The Role of a Party Wall Surveyor - What Does a Party Wall Surveyor Actually Do?
Friday 26th July 2019
Carl O'Boyle BSc MRICS FCIOB MFPWS
The term surveyor is defined in the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 as any person who is not party to the works. This means you do not necessarily have to be a surveyor to perform the role of the Party Wall Surveyor.
The Building Owner cannot be a Party Wall Surveyor as well as the Building Owner. The Party Wall Surveyor can be the person overseeing the works i.e. a surveyor or architect and the chosen person should have a good knowledge of construction, be versed in procedures and ideally have a relevant qualification. Popular choices for this role include building surveyors and structural engineers.
The Party Wall Surveyors (or the agreed surveyor if for the two parties, it can be 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 of how the works should proceed and covers items such as working hours, what happens in the case of damage and access to the surveyors during the course of the works.
If you think the Adjoining Owner is unlikely to consent to the planned works, it's worth involving an experienced Party Wall Surveyor at an early stage. We at Tayross Associates are happy to give free advice earlier in the process and builders appreciate the time that this will serve as at a later stage. The process starts with the service of notice (although I suggest that an informal discussion with your neighbour before the notices drop through the letterbox will help to smooth matters later). Although template notices are widely available it is worth remembering that if they do not contain all the necessary information, or are not properly served, they will be invalid and this could set your project back considerably.
One of the major activities performed by the Party Wall Surveyor is the preparation of the Schedule of Condition prior to the works commencing. This schedule is carried out on site jointly between the two surveyors and existing condition and defects are recorded.
It is important that surveyors act impartially and they should not be led by their appointed owner into doing their bidding, as is the case in many situations.
Once the Party Wall Surveyor has been appointed, that appointment cannot be rescinded unless the surveyor in question declares himself incapable of acting or dies.
Finally we come to fees, these are paid normally by the Building Owner and fees can vary widely from surveyor to surveyor. Current fees being charged in London range from £100 per hour up to £350 per hour. The higher range appears to be the rate of the Adjoining Owners surveyor more often than not. Some surveyors take advantage of the fact that the Building Owner is paying and therefore competitive fees are something you rarely see from an Adjoining Owners surveyor. Fees are normally included in the award for a final inspection by the Adjoining Owners' surveyor with relation to the schedule of condition.
The Party Wall Surveyor and the Party Wall Award
The Surveyor(s) are responsible for preparing a "Party Wall Award" in relation to proposed works on / near the party wall, after a Notice has been served. This Party Wall document better known as an Award:-
- sets out the work that will be carried out
- says when and how the work is to be carried out (for example, not at weekends if the buildings are domestic properties)
- specifies any additional work required (for example necessary protection to prevent damage) it could be a retaining wall or strengthening to your foundations etc.
- often contains a record of the condition of the adjoining property before the work begins (so that any damage to the adjoining land or buildings can be properly attributed and made good)
- allows access for the surveyor(s) to inspect the works while they're going on (to see that they are in accordance with the award).
It is a good idea to keep a copy of the Award with your property deeds when the works are completed.
This article was written by Carl O'Boyle BSc MRICS FCIOB MFPWS. Carl is a full professional member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, a member of the Faculty of Party Wall Surveyors and a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Building for which he currently sits on the CIOB professional conduct committee and adjudications panel.
If you have any Party Wall enquiries then please call us at our Pinner office on 0208 426 1448.