Firstly, speak to your neighbours and discuss the works with them. If your neighbour is friendly then they should be happy to explain the process of the works and time frames.
It’s also a good idea to have a look at your local council’s online planning portal. You can type in your neighbour’s address and view/download their plans and planning application document.
Your neighbour should have a Party Wall Surveyor who you can ask questions about the works. If you are particularly worried it may be prudent to appoint or take advice from your own, independent Party Wall Surveyor (we recommend Congreave Horner if you’re in the South East!). The Party Wall Act 1996 ensures that there must be an agreement between you and your neighbour regarding the works.
You may want to also want to consider asking your neighbour to appoint a monitoring survey company, like THS Concepts, to install fixed targets to their and your property. The purpose of the survey will be to observe these fixed points on a regular basis. Your monitoring survey company will be able to report back and advise if a point has moved up, down, left or right. This will in turn indicate if there is a structural weakness in the wall.
THS Concepts undertake monitoring surveys on a range of different projects across London and the South East. Following each job we issue our clients with a detailed report showing movement of points to within 1mm!
Carrying out a monitoring survey can be a key piece of evidence in neighbourly disputes by illustrating clearly that something has moved. A common problem occurs when residents have complained about building movement, but there are no base records to suggest what the building movement was prior to the works being undertaken. This can weaken an argument as it can’t be proven that construction was the cause of new movement!
At least 1 month’s notice must be given to you if your neighbours are building a basement. You must ensure you have received notice as it should outline the proposed methodology and details of what they are planning to do.
Another good idea is to take lots of photos of your property focusing on the area/wall the works are going to be taken next to. A photographic record can help demonstrate locations that have been damaged as a result of the works. Doing this prior to the works being undertaken and safely storing these away is important. Make sure your photos are clear, extensive and are taken with good lighting.