What Is the Party Wall Surveyor's job role?

  • A party wall surveyor is a qualified professional who specializes in resolving disputes related to shared structures or boundaries between neighboring properties.
  • The Party Wall Act 1996 governs the legal requirements for building works that involve party walls, boundary walls, or excavations near them and requires notification and response procedures before any work can begin.
  • Homeowners planning construction or renovation work that affects a party wall must appoint a party wall surveyor to ensure compliance with legal requirements and avoid potential conflicts with adjoining owners.
  • When choosing a party wall surveyor, it’s important to consider their qualifications and experience, communication skills, professionalism, fees and contracts as well as comparing quotes from different providers.
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By George Nicola (Expert Stager)

Table of Contents

Are you planning to carry out construction or renovation work on your property? If so, understanding the role of a Party Wall Surveyor is crucial to ensure a smooth and compliant process.

  1. A Party Wall Surveyor is a person who specializes in resolving disputes arising under the Party Wall etc Act 1996.
  2. The legislation is only applicable to England and Wales.
  3. The Party Wall Act 1996 provides a framework for preventing and resolving disputes in relation to party walls, boundary walls and excavations near.
  4. The surveyors will agree on a ‘party wall award’, which is a legal document that specifies the works to be carried out.
  5. The property owner cannot act for themselves and must appoint a party wall surveyor.
  6. If the two owners can concur in a single appointment, they can appoint an agreed surveyor.
  7. The London Building Acts Act 1939 was applicable only to the Inner London Boroughs.
  8. The surveyor’s role is to ensure that the proposed works follow the Act 1996.
  9. The Party Wall Surveyor can be appointed before or after the works have started.

A party wall surveyor specializes in managing disputes and navigating legal requirements under the Party Wall Act 1996

This law applies only in England and Wales and plays a vital role in protecting both homeowners and their neighbors during building works.

In this blog post, we will delve into the intricacies of party walls, discuss when to engage a party wall surveyor, outline how they can help avoid complications, and answer often asked questions about this essential profession.

Understanding Party Walls And Their Importance

party wall surveyor using a checklist
party wall surveyor using a checklist

A party wall is a shared wall between two properties, and understanding its significance is crucial for property ownership and to prevent disputes with neighbors.

Definition Of A Party Wall

A party wall is a shared structure that stands on the boundary between two properties and belongs to multiple owners. It can either form part of a building or serve as a separation between adjoining lands, such as those found in semi-detached or terraced homes.

To further illustrate the concept, let’s consider your typical row of townhouses. Each pair of houses has a common wall built right on the property line that separates them.

These walls are essential not only for dividing individual living spaces but also for keeping the overall stability and strength of each building within the row.

Types Of Party Walls

Understanding the variety of party walls is crucial for homeowners to ensure compliance with legal requirements and keep good relations with neighbors. The distinct types of party walls include:

  1. Party fence walls: These are separating walls that do not form part of a building, such as a garden wall or boundary wall shared by two owners.
  2. Party structure walls: These are walls that form a part of a building and stand astride the boundaryof land belonging to two or more owners, for example, a common wall in a semi-detached or terraced house.
  3. New walls built over a boundary: If constructing a new wall along or near the boundary between properties, it may become a shared party wall.

As homeowners, being aware of these types of party walls can help avoid disputes related to property ownership and construction work while adhering to the provisions set out in the Party Wall Act 1996.

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Significance In Property Ownership

Understanding the significance of party walls in property ownership is crucial for homeowners who share a boundary wall with their neighbors.

A party wall not only keeps privacy and supplies structural support but also has legal implications governed by the Party Wall Act 1996.

Being well-informed about party walls helps to prevent potential disputes that may arise due to unawareness or misinterpretation of legal requirements.

This ultimately protects your property investment and ensures smooth interactions with your neighbor during any future building works.

The Role Of A Party Wall Surveyor

A Party Wall Surveyor is a qualified and impartial professional responsible for ensuring that the proposed works follow the Party Wall Act 1996, resolving disputes between owners related to party walls, and agreeing on a ‘party wall award’ which is a legally binding document.

Definition And Responsibilities Of A Party Wall Surveyor

A party wall surveyor is a professional who supplies specialist services in resolving disputes between neighboring property owners when building works involve party structures or are within specified distances from a property.

The Party Wall Act 1996 defines the roles and responsibilities of a surveyor, which include preparing schedules of condition on adjoining owners’ premises/land, liaising with building owners, and creating legal binding documents called Party Wall Awards.

