The Party Wall Surveyor

What is the Role of the Party Wall Surveyor?

The term “surveyor” is defined in the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 as any person who is not related to the works. That rules out the possibility of an owner acting for themselves but anyone else is permitted to take an appointment. That includes whoever is overseeing the works on the owners behalf, be they surveyor and architect. The chosen person should have a good knowledge of construction, be well versed in party wall procedures and ideally have a relevant qualification. Popular choices include building surveyors and structural engineers.

So what is involved in the process?

The building owner’s surveyor will initially issue notices, and then the party wall surveyors ((or the Agreed Surveyor (usually the building owners surveyor) if the two owners can concur in a single appointment)) will prepare a document known as a party wall award (sometimes called a party wall agreement). This document sets out the owners’ rights and responsibilities in relation to how the work should proceed and covers items such as working hours, access over the adjoining owner’s land to undertake the works and any necessary safeguards.

As part of the process, the agreed surveyor or the appointed two surveyors will compile a schedule of condition on the adjoining own ears property. This will form the basis of the Party Wall Award. 

Can I get a new surveyor if I am not happy with the one I appointed?

An important point to remember is that once a surveyor is appointed under the Act, whether as the Agreed Surveyor or by either owner, they have a duty to act in an entirely impartial manner. Owners often find this part of the Act hard to swallow; after all, they appointed the surveyor so why shouldn’t they fight their side of the argument. It should be borne in mind that the surveyors are appointed to resolve a dispute and that task would be near impossible if the owners are in the background pulling the strings. It might be tempting for a building owner to try and get rid of an intransigent surveyor but alas under the Act this is not possible. Once a Party Wall Surveyor has been appointed that appointment cannot be rescinded unless the surveyor in question declares himself incapable of acting through illness or death. 

What about the fees for the work?

Finally, we come to fees, under all normal circumstances these are paid by the building owner. It is difficult to talk in figures as they vary widely from job to job and surveyor to surveyor. Surveyors appointed by the building owner will normally quote a fixed fee whereas the adjoining owner’s surveyor will charge by the hour with contingencies for additional visits – the final figure is agreed and entered in the award just before it is served.

Fees charged range from £700 for a simple job rising to £2,000 plus for an award covering more complex works such as a basement conversion or loft conversion. For commercial works these will be much higher as the works is usually much more complex.

In summary, what do party wall surveyors actually do?

The agreed party wall surveyor or two surveyors make a party wall award which is a document that can only be appealed in the County Court within 14 days of being served on you. If it is not appealed, it is then binding on both owners.

The award will have copies of the drawings, a record of condition of the adjoining property in case there is a claim of damage and it also sets out the rights and obligations of the owners. It may also contain method statements for more technical work.

An award can determine the right, time and manner of executing the work and any other matters arising out of or incidental to the dispute including the costs of making the award.

If damage is caused during or after the work, a party wall surveyor will determine if the damage has resulted from the works and assess an amount of compensation if the owners cannot agree.

Party wall surveyors also deal with Security for Expenses, if that has been requested and determine if and when it should be released back to the building owner or if it should be used for the reason it was requested.

How long does the whole process take?

The timescales from initial notification can vary, however for simple works, this can take six to eight weeks and for more complex work, it can take considerably longer.

If you wish to discuss timescales, we would advise speaking to us as we can provide a better indication once we know the finer details of the project and the building works involved.

Finally, it should be noted that there are set timescales, as determined by the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 and these must be adhered to otherwise this could give rise to a claim after works have been completed.


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