Thank you for clicking on today’s Property Surveying blog post topic. Through this post we are going to be looking at one of the most common questions we are asked here as party wall surveyors at Stokemont.
A typical and re-occurring question we get from most building owner and adjoining owner alike, is whether a party wall surveyor’s professional service fees are fixed.
Party wall surveying comes into play if the building owner, who is the legal owner of the property undertaking the construction work, is planning on undertaking works that fall within the realm and the remit of the Party Wall etc. Act 1996.
Assuming this is the case, they will have a legal requirement to serve a Party Wall Notice upon the adjoining owner a minimum of one or two months in advance of the works commencing.
The adjoining owner is the legal owner of the property that neighbours, or borders, the building owner’s proposed construction works.
Under the coverage of the Party Wall etc. Act 1996, in response to the Party Wall Notice served upon them, an adjoining has the legal right to dissent to the Notice, and formally appoint a party wall surveyor to act on their behalf.
The party wall surveyor’s role will be to review the building owner’s proposed party wall construction works from the perspective of the adjoining owner’s property.
Importantly, the party wall surveyor is going to ensure that the construction works that are taking place, fully take into account the adjoining owner’s property, requirements and protection as set out by the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 and ultimately offer the most reduced risk possible and reasonable within the realm of the Act.
In fulfilling these duties and undertaking this role, the party wall surveyor is naturally going to incur professional time for which they will be legally entitled to claim a reasonable fee for.
Party wall surveyor’s fees are generally dealt with on either a fixed or variable scale.
Fixed Party Wall Surveying Fees
Fixed party wall surveying fees are dealt with or come into play whereby the party wall surveyor will generally speaking review the pack of drawings, review who and how the party wall works affect the adjoining owners. Ultimately, the end result being that they are able to estimate the overall amount of time they are likely to spend on the file, and will therefore offer a fixed fee.
Fixed fees tend to be reserved when a party wall surveyor takes on a building owner’s party wall appointment, and effectively acts as the building owner’s surveyor.
Variable Party Wall Surveying Fees
Variable party wall surveyor fees tend to come into play when the party wall surveyor is appointed by the adjoining owner.
The party wall surveyor’s appointment for the adjoining owner will come by way of the adjoining owner’s party wall notice response. At this stage, the party wall surveyor is going to be hard pressed to give an estimate of the likely fees that they are going to incur, instead the convention and professional norm, is that the party wall surveyor puts forward their hourly rate with an estimate of the amount of time they suspect they are likely to spend.
Equally, the party wall surveyor may just put forward an hourly rate without any form of estimated time, it very much just depends on the job at hand, works taking place and drawing pack that is available.
The logic behind a variable fee scale, is that at the time of instruction, it would be impossible for an adjoining owner’s party wall surveyor to be able to reasonably estimate the amount of time they are going to spend on the file as there are so many moving and variable pieces.
These moving and variable pieces can include, however are not limited to:
- The party wall surveyor acting on behalf of the building owner;
- The size of the adjoining owner’s property that requires a Schedule of Condition;
- The rooms that require a Schedule of Condition and the level of defect or issue noted within them;
- The quality of the drawings and package of information that has been provided;
- Reviewing addition, updated, or further drawings resulting from the outcome of the party wall surveyor’s review and input;
- The time it takes to review the Party Wall Award;
- Travel to and from site;
- Overall communications and discussions throughout the tenure of the job.
All of these variables are significantly found to change and vary from job to job and property to property, and therefore it is realistically possible for an adjoining owner’s party wall surveyor to be able to put forward fixed fees at the outset.
There are other party wall surveying fees that can come into play, however, these very much depend on the nature of the works taking place, and the properties and/or owners whom ordered them.
We are now going to take a very brief look at these different types of fees in order to fully advise you.
Third Surveyor Fees
Third surveyor party wall fees come in the shape and form of a dispute having arisen between the two party wall surveyors, or alternatively the two owners, or any variation or mix of these.
The third surveyor’s role will be to resolve and determine any dispute that is on hand, thereby ensuring that should there be an issue or dispute that the parties cannot resolve, the procedures are not stalled or stopped in absence of resolution and agreement.
Advising Engineer Expense
Another common party wall surveying fee that can come into play is the professional input from advising engineer.
An advising engineer is effectively a structural engineer who is in place to review the building owner’s proposed works from the perspective of the adjoining owner’s property, and ensure that the design fully takes into account all necessary engineering practices. However, also posing the lowest amount of risk possible to the adjoining owner’s structure.
It is worth noting that an advising engineer is not in place to check or critique the building owner’s engineer design, instead they are simply there to ensure that whatever the final outcome is, it is the most befitting for the job fully taking into account all necessary variables.
The common logic and need for an advising engineer, is that an adjoining owner’s party wall surveyor is unlikely to be qualified or experienced enough, nor have the legal remit to comment, or review the engineering proposals.
Security for Expenses
Security for expenses comes into play when an adjoining owner puts forward a request directly to the building owner for a sum of money to be held on account.
This sum of money will be held on account in advance of the works commencing being held on account until the party wall works are complete, or for a period post completion.
Security for expenses is in place to ensure that should the building owner commence works, stall, stop or delay them thereby leaving the adjoining owner in a position whereby their property and structure borders incomplete works, that adjoining owner can then utilise and use the security to safeguard their property and structure.
Security for expenses is a hotly debated and often poorly received section of the Party Wall etc. Act 1996.
Many building owners taking the view that it is an adjoining owner’s attempt to thwart, stop or delay them.
Our take on this here at Stokemont is this simply isn’t the case, and adjoining owner’s request for security for expenses is very much just them ensuring that the necessary protections are in place in an absolute worst case scenario.
Party wall surveying procedures are inherently complicated and legal by nature. It is also important to note that anyone can refer to themselves as a party wall surveyor.
By anyone, we do indeed mean anyone and the term party wall surveyor does not come with any form of required qualification, experience or professional background.
For this reason you can get a vast array of different quality surveyors out there, differing in experience, professional approach, insurance and ultimately and understanding.
For this reason, we would always advise that the party wall surveyor that is selected is selected based on both their merit, professional experience, qualifications and understanding.
If you would like to discuss your party wall surveying matters with our team of experienced and qualified RICS surveyors, please feel free to give us a call today and we would be more than happy to assist and advise you. We are also very proud to offer 30 minutes free no strings advice to all enquiries. All you need to do to take us up on this is give us a shout, pop over any information you would like us to review, or for those who are a bit more tech savvy simply set up a time to have a facetime, video call, or Skype discussion.
We are very proud to offer this on a daily basis to both potential clients and members of the general public helping them best achieve their objective of gaining sound, reasoned and informed party wall advice.