Do I need a Party Wall Surveyor to get a party wall agreement?

A large proportion of Collier Stevens’ work is serving party wall notices, agreeing awards and resolving disputes. We have a dedicated section in our Advice Hub that may help you answer any other party wall related queries. We’re often asked what we actually do, so this article aims to help you understand why a surveyor is needed and what the parameters of the role are.

Who can be a party wall surveyor?

There is no restriction on anybody calling themselves a “party wall surveyor” and no requirement for any qualification, ongoing training or professional indemnity insurance. It is an unregulated service. So, you must choose your surveyor carefully, talk to them and find out what their experience is.  Members of the RICS (Chartered Surveyors) are properly regulated and insured and members of the Faculty of Party Wall Surveyors have completed at least a basic level of education. Remember, a bad party wall surveyor can be expensive, and often worse, than no party wall surveyor.

What do party wall surveyors do?

Party wall surveyors, like Collier Stevens, offer professional advice to property owners affected by party wall issues and can advise on the need for party wall notices, how to respond to notices, and how party wall agreements or awards can be put in place.

A party wall is classed as one of the following:

  • A wall that straddles the boundary line between two premises, even if it has not been built against and does not form a part of the neighbour’s building;
  • A wall that divides two premises and forms a part of the structure of both;
  • That part of a flank wall of a building that has been built against, even if the enclosure was done after the building was originally built;

A garden wall (but not a fence) straddling the boundary.

What are a party wall notice, and award??

A party wall notice is given to your neighbour as written confirmation of your planned work. You can prepare these notices yourself and we have some party wall notice templates you can use. Alternatively, most people ask their party wall surveyor to prepare and serve the notices as it is essential that they are correct.

Once a neighbour has received the notices they can agree to the work or ask that an agreement is drawn up. This is known as a party wall award.  This document can only be prepared by a party wall surveyor as the Party Wall Act specifically prohibits either party from acting for themselves.

A party wall award will usually set out the work to be undertaken, how it is to be undertaken and what undertakings the person doing the work will make. This often relates to how any damage or loss to a neighbour’s property caused by the work can be dealt with.

How much do party wall surveyors cost?

It depends on where you live and the time needed to be spent on a particular piece of work. In London and the South East, most surveyors charge an hourly rate of between £120 to £250 plus VAT. The time they spend on the work will depend on how complex it is, the number of neighbours, and crucially the quality of the drawings and other relevant information. If drawings are poor or inadequate, or information is missing, then more time will be taken, and costs will increase.

Although each neighbour can appoint their own surveyor for simple work, just one surveyor working for all parties may be best – this is known as an agreed surveyor. The person doing the building work usually pays for all of the surveyors.

For guidance, for a simple rear extension with one neighbour and a reasonable set of drawings and structural details, we think you can expect fees of about £1000 per surveyor (approx. six hours work each). By contrast, an agreed surveyor (just one between the two of you) is likely to charge a fee nearer £1200 plus VAT.

Who pays a party wall surveyor’s fees?

In nearly all cases, the person undertaking the building work is responsible for the surveyor costs, but this will be something that the surveyor considers and includes within the Party Wall Award.

If the costs are not paid, the Award can be enforced in either the Magistrates or County Court. The one risk is that if the person doing the work becomes insolvent, and is unable to settle the costs, the surveyor may try and recover these from the party they are working for.

Is a party wall surveyor a legal requirement?

Serving a party wall notice is a statutory requirement, but you do not need to use a surveyor to do this. However, if there is a dispute between the neighbours then the appointment of a party wall surveyor is a requirement. Although there is no requirement for a party wall surveyor to be chartered or specially qualified, you’d be better off getting a qualified practitioner. We have experience of unravelling terrible problems where someone has ‘given it a go’ – often a builder or a person doing the plans.

Can a party wall surveyor stop a build?

No. The party wall surveyor is obligated to put an award in place to authorise works. The award is between the parties, not the surveyors. If there is no award and work progresses, the neighbour can take action to prevent work proceeding until an Award is in place. Similarly, if different or extra work to that authorised by the award is undertaken, then a neighbour can seek to stop the work. In these circumstances, the surveyor’s role is advisory only to the party. It is for the parties to enforce an award and the requirements of the Act, not the surveyor(s).

Why do party wall surveyors take photos?

Most party wall awards contain a schedule, or record of condition. It is not a legal requirement, but it is best practice and is a crucial record if there is a dispute over damage. Surveyors will record the condition of the relevant parts of a property with photographs, but usually only the written section will be included within an award. If there is an allegation of damage, the surveyors will compare the damage to the photographs and agree whether the damage resulted from the works or not. Once they know this, they can agree the best way of resolving the problem.

More information

If you want to know more, take a look at our section on party wall work, or if you think you need our services, get in touch via the form below.