Extension to an Edwardian Suburban House

UK homeowners looking for more living space are increasingly faced with the question of whether to move or improve.

After a period of market volatility, many are opting to extend their existing properties rather than navigate the housing market. According to a 2023 survey from TSB Bank, 2 in 5 homeowners would rather build an extension than move house, citing attachment to their current home, financial considerations and attachment to the local area as their reasons for this decision.

This trend has led to a surge in home extension projects since the COVID-19 pandemic, with a record number of planning permissions for improvements and extensions granted in the year to September 2021. However, this increased density of extensions, conversions and other home improvements in towns and cities has also led to a sharp rise in neighbourly disputes.

When planned carefully, a home improvement project accounts for any issues that may affect the occupiers or owners of neighbouring land or buildings. These include rights of light, party walls, and access arrangements. Planning permission is often a necessary first step when it comes to considering neighbourly matters. However, even within the bounds of permitted development, legal frameworks set out stringent processes to help homeowners ensure that their projects don’t infringe upon neighbours’ rights and properties.

By adhering to practical considerations for project planning and best practices for avoiding neighbourly disputes, homeowners can navigate these challenges while maintaining positive relationships with their neighbours before, during and after works take place.


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    Why Extending is Trending

    Particularly in built-up urban areas, where homes are increasing in value and available housing is becoming scarce, a significant shift is occurring in how homeowners approach their housing needs. Rather than navigating the competitive and inflated real estate market to find a larger home, many opt to improve their current properties.


    Moving to a larger home often involves substantial costs such as stamp duty, real estate agent fees, legal costs, and the expense of physically relocating. These expenses can quickly add up, making the prospect of buying a new, larger home financially daunting. In contrast, extending an existing home, although likewise costly, can often be more economically feasible. Homeowners can budget more predictably and incrementally, funding projects through savings, home equity loans, or remortgaging.

    Increasing property values in urban areas also contribute to the increasing popularity of extending. Property prices have risen sharply, making it difficult for homeowners to find affordable options that meet their needs. Extending an existing home can be a more viable solution, allowing homeowners to enhance their living space without competing in a high-priced market. These extensions also have the knock-on effect of increasing the value of an existing home, making them more lucrative as an ongoing investment.

    Local Ties

    Home improvers also cite attachment to their local area as a factor in deciding to extend rather than move. Many homeowners have established strong ties to their communities, benefitting from local amenities, schools, and social networks. Upscaling often means moving to a more affordable area, disrupting these connections and requiring families to adapt to a new environment. Extending an existing home allows homeowners to enjoy additional space while maintaining established routines, jobs, schooling and relationships.

    Permitted Development

    Changes to permitted development rights have further facilitated this trend. These rights, which allow for certain types of extensions and modifications without full planning permission, have been expanded in recent years. Homeowners can undertake various projects, such as loft conversions, single-story rear extensions, and even two-story additions within specific limits, without the lengthy and uncertain process of applying for planning permission. This regulatory environment makes extending an attractive option for those looking to improve their homes with minimal bureaucratic hurdles.

    Legal Frameworks for Home Improvement

    To navigate the legal landscape of a home extension, homeowners need to understand the intricacies of planning permission and associated legal frameworks. These regulations ensure that building projects respect the rights and safety of all involved parties, including neighbours and the broader community.

    Planning Permission

    Not all extensions require planning permission, thanks to permitted development rights. However, when extensions exceed the scope of permitted development, homeowners must apply to the local planning authority, which then consults with neighbours, local organisations, and other stakeholders before making a decision.

    Objections from neighbours are a common roadblock in this process, with adjacent homeowners voicing concerns about party walls, property access, right to light, overhanging gutters and more. Therefore homeowners must conduct thorough research and maintain good communication with neighbours to navigate this process successfully.

    Party Walls

    The Party Wall Act 1996 is another vital legal framework that homeowners must consider, whether or not they need to gain planning permission. This applies to any work that involves a wall shared with a neighbouring property, the boundary line, or excavations near a neighbouring building. Under the Act, homeowners must serve a notice to their neighbours at least two months before starting work. Neighbours can consent, reject, or request modifications to the proposed work. If there are disputes, these can be resolved through appointed surveyors or the courts. This process ensures that both parties’ interests are protected before any work begins.

    Access to Neighbouring Land

    The Access to Neighbouring Land Act 1992 is also relevant, particularly when carrying out building work requires entry to a neighbour’s property. This Act provides a legal pathway for homeowners to gain temporary access to neighbouring land to carry out essential maintenance or construction. Homeowners must apply to the court for an access order if permission from the neighbour is not forthcoming, demonstrating that the access is necessary and that reasonable steps have been taken to minimise inconvenience.

    Understanding these legal frameworks is essential for any homeowner planning an extension. By ensuring compliance with planning permission requirements, respecting the provisions of the Party Wall Act, and seeking necessary access under the Access to Neighbouring Land Act, homeowners can undertake their projects responsibly, minimising the risk of legal disputes and fostering good neighbourly relations.

    Neighbourly Considerations for Home Extensions

    When planning a home extension, it is crucial to prioritise neighbourly considerations from the ground up to ensure the project runs smoothly. Key factors include accurately understanding property boundaries to prevent encroachments, respecting the right to light, and preventing potential damage to adjoining properties. Clear and open dialogue with neighbours about your plans can foster goodwill and cooperation, helping to mitigate disputes and maintain positive relationships throughout the construction process.

