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Third Surveyor Party Wall Referrals

Nov 22, 2022


Thank you for clicking on today’s Property Surveying blog post.  Today we are going to be looking at party wall procedures and in particular third party wall surveyors. 

Under the Party Wall etc. Act 1996, if there is a two surveyor appointment, whereby there is a building owner’s party wall surveyor and adjoining owners party wall surveyor appointed, the first agreement and confirmed point that those two respective party wall surveyors will set out is the selection of a third party wall surveyor.

Unlike a building owner’s party wall surveyor, or adjoining owner’s party wall surveyor, the third surveyor will have no role or input in the party wall dispute and resolution of it. 

A third surveyor is a neutral party who is appointed to resolve disputes between two other parties.

However, that will distinctly change if indeed there is any form of issue, disagreement, or dispute between the building owner’s party wall surveyor, adjoining owner’s party wall surveyor, building owner, or adjoining owner, or, any combination of those respective parties.

At that stage, the third party wall surveyor’s appointment will go from one of selection, to one of appointment. 

Third Surveyor Resolution

This distinct difference means that the third surveyor will be formally called upon to resolve and mediate any matter that is in dispute between the respective owners or surveyors. 

The third party wall surveyor will remain uninvolved until that time, whereby outside of being the selected surveyor, they will likely have no understanding or confirmation that they have indeed been selected by the two respective party wall surveyors, and certainly would not have had any formal involvement with the matter at hand.

Building owners and adjoining owners will often be concerned or worried when their party wall surveyor informs them of the third party wall surveyor’s details.

The usual reaction is that it will result in some form of cost to building owner, or adjoining owner.

It is a conventional concern to have, however it should be noted that the selection of a third surveyor is nothing more than the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 designing in a protocol and procedure should there be any form of disagreement.

Party Wall Surveyor Dispute Resolution

If the Act hadn’t taken this into account, it would be placing both surveyors and owners in a position whereby should issue arise, there would be no protocol or procedure to resolve it.

This could not only result in delays to the building owner’s planned construction work, it could also result in a significant stalemate or dead end, which would naturally be a significant legal issue.

Party wall surveyors will rarely need to refer anything to a third party wall surveyor, the premise being that their statutory role under Section 10 of the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 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”).

The Act, sets out that Party Wall Surveyors must resolve disputes that arise and exist.  Therefore, in having to approach or refer the third surveyor, it is very much a last resort. 

Certainly here at Stokemont, over the years, there have been less than a handful of party wall third surveyor referrals versus thousands of conventionally and normally agreed Party Wall Awards. 

Third Party Wall Surveyor Fees & Costs

In the event that a third surveyor referral is made, it is important to note that building owner and adjoining owner will be liable for party wall surveying fees.

This is a slight difference to the way the Act conventionally looks at fees, whereby the building owner would be responsible and liable for these. 

When it comes to third surveyor referrals, the third surveyor ultimately has the jurisdiction and final say on whom is going to bear the cost of his fees.

Normally, the third surveyor is likely to apply his or her fees against the owner to whom has not been successful in their referral.

However, ultimately the third surveyor will make the decision on how he or she is going to apportion fees based off the referral and matter presented to him.

It is also important to note that the party wall surveyors themselves, both the building owner’s and adjoining owner’s surveyor, will also have incurred professional fees and time in making referral to the third surveyor, or, responding to third surveyor referrals by their counterpart.

The owners will also be at risk of these fees, and as such both building owners and adjoining owners, as well as party wall surveyors should be very clear and careful about rushing into third surveyor referrals. 

Ultimately, if a referral is made, it will not only bring financial risk to both respective owners, but can also add significant stress, which generally speaking should be a consideration during the course of the referral itself.

Third Surveyor Referral Timings

It is also important to note that in many cases a third surveyor referral will not be quick.

Third surveyors are professionals that work within the surveying industry.

They may even be undertaking their own party wall surveying appointments whereby they are acting as a building owner’s party wall surveyor, or adjoining owner’s party wall surveyor.

This means that they are unlikely to be able to respond promptly, as they too will have busy workloads, filled with both desktop time and on-site inspection.

It is therefore important for owners and party wall surveyors alike to discuss the timings surrounding third surveyor referral with the third surveyor themselves.

The Process of Appointing a Third Surveyor

The process of appointing a third surveyor is set out in the Party Wall etc. Act 1996. The parties must agree on the appointment of a third surveyor, or they can each appoint their own surveyor and the two surveyors will then select a third surveyor.

The benefits of hiring a third surveyor are as follows:

  • They can help to resolve disputes quickly and efficiently.
  • They can provide impartial advice.
  • They can help to avoid the need for legal action.

The drawbacks of a third surveyor:

  • They can be expensive.
  • The process can be time-consuming.
  • The outcome of the referral is not always binding.

If you would like to discuss how we approach third surveyor referrals as third surveyors, please free to get in touch with us today and we will be more than happy to assist and advise you. 

Here at Stokemont, while we regularly act as building owners’ party wall surveyor, adjoining owners’ party wall surveyor, or agreed party wall surveyor, we are also very proud to take on a number of third surveyor referrals every year.

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