The primary responsibility of the party wall surveyor is to act as an impartial mediator between the two parties involved in any construction work that affects a shared boundary or structure.

They ensure that both the building owner and adjoining owner’s rights are protected while ensuring all work is carried out safely and to statutory standards.

In summary, hiring a qualified party wall surveyor ensures that construction works involving shared boundaries or structures follow relevant legislation while protecting your interests as well as those of your neighbors’.

Legal Requirements And Qualifications

In order to be a party wall surveyor, there are certain legal requirements and qualifications that must be met.

The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 does not require specific degrees or qualifications, but it does state that a surveyor must be knowledgeable in the construction industry and have extensive experience in dealing with party wall matters.

Many party wall surveyors hold chartered status with professional associations such as the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) or the Faculty of Party Wall Surveyors (FPWS).

Specialization In Dispute Resolution

One of the key roles of a party wall surveyor is to specialize in dispute resolution. Disputes can arise when neighbors have disagreements over how building work will affect their shared boundary or party wall.

A party wall surveyor is impartial and acts as an independent expert who looks to resolve these disputes fairly and efficiently. The surveyor’s ultimate goal is to facilitate agreement between parties, minimizing the risk of lengthy court battles while ensuring that both sides’ interests are met.

For example, if one neighbor wants to build a new extension near a shared boundary and the other neighbor has concerns about its impact, a party wall surveyor can help mediate discussions and agree on any required measures such as added support or insulation.

When Do You Need A Party Wall Surveyor?

You need a party wall surveyor if you plan to carry out building work that affects a party wall or boundary, or if you plan to excavate near adjacent properties.

Types Of Works Covered By The Party Wall Act

The Party Wall Act 1996 covers a variety of building works that may affect party walls, boundary walls, and excavations near them. Here’s a list of the types of works covered by the Act:

  • Cutting into or carrying out work to an existing party wall
  • Building a new wall up to or astride the boundary line
  • Excavating or building on land next to a party wall
  • Underpinning, repairing or demolishing an existing party structure
  • Inserting damp proof courses into an existing party wall
  • Loft conversions and extensions that affect the party wall
  • Works to chimneys, flues, and ventilation systems next to a party wall

It’s important to note that if the work you plan to do falls under any of these categories, you need to serve notice under the Party Wall Act and appoint a surveyor before starting any work.

Failure to do so could result in legal action being taken against you.

Notification And Response Procedures

Before any works can begin on a party wall, the building owner must serve formal notices to their adjoining neighbors. 

This notice is called a Party Wall Notice and should detail the proposed works upon the neighbor’s property.

The owners of the neighboring properties have the legal obligation to respond to these notices within two weeks, saying whether they consent or dissent from the proposals.

If one neighbor dissents, then there is considered disagreement and a surveyor may need to be appointed by all parties involved.

Building Work That Affects A Party Wall

Undertaking building work that affects neighbors or adjoining property owners may fall under the Party Wall Act. This includes works such as building a new wall, removing an existing wall, or cutting into a party wall to install beams and supports.

Excavations near adjacent properties also require the appointment of a party wall surveyor to prevent any damage occurring.

Excavation Near Adjacent Properties

If you plan on excavating within 6 meters of your neighbor’s building or structure, then you need a Party Wall Surveyor.

The party wall agreement also applies to any excavation near garden walls or other structures that stand wholly on one owner’s property but could affect the adjoining owner’s property.

A Party Wall Surveyor assesses the work being carried out and considers any objections from adjacent owners and draws up an agreement. This ensures that both parties agree to the work being carried out while protecting their interests.

How To Choose A Party Wall Surveyor

To choose a competent party wall surveyor, consider their qualifications and experience, communication skills and professionalism, fees and contracts, as well as the importance of comparing quotes.

Qualifications And Experience

Choosing the right party wall surveyor for your property is crucial, and one of the most key factors to consider is their qualifications and experience.

While there are no strict qualifications required by law, it’s important to choose an experienced professional who has knowledge in construction with a relevant qualification.

The chosen surveyor should have excellent communication skills, be able to act impartially, and be well-versed in party wall procedures. Ideally, they will also have completed specialized training or courses on party wall matters.

It’s best to do some research when choosing a surveyor so that you can compare different options based on their qualifications and experience before making a decision about who would be best suited for your specific project.

