When it comes to party wall disputes, one of the most frequently asked questions is “Who pays for a party wall surveyor?” The Party Wall Act mandates that notices be served to adjoining owners before any construction work can commence, In cases where a dispute arises, both parties must appoint a surveyor. Let’s delve into the details of who is typically responsible for paying these fees and the circumstances under which the adjoining owner might be liable.
The Building Owner’s Responsibility
In most cases, the responsibility for paying the surveyors’ fees falls on the building owner – the individual carrying out the construction work. It is the building owner who initiates the party wall process by serving the necessary notices to the adjoining owners, Thus, they assume the financial responsibility for the surveyors’ fees on both sides.
Responses from Adjoining Owners
Upon receiving the notice, the adjoining owners have three possible responses:
Consent to the Works
If the adjoining owners provide consent to the proposed work, no further action is required, and no surveyor’s fees are incurred. The building owner can proceed with the construction once the notice period has elapsed.
Dissent to the Works
If the adjoining owners disagree with the proposed works, a dispute arises, and surveyors must be appointed on both sides. In this scenario, the surveyors play a crucial role in resolving the dispute and serving an award. However, their involvement incurs fees, which can often amount to a significant sum.
If the adjoining owners fail to respond to the notice, it is considered a deemed dissent, and a surveyor is appointed on their behalf. Similar to the second option, this will lead to the incurrence of surveyor’s fees.
Challenging the Surveyor’s Fees
In cases where the building owner finds the surveyor’s fees unreasonable, they have the right to refer the matter to the Third Surveyor or appeal the award in the County Court within 14 days of receiving the award. It is advisable to initiate a discussion with the surveyor regarding the fees first. The surveyor should be able to provide detailed timesheets for their work as well as those of the opposing surveyor. If the surveyors can demonstrate that their fees are reasonable, an appeal or involvement of the Third Surveyor is unlikely to succeed.
When the Adjoining Owner May Be Liable For Fees
Typically, it is the building owner who assumes financial responsibility for the surveyor’s fees. However, there are circumstances where the adjoining owner may become liable:
Requesting Additional Work
If the adjoining owner asks the building owner to carry out work beyond their original plans, such as building a higher party wall or using different materials, they may be held responsible for the additional costs.
Instructions Beyond the Party Wall Act
If the adjoining owner instructs their party wall surveyor on matters outside the scope of the party wall act, the building owner is only liable for the surveyor’s fees within their remit and directly related to their own works.
Third Surveyor’s Decision
If the adjoining owner or their surveyor refers a matter to the Third Surveyor and the Third Surveyor rules in favour of the building owner, casts may be apportioned based on reasonability. In such cases, the Third Surveyor is likely to allocate fees and other associated costs to the adjoining owner.
The responsibility for paying the party wall surveyor’s fees usually falls on the building owner, who instigates the process by serving notices to the adjoining owners. However, circumstances may arise where the adjoining owner becomes liable for the fees, such as when they request additional work or instruct their surveyor on matters outside the scope of the party wall act. It is essential for both parties to engage in open communication and seek clarification on fees to ensure a fair resolution to any disputes arising from the party wall process.