Choosing a Party Wall Surveyor
A Party Wall surveyor plays a vital role in protecting the property of Building Owners and Adjoining owners alike.
A good Party Wall surveyor will resolve any matters in dispute in a fair and practical way. They will ensure building work can progress safely and without delay.
Failure to follow the statutory regime of the Party Wall etc Act 1996 will be viewed dimly if recourse is sought through the Courts, as we have highlighted previously. The selection of an experienced and capable Party Wall surveyor is therefore an important decision.
Who can act as a Party Wall Surveyor?
Section 20 of the Party Wall etc Act defines a ‘surveyor’ as any person who is not party to the matter who has been appointed to determine disputes arising under the Act. This means that no training or experience is required to act as a party wall ‘surveyor’. Building works that fall under the auspices of the Act often involve complex excavations and construction, so it should follow that a ‘surveyor’ would be an experienced and regulated chartered building professional.
Membership of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) or an equivalent regulatory body (CIOB or RIBA) should be a preferred requirement of owners. In our experience, all too often this is not the case. Anyone can design a website with the words ‘party wall specialist’ in the title and find themselves appointed by unknowing members of the public. This can be equally problematic for Building Owners and Adjoining Owners, putting their assets and/or development programme’s at substantial risk of falling victim to untrained ‘surveyors’.
At Anstey Horne we have seen it all when it comes to the Party Wall etc. Act. Having been instrumental in the inception of the Act itself, we have experienced and dealt with the good, the bad (and the ugly) when it comes to the world of party walls and individuals practicing under the guise of the term ‘surveyor’.
How do Chartered Surveyors differ from unqualified Surveyors?
To become Chartered, a surveyor will have had to complete the RICS Assessment of Professional Competence (APC). This process can take several years. It’s purpose is to ensure that candidates to become Chartered are competent and meet the high standards of professionalism required. Candidates will ordinarily have completed an RICS accredited degree. They will then have to complete a written submission setting out their experience in relevant competencies. This will also include provide proof of training over a minimum 24 month period. The candidate will then be grilled on their knowledge and experience during a 60 minute assessment interview. Even with all the training this process requires, the pass rate is usually just 60% of those that apply.
By contrast, there is no guarantee that surveyors who are not Chartered have had any training at all. Some membership organizations offer training courses on the Party Wall Act. However, this bears no comparison to the rigorous process to become a Chartered Surveyor. It also provides no indication of construction knowledge or experience in dispute resolution.
What should you look for in a Party Wall Award?
A Party Wall Award should never be ‘off the peg’. There is no one size fits all solution. The type of work being undertaken will determine the suite of documents and appendices to be provided. These will be reviewed and critically evaluated by the surveyors (and sometimes a surveyor’s advising engineer).
A detailed set of drawings and contractors Method Statement should almost always be included. This will set out how the work is to be undertaken and when. This is important as surveyors will determine the time and manner of works being carried out under the Act. The aforementioned are not exhaustive. The level of detail and volume of documents required will be considerably different when contrasting a loft conversion against a deep commercial basement of several levels. The appointed surveyors must have an intricate understanding of the content of these documents and not simply act as postboxes.
Identifying damage caused by works
The other important component is a detailed Schedule of Condition of the Adjoining Owners properties. While not a strict requirement under the Act itself, this document has almost become a mandatory appendice (subject to access). This document should clearly record the condition of neighbouring buildings. This will help avoid costly disputes should any damage occur. A dispute over damage is the last thing Building Owners and Adjoining Owners want. Often the only way to resolve such a dispute without a Schedule of Condition is by recourse to the Courts. This can often incur substantial costs for both sides, the very course of events the Act was intended to avoid.
Whilst calamitous damage from Party Wall work is rare, the collapse of buildings is not unknown. An example was reported recently at a property in Chelsea.
With this in mind, it is desirable to employ long standing, reputable, experienced, chartered professionals from industry approved regulated bodies as surveyors under the Act. They will have the experienced required to ensure works will be conducted safely with minimal risk of damage.
Choose a Party Wall Surveyor with care
Often untrained surveyors will gain work by presenting a cheap up-front or ‘all-inclusive’ fee for a Party Wall Award when compared with that of an experienced and regulated practice. However, this can frequently be a false economy.
Regulated chartered surveyors, engineers and architects acting as party wall surveyors will often command a higher fee. This is reflective of the level of education, skill and training that those practitioners will have had in understanding intricate aspects of construction technology, building pathology and a detailed working knowledge of the Party Wall Act itself. The fee however, will be transparent and clear as to the level of service being provided.
The selection of a surveyor should be undertaken with care. It is preferable to appoint a reputable, experienced, chartered professional with verifiable membership of one of the industry approved regulatory bodies for instance. To check the surveyor’s membership of one of the approved regulatory bodies click on these links for the RICS, the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) and the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).
Further Guidance when appointing a Party Wall Surveyor
For further information see our Party Wall FAQs. The FAQs have been compiled from questions we are often asked about the Act.
You can also find guidance on choosing a Party Wall Surveyor in our recent news article.
There is some further information in the government’s explanatory booklet on the Party Wall process.
If you are unsure how the Party Wall Act affects your property and want some advice please give us a call. If you would rather we called you instead, please fill in our Contact form and we will be in touch.
For advice direct from one of our Surveyors, please call our Enquiry line on 020 4534 3135
If you are planning work covered by the Act, or if you have received notice of work from a neighbour and want advice on how best to protect your property, please contact :
DD : 020 7947 0960
M : 07816 845 160
DD : 020 7947 0965
M : 07507 709 434
DD : 020 4534 9339
M : 07803 504 021
To request a call back from one of our Party Wall surveyors, please fill in our Contact Us form.