Professionalism And Communication Skills

When it comes to choosing a party wall surveyor, professionalism and communication skills are crucial factors to consider.

A good party wall surveyor should have excellent interpersonal skills that enable them to maintain cordial relationships with both building owners during the party wall agreement process.

Clear communication is also essential in ensuring that the parties involved understand their rights and obligations under the Party Wall Act 1996. The chosen surveyor must explain all processes thoroughly and supply adequate information on crucial aspects such as fees, timelines, and dispute resolution procedures.

They should also listen actively to any concerns or questions raised by either owner and respond promptly with clear answers.

Fees And Contracts

It is important to consider the fees and contracts involved in appointing a party wall surveyor. The cost of hiring a surveyor can vary depending on their qualifications, experience, and location.

Usually, the building owner planning the works handles paying all expenses related to drawing up the Party Wall Agreement, including surveyors’ fees.

This may include preparing a Party Wall NoticeSchedule of Condition, and final Party Wall Award.

It’s crucial to compare quotes from different surveyors before making a decision and ensure that all costs are detailed in writing within signed contracts to avoid any confusion or disputes during or after works completion.

Importance Of Comparing Quotes

When it comes to hiring a Party Wall surveyor, the cost of their services is a key factor to consider. However, it’s equally crucial to consider the quality of service you’ll receive for your money.

That’s why comparing quotes from different Party Wall surveyors is vital when choosing the right one for the job.

Keep in mind that the cost of hiring a Party Wall surveyor can vary depending on factors such as their level of experience and qualifications, the complexity and length of time needed for the project, and geographical location.

Therefore, taking some time to compare quotes from different surveyors will enable you to make an informed decision without compromising on either quality or cost-effectiveness.

The Party Wall Agreement Process

The party wall agreement process involves appointing a surveyor, preparing and serving notices, determining the scope of works to be carried out, and agreeing on a legal document called the party wall award.

Content And Format Requirements

The Party Wall Agreement is an essential legal document that sets out the details of the works to be carried out, including who will pay for it. The agreement should include a detailed description of the proposed work and how it might affect the adjoining owner’s property.

Moreover, the appointment of party wall surveyors must be duly noted in this agreement. They will inspect both properties’ condition before starting any works and ensure compliance with relevant building regulations.

Additionally, if there are any disputes during or after construction, these can be addressed through provisions set out in this document to avoid confusion and further conflict between neighbors.

Appointment Of A Party Wall Surveyor

To ensure a smooth and fair process, each owner has the right to appoint their own party wall surveyor in the party wall agreement. 

Alternatively, the two parties can agree on a single party wall surveyor to act as an impartial mediator.

The appointed surveyors will work together to prepare a document called a “party wall award,” which sets out details of the proposed works and how they should be carried out.

It’s important to carefully consider who you appoint as your surveyor, looking for someone with relevant qualifications and experience, good communication skills, and professionalism when it comes to fees and contracts.

Preparation And Serving Of Notices

To begin a party wall agreement, the owner who wishes to carry out the work must serve a notice on their adjoining neighbor. The notice should include information about the proposed works and how they may affect the neighboring property.

It’s important to note that formal notices need to be served during the first stage of this process as required by The Party Wall Act.

Joint Or Separate Appointments

When appointing a party wall surveyor, owners can either agree on a single surveyor to act or each owner can appoint their own surveyor to draw up the award together in the Party Wall Agreement process.

It’s worth noting that if an Adjoining Owner chooses not to use the same surveyor as their neighbor, they’ll need to hire and pay for one themselves.

A separate appointment may result in additional fees but it gives both sides peace of mind when dealing with any shared property issues.

Schedule Of Condition

Before any party wall works begin, a schedule of condition will be carried out by the party wall surveyor. This report documents any existing defects or damage to the adjoining property that can be affected by the proposed work.

Although this is not required by law, it serves as a safety net for both parties should any disputes arise later on. The schedule of condition report includes photographs and written observations about each defect, ensuring that everyone is aware of their existence before starting construction work.

Dispute Resolution And Benefits Of A Party Wall Award

The dispute resolution process can involve the appointment of a third surveyor, who will act as an impartial party to resolve disputes between the two appointed surveyors.

