The Party Wall Surveyor and his role within the Party Wall Etc. Act 1996


The term “Surveyor” is defined in the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 as any person who is not a party to the works. He or she needs to understand the Act and have sound knowledge of construction and be able to draft party wall agreements.  


This effectively rules out the possibility of an Owner acting for themselves but anyone else is permitted to take an appointment. That includes whoever is overseeing the works on the Building Owner’s behalf this could be their Surveyor or Architect. 


The chosen person should have a good knowledge of construction, be well versed in construction and Party Wall Agreements and matters and ideally, but not necessarily, have a relevant qualification. 


A note of caution, members of the Faculty of Party Wall Surveyors MFPWS are only required to attend a three-day course and this is far from an appropriate academic qualification they are not required to hold any formal qualifications to enrol on the course. So, if you’re looking for a qualified Surveyor we can provide such a roll. 


The Party Wall Surveyors (or the “Agreed Surveyor” if the two owners can concur in a single appointment) will prepare a document known as a “Party Wall Award” sometimes referred to as a “Party Wall Agreement”.


This document sets out the Owners’ rights and responsibilities in relation to how the work should proceed and covers items such as working hours, what happens in case of damage and access for the Surveyor(s) during the works. Site security is also addressed for each Award and systems are put in place to reduce dust liberation.  

If you think your neighbour is unlikely to consent to the planned works it is worth involving a Party Wall Surveyor at an early stage. The process starts with the service of a Party Wall Notice this can be Section 1 ,2, or 6 depending on the building work or excavation, we always advise commencing dialog before serving Notice.


Template Notices are widely available but it's worth remembering that if they do not contain all the necessary information, or are not properly served, they will be invalid. Thus, the whole process may have to start again. The cost to engage a professional to issue a Party Wall Notice is only £49.00 + VAT so worth considering rather than risk making an error.


The most time-consuming task that the Party Wall Surveyor performs, prior to the work commencing, is the preparation of a schedule of condition of the Adjoining Owners property. It is essential that this is done accurately so that any subsequent damage can be properly attributed.


If there are two Surveyors, this is prepared by the Building Owner’s Surveyor and proofed by the Adjoining Owners Surveyor. The Adjoining Owners Surveyors tend to be “ambulance chasing professionals” who put fear into the Adjoining Owners to gain their business when the Building Owner makes a planning application.  


An important point to remember is that once a Surveyor is appointed under the Act, whether as the Agreed Surveyor or by either Owner, they have a duty to act in an entirely impartial manner.

Owners often find this part of the Act hard to understand as they have appointed the Surveyor so surely be should be bias to a certain degree. Once a Party Wall Surveyor has been appointed that appointment cannot be rescinded unless the Surveyor in question declares himself incapable of acting or dies. This is clearly stated in the Act.


Regarding fees, under all normal circumstances these are paid by the Building Owner. It is difficult to talk in figures, but this is open to abuse some Surveyors who seem to be constantly overcharging the public and given the nature of Party Wall Surveys should not be allowed or tolerated. 


Surveyors appointed by the Building Owner will normally quote a fixed fee whereas the Adjoining Owner’s Surveyor will charge by the hour (£195 is the current average for London) with contingencies for additional visits. It’s very common for the Adjoining Owners Surveyor to try and overcharge and this is where the Building Owners Surveyor needs to take firm control and examine time sheets. If the fees cannot be agreed there is the option to refer the matter to the third Surveyor.


The final figure is agreed and entered the Award just before it is served. Fees charged by Adjoining Owner’s surveyors in London range from £695 plus VAT for a simple job rising to £2500 plus VAT for an Award covering more complex works such as a basement conversion requiring temporary support. 


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