What To Do When Your Neighbour is Building a Basement
Is your neighbour planning to build a basement? Here is what you can do to protect your property
Article By: Tom Ayre
Last Update: May 2019
Having a neighbour who plans to build a basement next door can be quite worrying. The process of building a basement is fairly long-term and can involve a significant amount of soil removal and construction work. Building underground is often a great way of making new space in a property. Thousands of properties in London have had or are undergoing extensive basement construction works and basements can sometimes go down as far as 3 floors.
Living next to a construction site can be a pain at the best of times, with loud noises throughout the day, heavy goods vehicles making deliveries and contractors overlooking your property.
Hopefully, the construction work next to your property will be limited to minor visual and sound disturbances. Unfortunately, some projects can cause physical problems with your property. A recent example is a story from the Evening Standard where neighbours couldn’t get out of their rooms because structural damage had forced doors shut!
Basement and underpinning works can cause significant damage to neighbouring properties if the risks are not properly addressed. The risk is significantly increased when you are sharing a common wall (party wall) due to the close proximity of the works.
With the extensive amount of work that has to be undertaken with digging out and forming a basement it is no surprise that there can be problems. Common issues range from minor cracking where at best you may have a few minor cracks in the walls to the (very rare) major structural failure!
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to minimise stress and hassle:
What You Can Do Before Construction Starts
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.
How to Monitor Your Neighbour’s Building Throughout Construction
It can be a good idea to introduce yourself to the building contractor undertaking the task of digging out and forming the new slab; a bit of dialogue with the contractor can sometimes put your mind at ease. If you get a contact telephone number from them you can also get in touch if to discuss issues such as loud noises before or after social hours, workers parking on the road, contractors smoking outside your property etc.
Should you find that the work is causing you and your property problems, then keep a diary. The diary should be updated with dates and times as to when things are occurring. Take plenty of photos of damage and areas you aren’t happy about. You can then keep your Party Wall Surveyor up to date. Keeping good records is important as if a claim does arise then these will be vital evidence to support it.
If you have noticed structural damage to your property, then it is important that you notify your neighbour and advise on the problem. If the issue is serious, they may have to pause works on site whilst this issue is rectified or re-planned.
If there is a monitoring survey being undertaken during the works, then it would be a good idea to have the regular results sent to you as well. This way you can keep a detailed eye on the movement within theirs and your property.
Interested in our Monitoring surveys?
Keeping things friendly with your neighbour is important. A regular dialogue between you, your neighbour and their contractor can really help put your mind at rest. Sometimes a quick conversation can solve many problems on the spot.
Prior to the works being undertaken it is important that you record, photo and document and area you feel may be affected. Store these away safely on your computer and back them up so you don’t lose them! Construction jobs can last many years so safely filing them away where they can be retrieved is important.
During the works you need to be keeping an eye on your property. If you have any problems, then document and report them to your neighbour. Keeping things civil is crucial. Losing communication and general nastiness can cause problems with tit for tat claims and often results in negativity for both parties!
Hopefully, this explains some of the steps you can take if your neighbour is planning or building a basement. If you have any questions or queries I can help with then please let me know in the comments section. Happy to assist!