Although neighbours cannot generally stop a property owner from carrying out works, their interests can be protected in a number of ways through the party wall procedure. If you are intending to carry out works which might affect a structure, wall or foundations shared with the neighbour, you need to instruct a surveyor to advise whether the works are works within the Party Wall Act 1996. The advice to clients is always that it is safer to assume that all boundaries are party boundaries and that any works to or in the immediate vicinity of the boundaries will require compliance with the party wall procedure. A surveyor is best placed to advise property owners on party wall matters, but it is worth remembering for planning the timetable of a project that generally a minimum of 2 months' notice must be given to adjoining owners before starting works to which the party wall procedure applies.
Notices must be served on the adjoining owner before carrying out the works and a party wall award provides an extra and important layer of security for a neighbour.
The award usually includes details of the proposed works, the contractor (including their agreed working hours and manner in which works are undertaken), project drawings and the condition of the neighbour's property before the works, as well as indemnities given by the property owner to the neighbour and confirmation that their surveyor's fees will be paid.
Following these steps very often avoids stressful and expensive litigation in the (often inevitable) event that damage (however minor) is caused to the neighbouring property. The party wall procedure remains a cost-effective way of resolving disputes, and provides the framework for surveyors to record their agreement in a party wall award.