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If you plan to make changes or alterations to a domestic or commercial property around the party wall or at the line of junction (property boundary) you may be required to abide by the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 (the Act).
The Act may require you to serve notice on the neighbouring properties (adjoining owners). Depending on the works proposed the notice period is either one month for excavations or two months for structural works. Notices must be in writing and contain the names, and address of the adjoining owner and details of the proposed works and a site plan. A drawing of the foundation is necessary for an excavation or loading details for structural works. Without these details the notice maybe deemed invalid:
Once the adjoining owner receives the notice, they have three options.
With the latter two options a schedule of condition is produced of the neighbouring property which is near the works. If any damage is caused to the neighbouring property which is attributable to the notifiable works, the Building Owner will be at liberty to make good. A Party Wall Award will also be produced which will layout the rights and duties of the parties with regards to the party wall.
Naturally, disputes between surveyors (in option 3) are not uncommon, especially in London where property prices are extremely high, and asset protection is essential which is why a third impartial surveyor is appointed before any work begins. If the building owners and adjoining owners the two surveyors cannot reach an agreement, the third surveyor will have the final say. Third surveyor referrals can be expensive and are normally conducted on “losing side” pays the third surveyor fees this is normally between £500.00 and £2000.00 but can be substantially more if the matter is complex. Its fundamental to select an experienced and competent third surveyor because the option to challenge is only at County Court and litigation is so expensive in todays world.
At Certified Building Surveyors, we are always transparent with our pricing, which is why we offer free quotes either online or over the phone to building owners.
When appointed as the building owners surveyor are prices are fixed so the building owners can establish a budget and hopefully invite the adjoining owners to agree in our appointment rather than appoint their own surveyor which will only add substantial costs and of little no technical advantage at all. All our surveyors have University degrees in building surveying and should not be confused with lesser qualifications. We are specialist certified building surveyors.
The building owner’s surveyor is responsible for deciding whether the adjoining owner’s surveyor’s fees are reasonable. Surveyors fees can be very questionable and there are some unscrupulous surveyors who can take advantage of inexperienced building owners surveyors. The total fee account should take a range of factors into account, including the following:
The longer it takes for the adjoining owner’s surveyor to reach the building, the higher their fee will be. We usually agree to cap the travel time to around 45 minutes as to prevent congestion, roadworks and other unforeseen events from causing travel fees to spiral out of control. We do however have six surveyors located in convenient locations around London minimising fees for the building owner.
If the building owner’s surveyor does a thorough job and creates an accurate report, the adjoining owner will naturally have less work to do, reducing the number of hours required to finish the job. It’s the time factor that determines the adjoining owners final fee.
If the works are more complex, such as a basement excavation the adjoining owner may seek to utilise other experts to check the design teams’ drawings, specification etc. These are referred to as checking engineers and are normally structural engineers.
The adjoining owner’s surveyor will propose an hourly rate, which the building owner’s surveyor can either accept or reject.
The building owner’s surveyor will usually check the adjoining owner’s surveyor’s timesheet to decide whether the fee is fair. Its vital the adjoining owners surveyor provided a detailed and comprehensive account of his time and not just submit a fee he thinks will be accepted.
The adjoining owners’ surveyors timesheet
Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a ‘typical’ adjoining owner surveyor’s timesheet because each job is unique, which is just one reason why it’s usually impossible to provide a fixed quote for both surveyors’ costs upfront. But when appointed as the “Agreed surveyor” our fees are always fixed.
The tasks that the adjoining owner’s surveyor is responsible for carrying out and charging for include:
Exchanges between building owners and adjoining owners’ surveyors
The building owner’s surveyor may dispute the adjoining owner’s proposed fees for a host of reasons, from unreasonable travel fees to unfair hourly rates, or excess time for reviewing the draft award. Many adjoining owner’s surveyor try to charge up to three hours fees for this task when one hour is the most he should charge for an extension or loft conversation.
If the two surveyors appointed by the building owner and adjoining owner can’t reach an agreement, the matter may be passed on to the third appointed surveyor. Acting as an impartial advisor, the third surveyor will usually have the final say on how much should be paid to whom.
Third Surveyors fees
Naturally, in the interest of minimising costs, it’s better to involve the third surveyor as little as possible some third surveyors charge up to £400 + VAT per hour.
Often, the adjoining owner’s surveyor will discuss their proposed fees with their appointing owner before taking the matter to the third surveyor. This is because the losing surveyor will pay for the third surveyors referral fee paid by the losing owner.
The building owner’s surveyor may explain the financial risks associated with letting a third surveyor have the final say. If the building owner thinks they may be liable to cover extra costs, they may agree to pay their surveyor’s requested fee.
If either party is dissatisfied with the terms of the Award, they may appeal at the local county court within 14 days.
Adjoining owners should be aware that building owners have a right to alter party walls provided the planned changes fall within the bounds of the law.
If you intend to appeal an Award, you might want to seek legal advice first.
We can act as party wall surveyor for either building owners or adjoining owners or indeed as the “Agreed surveyor which should be everyone’s preference because this limits the fees payable and as neighbours you should try to get on with each other.
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