One of the most typical instructions that we receive is acting as an agreed party wall surveyor.
In this week’s blogpost, we are going to be taking a focussed look at agreed party wall surveyor appointments, what they are and some of the more typical questions that we find ourselves asked here over the years.
An agreed party wall surveyor is the legal appointment of a single party wall surveyor.
That single party wall surveyor will act neutrally and impartially on behalf of both the building owner and adjoining owner as per Section 10 of the Party Wall etc Act 1996.
Section 10 of the Party Wall etc Act 1996, is set out as follows:
Where a dispute arises or is deemed to have arisen between a building owner and an adjoining owner in respect of any matter connected with any work to which this Act relates either
(a) both parties shall concur in the appointment of one surveyor (in this section referred to as an “agreed surveyor”); or
(b) each party shall appoint a surveyor and the two surveyors so appointed shall forthwith select a third surveyor (all of whom are in this section referred to as “the three surveyors”).
In layman’s terms, this means that the party wall surveyor will be appointed to resolve disputes that exist between both the building owner and the adjoining owner.
That dispute being the legal phraseology and wording as per the Act for a party wall surveyor to be formally appointed.
Is a party wall surveyor impartial?
This is by far and wide one of the most typical questions we find ourselves asked on a daily basis.
Party wall surveyors are duty-bound to be impartial.
The best way to explain this, is that the party wall surveyors will act on behalf of the properties, as opposed to the appointing owners.
In simple terms, this means that they are going to look at the works as a whole, look at the properties as a whole, and then ultimately arrive at a considered and reasoned outcome in the lead-up to the agreement of the Party Wall Award.
This approach ensures that bias or favour is not applied to either the building owner or the adjoining owner.
Who pays for an agreed party wall surveyor?
While the party wall surveyor, acting in the capacity of an agreed surveyor, will be shared between both the building owner and the adjoining owner, it will still be the building owner who bears that agreed party wall surveyor’s reasonable fee.
From a building owner’s perspective, having an agreed surveyor not only gives them the efficiency of time, it also gives them the all-important cost-saving.
Time-saving coming by way of a single party wall surveyor handling the file.
This offers cost-efficiency in terms of no communications with another party wall surveyor in the lead-up to the agreement of the Party Wall Award.
Cost-efficiency insofar as the building owner will only be paying for a single party wall surveyor’s fee as opposed for two different party wall surveyors’ fees.
What happens if I am not happy with the agreed party wall surveyor?
Again, another typical question we find ourselves asked here at Stokemont.
If indeed, a building owner or an adjoining owner is not happy with the appointment of the agreed party wall surveyor or the agreed party wall surveyor’s findings, unfortunately unlikely a two-surveyor party wall appointment, there will not be a third surveyor selected and onboard to resolve dispute.
This has the drawback whereby the owners will not have a built-in Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) procedure that they can present their issue to.
A third surveyor’s role generally being in place to administer and resolve any dispute that exists between building owner, adjoining owner, building owner’s party wall surveyor, or adjoining owner’s party wall surveyor. Or, any combination of those various different parties.
Therefore, in going with an agreed party wall surveyor appointment, both the building owner and the adjoining owner waive this privilege and ADR vessel.
When should I use an agreed party wall surveyor?
Agreed party wall surveyors’ appointments make up about 50% of the work that we do here at Stokemont.
The other 50% being that we act either as building owner’s party wall surveyor, or adjoining owner’s party wall surveyor.
We believe that agreed party wall surveyors are suitable in all circumstances.
However, of course we fully understand that there are going to be owners who would prefer to have their own party wall surveyor onboard, that party wall surveyor acting entirely on their behalf and not managing a relationship with the counterpart owner.
It is important to note that an adjoining owner is free to choose any party wall surveyor of their choosing.
Equally, they are also free to decide whether they are happy with an agreed party wall surveyor or not.
They do not need to give any reasoning as to why they do not want an agreed party wall surveyor appointment and procedure.
They simply need to confirm whether they are, or are not, happy with an agreed surveyor being appointed.
Can the building owner insist on an agreed party wall surveyor?
As set out above, an adjoining owner should be free of their own choice and free will, to decide whether they are happy with an agreed surveyor appointment.
That being said, there is case law to support the idea that an adjoining owner can formally request that the adjoining owner’s party wall surveyor act as the agreed party wall surveyor.
If indeed, that was disputed or refused by the adjoining owner, in theory and in legal principle, the building owner could at a later date hold the adjoining owner accountable for the additional party wall surveying costs they have had to incur with the two-party wall surveyor appointment.
It is worth noting that this is a relatively tricky procedure, and one that we only know to have taken place via the case law we have referred to.
What is the difference between an agreed party wall surveyor and two-party wall surveyors?
As set out above, the main distinction and difference, is that there will not be a third surveyor onboard.
Furthermore, there will be a single party wall surveyor acting for both building owner and adjoining owner alike.
Other than that, there is absolutely no difference between an agreed party wall surveyor and a party wall surveyor acting on behalf of the building owner or adjoining owner.
They will likely approach the matter in the same way, undertake all of the normal and conventional checks, reviews, inspections and procedures, ultimately agreeing a Party Wall Award upon conclusion of the matter.
Agreed party wall surveyor appointments are normal, straightforward and have the all-important cost and time efficiency.
We would tend to advise adjoining owners give careful consideration to agreed party wall surveyor appointments. They give adjoining owners the same protection as if they had their own party wall surveyor onboard.
However, they also give the building owner all-important time and cost efficiency.
This time and cost-efficiency being an often all-imperative consideration in the run-up to costly construction works that a building owner will be undertaking to their property.
If you would like to discuss party wall surveyor appointments with our team of experienced and qualified party wall surveyors here at Stokemont.
Or if you would like to enquire about a building owner’s party wall surveyor appointment, an adjoining owner’s party wall surveyor appointment, an agreed party wall surveyor appointment, or even a third surveyor appointment.
We undertake all of these different roles, and consider ourselves to be not only experienced, but experts in the matter.
We also have an industry-first video FAQ on our website, that you can take a look at and see some of the more typical questions in an interactive and unique way.
We look forward to hearing from you, whether that is by e-mail, or via a phone call.