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The whole Thing is Corrupt (or Why Party Wall Surveyors Should Never Ask for Testimonials)

Tuesday, 19th July 2016 | by: Justin Burns

A large proportion of our work relates to resolving disputes under the Party Wall Act.

If you are familiar with the Act you’ll know that an appointed surveyor performs a statutory function and has a duty to remain impartial. A surveyor doesn’t have clients (they are ‘appointing owners’) and does not provide a service and in most cases one or other of the owners is disappointed with the resolution to the dispute.

It’s wouldn’t therefore appropriate to ask for testimonials – it would be like a judge asking the Claimant and Defendant for feedback after he or she had issued their decision. However, when we sent out a general request for feedback earlier this year our appointing owners were inadvertently included in the mail out and some of their comments were enlightening!

The first question we asked was is there anything that we could have done to improve the experience for you? These are some of the responses:

Surveyor showed no responsiveness and little interest to understand the matters. Would be prompt, however, to ask additional fee. Really negative experience.

This was an adjoining owner who did not accept my decision that the cracking to his 2nd floor bathroom wall was not related to next door’s recently built extension and wanted me to come around and have another look.

The other party had no manager for the project only a builder and they forgot to do lots if things including separation between their new foundation and mine. You could choose to take on projects only where the client has a proper professional team.

Many of the complaints arose because owners believed our role extended to policing the works and this one in particular was interesting for the suggestion that we should not accept appointments unless we could vet the project team.

Speed things up, you were very slow to respond to matters, until it came to pay, and you pestered us with reminders.

The time it took to agree an award was also a common complaint but of course the timescales are set out in the Act and once another surveyor is involved we no longer have any control over timing.

Next we asked what made you choose one of our Chartered Surveyors to act for you in your recent party wall matter?

Wasn’t my choice the other party appointed and I accepted

It was our neighbours who insisted we used Peter Barry

In both cases the building owner chose to appoint the same surveyor as the adjoining owner to save money rather than appoint a separate surveyor.

When we asked whether there is any other feedback on the surveyor who acted for you that you would like to pass on to us?  This was taken as an opportunity to let rip:

Didn’t seem bothered or interested. As soon as he got my instruction and my neighbour’s cash then that was it. Total waste of time.

Terrible service from start to finish. The whole thing is corrupt.

I feel that Mr Burns is fobbing me off with all kinds of excuses, and is not doing his job. We offered a face to face meeting with him but he has declined to see me (this is the same owner that wanted me to take another look at the damage which was clearly nothing to do with the works next door).

Although this has been a more light-hearted look at how owners view the party wall process it does raise some serious concerns about the lack of understanding by the public.

I have only posted the negative comments above so I will give the last word Mrs H of North London:

We had really good service – thank you!

I didn’t feel it would have been right to write back and explain that it wasn’t a service at all!