Party Wall Surveyors
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Party wall paperwork
We recently heard of a case where a party wall surveyor was being obstructive, or were they? We were lucky enough to see the paperwork and some of the correspondence that had passed between the two surveyors; that is the surveyor working for the building owner and the surveyor working for the adjoining owner, we feel this would make an interesting case for us to discuss.
It is a matter of opinion between party wall surveyors, or is it?
Whilst everyone's opinion is valid, in the case of a Party Wall Award the Party Wall etc Act 1996 sets out the rules, or is it guidance? Most can say they are the rules but you need to strictly comply with them. In this case the building owner's surveyor could have been said to have been working within the Party Wall etc Act 1996, however the adjoining owner's party wall surveyor could be said to be working strictly within these requirements, dotting all the i's and crossing all the t's, so to speak and equally asking that in turn the building owner's surveyor do the same.
Was the adjoining owner's surveyor's request unreasonable?
From the correspondence that we saw the adjoining owner's surveyor was refusing to accept the Party Wall Notice because it hadn't been served strictly in accordance with the Party Wall etc Act 1996, which of course the party wall surveyor is entitled to do.
The Party Wall Notice
In this particular case the Party Wall Notice, although it had stated the building owner, the property that the work was being carried out on and the type of work, together with the proposed start date and approximately length of time, no drawings had been provided to specifically explain the work that was being carried out. This, in the opinion of the adjoining party wall surveyor, meant that the information he had to work on was not complete and therefore he asked for the information to be sent in a full and proper manner. We feel that in this particular case (and you really do have to see the information to be able to comment) that the adjoining owner's party wall surveyor may have a case, and is probably correct and that he didn't request additional information, as the building owner's surveyor implied to simply delay the work, but requested it to clarify that everything met the Party Wall etc Act 1996.
When is an adjoining owner's surveyor being unreasonable?
This really needs to be looked at case by case. We have also been involved in a case where an adjoining owner's surveyor refused to accept the schedule of condition that had been carried out by the building owner's surveyor on the adjoining owner's property, as he felt that it didn't take into consideration the whole of the property which could, he felt, be affected by the building owner's party wall work.
Schedules of Condition for Party Wall Notices, where do they start and where do they stop?
From our experience it is generally accepted that the Schedule of Condition will be a detailed and accurate record of the party wall area and any close by areas and will lead to a suitable junction, such as a door or window opening that is agreed by both the building owner's surveyor and the adjoining owner's surveyor. In this case, however, the adjoining owner's surveyor was requesting that the entirety of the property had a Schedule of Condition carried out, arguing that works could affect the entirety of the property. Whilst this may be the case we feel the likelihood of it occurring needs to be taken into consideration and in this case, as the works were relatively minor, would err on the side of the building owner, that the request was being made unnecessarily.
We could see the adjoining owner's party wall surveyor would have a point if the works had been more substantial, but not in this particular instance. We would also comment that if the adjoining owner's surveyor really felt there could be problems then they could, subject to the agreement of the building owner (as they could foot the bill), have carried out a schedule of condition on the building as a whole, perhaps with the agreement that if there was damage then the building owner would pay for the schedule of condition, prepared by the adjoining owner's surveyor, and the work and there wasn't the adjoining owner pay for the work. We could also put the cat amongst the pigeons and say that the adjoining owner's surveyor do the work free of charge!
What happens when the party wall surveyors can't agree?
- third surveyor
In most situations, where the building owner's party wall surveyors and the adjoining owner's party wall surveyors can't agree you will need to call on the third surveyor, who will give some guidance to the situation, or common sense! In our experience, third party surveyors are used, in the main, fairly rarely and we are advised that the main issue that third surveyors are brought in for is agreeing fees! There is another situation where they may be called upon:
Building owner or adjoining owner or owners requesting a third surveyor's intervention
We would say that the third surveyor can be requested in one of two ways by the adjoining owner or the building owner.
They can be requested by either if they don't have a working knowledge of the Party Wall etc Act 1996 and they feel that the third surveyor can be called, almost at the drop of a hat, without a full and fair discussion with the first and second party wall surveyors dealing directly with the case. This is generally not the case, as it is usually the surveyors for the building owner and the adjoining owner who request the third surveyor. We feel this is acceptable, providing that the party wall surveyors can explain to the relevant client the way in which the third surveyor should be used, or reiterate it. This is normally a one off incident.
The other time when a third surveyor can be called upon by the building owner or the adjoining owner, is what we would term as an educated or knowledgeable client, who has a good working knowledge of the Party Wall Act, perhaps a developer, who is calling the third surveyor in for other reasons, be it to undermine the two party wall surveyors or to slow the process down or to just show the building owner, for example, that everything he requests will be a struggle. This certainly is not a good use of the third surveyor.
Is it really the third surveyor who needs to control and manage the situation?
This really is the third surveyor's choice. Many third surveyors would refer the matter back to the party wall surveyors to come to a reasonable conclusion over it. However, some may not and some may see that the particular situation requires their assistance.
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Independent party wall surveying advice and third surveyor advice
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