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Is a party wall surveyor a legal requirement?

Nov 17, 2022

In today’s property surveying blog post, we are going to be looking at party wall surveyors.  Particularly, we are going to be looking at the legal procedures that surround party wall surveying matters and particularly when a party wall surveyor will be legally required.

Party Wall Notice

In order for a party wall surveyor to have any legal standing, first and foremost, the building owner must have served a Party Wall Notice upon the adjoining owner.

Under the wording of the Party Wall Etc Act 1996, the building owner is the person undertaking the construction works.  The adjoining owner is the person who adjoins or borders the building owner’s construction works.

Party Wall Works

The Party Wall Etc Act 1996 is statute and in place to administer and govern certain types of construction works throughout England and Wales.

We have a number of different blog posts on our website and property surveying blog that touch on typical types of construction works that fall in the realm of the Party Wall Etc Act 1996.

Assuming the planned construction works are notifiable under the Party Wall Etc Act 1996, as set out above, the starting point in any party wall matter is the service of a Party Wall Notice.

Party Wall Surveyor

Once that Party Wall Notice has been served upon the adjoining owner, they have the legal right to dissent and appoint a party wall surveyor.

Unlike many other professional relationships that surveyors will have with clients, a party wall surveyor’s appointment is slightly different.

Statutory Appointment Vs Client Engagement

As the Party Wall Etc Act 1996 is statute, rather than acting on behalf of the building owner, or adjoining owner in a client relationship, the party wall surveyor will actually be undertaking a statutory role whereby they are being given the legal right to administer the Party Wall Etc Act 1996.

This effectively means that they will look at the building owner’s planned construction works from the perspective of the adjoining owner’s property, while implementing and installing various different types of protections and protocols that will reduce the risks associated with those works.

A party wall surveyor is therefore, a legal requirement if indeed the adjoining owner opts to dissent to the building owner’s Party Wall Notice.

Upon confirming their dissent, the adjoining owner will have to confirm who the party wall surveyor they want to use is going to be.   They will need to provide that party wall surveyor’s information to the building owner.  The building owner will then equally be in a statutory position whereby they also need to appoint their own party wall surveyor.

Typically, at this stage, if a building owner doesn’t have a party wall surveyor in place, they are likely to request that that same party wall surveyor selected by the adjoining owner actually then acts on behalf of the building owner.

In the profession and wording of the Party Wall Etc Act 1996, this will be known as an agreed party wall surveyor.

An agreed party wall surveyor will effectively administer the Party Wall Etc Act 1996 on behalf of both building owner and adjoining owner alike.  However, that surveyor will be acting impartially and neutrally on behalf of the respective owners with the ultimate outcome being the agreement of a party wall award.

Party Wall Award

Within the general public, party wall awards are commonly referred to as party wall agreements.  They are one and the same, and generally speaking, the phrase is interchangeable.

In the event that the adjoining owner isn’t agreeable for their party wall surveyor to act as the agreed surveyor, the building owner will then have the legal duty and responsibility to appoint their own party wall surveyor.

That party wall surveyor, known as the building owner’s party wall surveyor will then agree a party wall award with the adjoining owner’s party wall surveyor.

Those two party wall surveyors are still acting neutrally and impartially, will be acting on behalf of their appointing owners, and it is relatively rare at that stage for a party wall surveyor to engage in much discussion with the other side or other owner.

Third Party Wall Surveyor

The party wall surveyors, building owners and adjoining owners will then have a legal requirement to select a third party wall surveyor.

The key wording to take from that statement is that the two surveyors are selecting a surveyor.  The selection of a third party wall surveyor will not bear any additional cost to the building owner or adjoining owner.  It does however, put in place a protocol and procedure whereby if the two respective party wall surveyors are unable to reach some form of agreement, they can then refer or approach the third surveyor to ensure that the disagreement at hand has a route to resolution.

The Act’s take on this is that if a third surveyor wasn’t selected, with the building owner’s surveyor and adjoining owner’s surveyor hitting some form of snag or dispute, then there wouldn’t be any protocol or way to get past that dispute and, in essence, works would stall, hit a stumbling block, and the building owner will be prevented from progressing matters.

Third surveyor selections are often a point of concern for owners, as they will often not understand what the selection actually means.

As set out above, it is rare that a third surveyor is going to ever be called upon.  However, if the inevitable does happen that there is some form of dispute, both owners and party wall surveyors for that matter, should take peace of mind that there is indeed a procedure and protocol in place to best safeguard them.

Party wall surveying procedures can often be confusing and concerning for building owners.

Especially if the building owner hasn’t prepared for the party wall matters and wasn’t aware of the necessary party wall procedures until late in the construction process.

Party Wall Surveying Tip

If indeed you are better prepared as a building owner and do know about party wall matters, we would advise discussing these with your neighbour, the adjoining owner, at the earliest possible opportunity.

Having open discussions sooner than later is not only going to ensure that there is transparency between the respective owners, ultimately it will also give the adjoining owner the necessary opportunity to make their own party wall surveying enquiries.  Whether this be with a party wall surveyor that you recommend or request they speak to, or alternatively with their own party wall surveyor, ultimately when that Party Wall Notice is served upon them, they are going to be in a position to make an informed decision.

Being in that position is likely to mean that the statutory Party Wall Notice periods, which can be up to one month, are unlikely to be applicable.  This bears the benefit of cost and time efficiency for the building owner.  Ultimately, as once they serve their Party Wall Notice, they will want to get a Party Wall Notice response as soon as possible.  The sooner they have that Party Wall Notice response, the sooner the procedures can be implemented to ensure that ultimately at the end of them, the building owner has a party wall award in place and is going to be able to progress and commence their planned construction works.

If you would like to discuss party wall surveying procedures with our team of experienced and qualified party wall surveyors, we would advise giving us a call today, or popping us an email,  we would be more than happy to assist and advise you.

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