What is the role of a Party Wall surveyor?

Firstly we need to look at the term “surveyor”, this term is defined in the party wall Act 1996 as a person who is not involved in any work that is being carried out. This will help to rule out any possibility of an owner acting for themselves. Anyone that is overseeing the works on the owner’s behalf can take the appointment, whether they are a Surveyor or an architect. The person that is chosen should have a good understanding of construction and be well informed in the party wall procedures. They will need to have a relevant qualification. 

The most popular choices are usually building party wall surveyors and structural engineers.

The party wall surveyor will prepare a document known as a party wall award and also known commonly referred to as a party wall agreement. This document will look at the owners’ rights and responsibilities in relation to how the works should be covered and within what working hours/days. This document will also look at the procedures that need to take place if there is any damage to the property and how the surveyor will gain access during the course of the works. If both parties agree they can concur in a single appointment. 

If you think that your neighbour is unlikely to consent to the planned works then it is best to involve a party wall surveyor at the early stages. The process will start with the service of notice even though it is best to have an informal chat with your neighbour before the party wall notice drops on their doormat. Template notices are available but you need to always remember that if they don’t contain all the necessary information or aren’t properly served they can be seen as invalid. Subsequently, if the notices need to be reserved then the timelines are reset.

Can surveyors make a party wall award without a notice?

It has always been thought that party wall surveyors could only make an award if the building owner has served the notice. This has been documented through the case of Louis v Sadiq which argued that if no notice has been served then the adjoining owner would be left to apply for an injunction. 

The case was decided under the section 55 of the London building act 1939 which states “the agreed surveyor or as the case may be the three surveyors or any two of them shall settle by award any matter … to which a notice under this part of this Act…relates”. 

This law was changed in the party wall act 1996 which is far broader and removes the requirement for a party wall act notice to be served before surveyors can make an award. Therefore the surveyors can be appointed and make awards even if the notices weren’t served. This is more useful than an injunction, in cases where the building owners have commenced notifiable works and there is no danger to the adjoining property. The owner might elect a surveyor rather than incur the costs of making an application for an injunction. 

Do you need help with a party wall award? Our party wall surveyor specialists at SevenOne Associates are more than happy to help you with party wall issues.

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