An enquiry this week from a building owner who had appointed their builder to act as their party wall surveyor, having been told by the builder that it was easy and he could do it… no need to pay expensive Party Wall Surveyor’s fees.
The Party Wall etc Act makes no requirement to use an experienced or trained practitioner, just a “surveyor”. In section 20 of the Act a “surveyor” is defined as “any person not being a party to the matter appointed or selected under section 10 to determine disputes in accordance with the procedures set out in this Act.”
Importantly, not being a party to the matter means that building owners cannot act as their own surveyor.
So back to Bob The Builder being Bob the Hopeless Party Wall Surveyor… just about every error – no proper notices served then compounded by next door also appointing their builder to act as their “surveyor” a dispute arising over repair costs to a shared structure and the two builders then not quite knowing what to do next.
Oh, and because of the inability of the “surveyors” to see how far in above their heads they were the adjoining owner threatened to sue the building owner.
A quick conversation with the building owner’s builder and it became quite apparent that he had no idea that as the “surveyor” he had to be properly appointed, was personally responsible for agreeing serving proper notices, needed to have a working knowledge and interpretation of the Act, had a statutory obligation to prepare, agree and serve a Party Wall Award and make enforceable directions as regards costs and expenses.
In fact, when we pointed out that he could be sued for negligence for his clients’ financial losses, his voice went a funny kind of pale colour. He had suddenly realised that getting the party wall sorted out was not as easy as he thought!
Regrettably the whole foul up not only didn’t save the building owner money, but resulted in a breakdown of neighbourly relationships, suspension of building works, and the building contractor being sacked.
Experienced party wall surveyors have now been appointed and the work is likely to recommence six or seven weeks later than planned. Read more about Party Walls and how we can help.
(Image courtesy JD Hancock, Handy Manny vs. Bob the Builder (52/365), www.flickr.com)
(Originally published by Steven Way, 12 February 2013)