The Party Wall Act is a slightly complicated piece of legislation, and the industry is essentially self-regulating. This intends that surveyors tend to decide their fees as said by their situation in the market, the type of scheme, and the geographical region among other factors.
Several surveyors will charge on an hourly basis and others will offer a fixed fee proposal. It’s possible for a surveyor to act as what is known as an Agreed Surveyor. This means that they can act for the building owner who is carrying out the work and the adjoining neighbour in an impartial capacity. On residential schemes, this will often mean that a potential client will approach a surveyor and ask for a quote and this will either be in the form of a fixed fee or an hourly fee with a rough guide on how many hours they expect to use. As the agreed surveyor there will be one fee, payable by the building owner who will be carrying out the works to their property. In most cases, an Agreed Surveyor will quote a fee prior to being engaged and so there is little scope for this fee to become unreasonable.
Where an Adjoining Owner appoints their own surveyor, the Building Owner will be liable for both surveyors’ fees. Often this broadly doubles the fee however it is the right of a neighbour to appoint their own surveyor and this right can’t be removed. Surveyors will then undertake their normal duties and the Building Owner’s and Adjoining Owner’s surveyor will agree to the Adjoining Owner’s surveyors fees and put these into the Award, the legally binding final document that allows the works to proceed.
When a neighbour appoints their own surveyor they have not quoted for work prior to engagement and so will charge on an hourly basis. There are occasions in the industry when a surveyor will try to charge unreasonable time input and, in this instance, the Building Owners surveyor will challenge this.
To challenge an unreasonable fee, the first step should always be frank and open discussion on the level of fee and if this can’t bring down the sum then the matter is brought to the attention of what is known as the Third Surveyor.
This is an individual mutually selected at the start of the process between both surveyors and they have the power to resolve disputes between surveyors. A submission is made to the Third Surveyor on fees and they will either agree that the fee is high or not as the case may be and will Award accordingly.
There is always a risk in this process that a determination will go against you and so a submission must be carefully weighed up.
Complex works such as a basement will often trigger the neighbour to appoint their own surveyor. Clearly, this has a cost associated with it however there can be further costs. A neighbour’s surveyor will often appoint their own engineer to review the complex scheme because it is beyond their professional remit. This engineer’s reasonable costs are also normally met by the Building Owner carrying out the works.
Other costs can include further design fees if the design is in an outline phase and requires more detail to agree an award; movement monitoring costs if you are undertaking a large engineering scheme; vibration and sound monitoring on larger schemes.