Protecting adjacent properties during a renovation is more than just about being neighbourly – it is required by law
Protection work notices ensure that if work is proposed near an adjacent property, boundary or building, the new works do not have potential to damage the adjoining property. A building surveyor will often determine whether a protection work notice will be necessary, and will notify you of this when you apply for a building permit.
If the proposals are ‘common,’ (i.e. they are shared between your property and your neighbour’s property), you will be required to protect your neighbour’s side of the common property. Let’s use a party wall as an example. If you are proposing to alter and build to a party wall, which is shared between your property and your neighbour’s property, you may be required to underpin the wall. This involves strengthening the footings by replacing them in segments, one segment at a time.
It’s important that you determine the extent of protection works required with your architect, builder and your building surveyor. It is the builder’s responsibility to set up protection works, so make sure they have a good plan that is approved by the building surveyor.
If you are unsure, ask your builder, architect or building surveyor for guidance. After receiving the forms, your neighbour has 14 days to respond – either accepting the proposal, rejecting it, or requesting more information. It is normal to serve your documents through registered post or in person and obtain a signed receipt. This way there is an official date as to when the forms were served, and it’s easy to determine when the 14 days have lapsed.
Once a response is received, the 14-day period ends and there are no additional time limits to be considered. The building surveyor will decide whether any requests for information are appropriate and may ask the owner for additional information. Additional information may include further detail on hoardings, scaffolding location and processes for underpinning.
There is no time limit to provide this information if it is requested, but it is advisable to do so promptly and it’s often in the owners’ best interests to do so. If additional information is requested, it must be provided to the adjoining owner as well as the building surveyor.
The building surveyor will allow a reasonable time for the adjoining neighbour to make a comment, though if no agreement is made the building surveyor will ultimately make the decision in accordance with the Building Act applicable to your state or territory. The Building Act will outline the laws around the effect of disagreement, or request for further information specifically written for protection works.
If you or your neighbour still isn’t satisfied with the protection works, an appeal can be made to the Building Appeals Board.
If the protection works are approved by the building surveyor and carried out, the owner must then serve the complete set of plans to the adjoining owner and building surveyor within two months, showing the protection work as constructed. The building surveyor will then give a copy of these to the relevant council.
If by chance it is determined during construction that further protection works are required, the building surveyor may issue a building order to stop building work. Then they may require your builder to recommence protection works or issue another building order. This can be time consuming and delay the process considerably, so it is important to design the method of protection well in the first instance.
Before any works commence you must have obtained a building permit, and have the protection works approved by your building surveyor. Homeowners warranty insurance (or contract works insurance) and public liability insurance are also compulsory to be able to obtain the building permit.
It is recommended that a full site survey is completed, making note of any existing defects in the adjoining property and keeping photographic records of these on file. This document can be signed to protect the adjoining neighbour if any damages do occur, and to protect the owner if any false damages are claimed. If legitimate damages do occur, it is the builder’s responsibility to restore the adjacent owner’s property to the existing condition it was in before the works commenced. If a dispute occurs it should be reported to the Building Appeals Board or the insurance provider.
One of the most important considerations when issuing or receiving protection work notices is communication. Ensure the methods of protecting the adjoining property and extent of works are clear, and that the existing condition of the adjoining property has been fully surveyed. Remember, it is in both the interest of the owner and the neighbour to ensure no damage occurs to the adjacent property.