Dispute Resolution Procedures

If there is a disagreement between you and your neighbor about party walls, the Party Wall Act has provisions for resolving such disputes. Here are some of the dispute resolution procedures:

  1. Informal negotiations: The first step towards resolving disagreements should always be informal talks with your neighbor to find an amicable solution.
  2. Appointment of surveyors: If you cannot reach an agreement after informal discussions, the next step would be to appoint an impartial party wall surveyor or surveyors to act as the mediator between both parties.
  3. Party Wall Award: Once the party wall surveyor(s) has conducted their investigation and come up with a mutually acceptable agreement, they will draft a formal document called a party wall award that outlines what work should happen, how and when it will be carried out, and who is responsible for covering the costs.
  4. Appeals process: The party wall agreement is legally binding, but either party has 14 days to appeal to the County Court against the award if they wish to do so.
  5. Adjudication: In cases where there is no mutual agreement, and both parties are unable to reach a settlement, you may seek adjudication by appointing an independent third-party surveyor or mediator to help resolve any issues that have arisen between yourselves.

Remember that having proper notifications in place before undertaking any work near or on a party wall can prevent disputes from arising in the first place. It’s always best to have legal advice beforehand if uncertain about your obligations under The Party Wall Act.

Legal Binding Of The Party Wall Award

Once a Party Wall Award has been agreed upon and signed by all parties involved, it becomes a legally binding document. This means that all the terms, conditions, and agreements set out in the award must be adhered to.

It’s also essential to understand that once an agreement has been reached and documented in a Party Wall Award, it cannot be changed without the consent of all parties involved.

Therefore, before signing an agreement, it’s crucial to read through all terms carefully and ensure that you fully understand what is expected of you as well as your neighbor(s).

Benefits Of A Party Wall Award

One of the main benefits of a party wall award is that it supplies legal protection for both parties. The agreement sets out the details about the proposed building work and how it will affect the adjoining property, along with any necessary precautions.

Additionally, having a party wall award can also save time and money overall. By clearly defining responsibilities and expectations before starting construction, there is less likelihood of costly delays or unexpected damages occurring during or after completion.

Frequently Asked Questions About Party Wall Surveyors

  • Who pays for the surveyor’s fees?
  • How long does the process take?
  • What happens if the parties cannot agree on the terms?
  • Is it possible to change the surveyor after appointment?

If you are planning to undertake any building work that involves a party wall, it is important to understand who pays for the surveyor’s fees. In most cases, the building owner who is planning the building work handles paying the costs associated with drawing up the Party Wall Agreement, including paying the surveyor(s) fees.

However, some surveyors may supply initial advice for little or no fee. Generally speaking, both parties will need their own surveyors and in most situations, each party will bear its own expenses of appointing their own surveyor.

However generally speaking, it is usually assumed that the building owner will cover all costs associated with undertaking procedures leading to an agreement on Party Wall Award while costs associated with Adjoining Owner’s Surveyor falls under responsibility of Building Owner too.

The timeline for party wall surveying can vary depending on the complexity of the project and how quickly each step is completed. Once you serve a Party Wall Notice, Adjoining Owners have 14 days to respond either consenting or dissenting, after which a one-month notice period must be given before any surveying can take place.

If consent is given, the process may only take a few weeks to complete with no need for an award. However, if there is disagreement between parties and an award is necessary, this could add several months to the process while negotiations are made.

In the event that the parties cannot agree on the terms, they can jointly appoint a single “Agreed Surveyor” as permitted under section 10(1)(a) of the Party Wall Act.

The Agreed Surveyor has a duty to act impartially and make an award that is fair and reasonable for both parties. If this fails, each party must appoint their own surveyor who will then jointly select a third surveyor to act as an independent adjudicator in case of any disputes.

Once a Party Wall Surveyor has been appointed, it is not possible to change them according to Section 10(2) of the Party Wall Act. Therefore, it is important that you choose your surveyor wisely and make sure you are comfortable with their qualifications and experience before appointing them.

If you have any hesitations or concerns about your chosen surveyor, it is best to address them before the appointment rather than after when it may be too late. Recent case law emphasizes the importance of this decision, as parties and surveyors have little room to change their minds once an appointment has been made.

Conclusion

In conclusion, a party wall surveyor plays a crucial role in helping building works that affect shared walls or boundaries.

The Party Wall Act 1996 supplies a legal framework for resolving disputes and ensuring the safety of neighbouring properties during construction work.

Hiring a professional and qualified surveyor is essential to ensure compliance with the law and minimize potential conflicts with adjoining owners. By appointing an impartial party wall surveyor, property owners can protect their interests and avoid costly legal proceedings down the road.

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