think. Perhaps think about how rubble will be removed. Try avoiding throwing bricks into a metal barrow or skip. No builders radio.

 

Otherwise what @Fazsaid. You have a right to make reasonable/unavoidable noise during building work during working hours. If they complain to the council the EHO may visit to check you aren't being unreasonable by starting work too early or too late at night. You could consider writing to the EHO stating that you are going to be doing some building work and stress you hope to minimise noise but some will be unavoidable. Ask for advice on what they consider reasonable working hours. Then if he rocks up following a complaint you can say you took his advice.

 

If feeling really brave you could ask the neighbour if they have a particularly important regular video call you could try and avoid or if they would actually prefer you to work at weekends as well to speed up the project. This might open a can of worms though.

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Posted (edited)

One last question:  if some of the supporting work involves putting a padstone into the wall separating my flat from the house's communal hall, then is this wall outside the demise of my flat (the lease says the demise includes the internal faces of the external walls of the flat, I guess this is pretty standard) and if so I guess the freeholders could just refuse since my lease only allows work within the demise? Or would it count as an unavoidable part of the improvement work which they can't refuse unreasonably?

Edited by Ttrev
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Works outside of the demised premises are not allowed - this would even include fixings into the external walls.

 

In the real world, get the License and chance it.

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