    Property Boundaries

    Accurate knowledge of property boundaries is essential to avoid encroaching on a neighbor’s land, which can lead to legal disputes and project delays. Homeowners should refer to their property deeds and, if necessary, engage a chartered surveyor to delineate boundaries. This ensures that the extension is planned and constructed within legal limits.

    In cases where property boundaries are overlooked or misunderstood, disputes can arise years later when neighbouring properties are sold and deeds are reexamined. Therefore it is important to be completely certain that your extension is built within the lines of your property.

    Rights of Light

    Rights of Light are another critical factor, especially in densely built urban areas. This easement requires the dominant owner of a property to see a specific amount of sky from a certain percentage of the room. When a proposed development threatens to change this view, neighbouring properties are entitled to challenge the works.

    Homeowners should conduct a Rights of Light assessment to determine whether their project will infringe on their neighbours’ light and view. If an issue is discovered, solutions might include adjusting the design to reduce overshadowing or negotiating an agreement in advance with affected neighbours.

    Damage Prevention

    Homeowners planning an extension or improvement project are also responsible for preventing potential damage to adjoining properties during construction. Extensions often involve significant structural work, which can pose risks to neighbouring properties such as subsidence, cracks, or water damage. These issues can be costly for neighbours to fix, and decrease the value of the property, so it stands to reason that neighbouring homeowners take them very seriously.

    Homeowners should ensure they have adequate insurance coverage and take preventive measures such as underpinning shared walls or installing protective barriers before engaging in any work. Additionally, conducting a pre-construction survey of adjoining properties can provide a baseline condition report, useful in the event of disputes over damage claims.

    Roofs and Guttering

    Roofs and guttering must be carefully designed to avoid encroachments on your neighbors’ properties, as overhanging structures can lead to later issues. Extended roofs and guttering might result in rainwater runoff directly onto a neighbour’s property, potentially causing water damage or damp issues. Similarly, overhanging guttering can obstruct access to maintenance or affect the aesthetics of a neighbouring property, leading to disputes over property rights and maintenance responsibilities.

    Ensuring that all structural elements, including roofs and guttering, remain within the property boundaries or obtaining explicit consent from neighbours for any overhang is essential to prevent costly conflicts later down the line.

    Best Practices for Avoiding Disputes

    Embarking on a home extension project can be a rewarding endeavour, but it carries the potential for disputes and legal challenges. Adhering to best practices can help homeowners navigate these challenges effectively and avoid litigation, fostering a harmonious relationship with neighbours and ensuring a smooth construction process.


    Any extension project should start with effective communication with your neighbours. Try to preempt any official notifications they may be sent by planning authorities with a frank and open conversation. Provide detailed information about the scope, timeline, and potential impact of the project, and be ready to hear out any concerns that you may not have considered.

    This approach demonstrates respect and consideration, giving neighbours the opportunity to voice their concerns and ask questions before the project feels like an imminent threat to them. Regular updates throughout the construction process can maintain this goodwill, helping to address any issues promptly as they arise.

    Expert Advice

    Engaging professionals can ensure that your project complies with all relevant regulations and standards. These experts can provide valuable guidance on technical and legal matters, helping to avoid common neighbourly pitfalls.

    Architects can design extensions that respect property boundaries and minimise the impact on neighbours, while surveyors can accurately assess boundaries and potential risks of encroachment. You may wish to instruct a legal advisor specialising in laws such as the Party Wall Act, who can facilitate discussions or mediations with neighbours to resolve disputes amicably.

    Record Keeping

    Documentation and Record-Keeping are essential for legal protection and accountability. Keep meticulous records of all communications, agreements, and permissions related to the extension. This includes written agreements with neighbours, planning permission documents, and any correspondence with contractors or local authorities. Detailed records can provide crucial evidence in the event of a dispute, demonstrating that you have acted responsibly per legal requirements.


    Taking steps to minimise potential damage to neighbouring properties, such as proper site management and structural safeguards, demonstrates a proactive approach to preventing disputes. Additionally, securing adequate insurance coverage for the project can provide financial protection against claims of damage or negligence.


    In cases where disputes do arise, mediation can be a less adversarial and more cost-effective alternative to litigation. Mediators can facilitate discussions and help both parties reach a mutually acceptable resolution, preserving neighbourly relations and reducing the emotional and financial toll of legal battles.


    Extending a home is a significant undertaking that requires careful planning, legal knowledge, and consideration for neighbours and the wider community. From understanding planning permission, permissive development and the Party Wall Act to addressing practical considerations like Rights of Light and potential damages, homeowners must navigate a complex landscape to ensure positive relationships with neighbours during and after construction.

    By maintaining open communication with neighbours, seeking professional advice, meticulously checking legal boundaries, and taking preventive measures against damage, homeowners can mitigate the risks of disputes and litigation. These steps not only protect legal interests but also foster positive relationships within the community, ensuring that the benefits of home extensions are fully realized.

    For homeowners considering an extension, consulting with experts can make a significant difference. Anderson Wilde and Harris offers a comprehensive range of services designed to guide you through the complexities of extending a property. From pre-acquisition advice and feasibility reports to strategic advice and negotiation, engaging our services can provide you with the confidence and clarity needed to navigate your project successfully.

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