Can my Neighbour Appoint a Surveyor Without Giving a Reason?

by The Party Wall Surveyor

Question

Am I correct in thinking that if a neighbour wishes to appoint their own surveyor and not an ‘agreed surveyor’, then I as the person doing
the building work have no choice but to accept this, and the neighbour does not need to give a reason? Of course I seem to have the
option to agree to use the same surveyor, although if it is one the neighbour (who is a landlord) has used before, then it may not be
in my interest to do this and I will need to appoint my own.

Also, is it the case that my neighbour can dissent from the works without giving any reason for the dissent? The only general
indication raised so far is that he is worried about his extension being affected by my excavating to build my own extension next to his, but has
offered no specific concern.  In such a case what matters might the award include?

Finally, on what basis is it judged whether a surveyor’s fee is reasonable? If my neighbour chooses to use an expensive central London firm, do
I have any grounds to object?

I’ll be grateful if you could also confirm the minimum gap allowed between the boundary line and your new wall before
a notice letter is required. Would a distance of say 6” mean not notice is required?

(we can assume we will not be excavating to below our neighbours foundations, as he has a garage on/near the boundary).

Answer

There are 2 types of notice which may be required if you are building a new wall at or close to the boundary. The first is a line of junction notice served under section 1 of the Act – this will only be required if you are building ‘on’ the boundary line. So, if you are 5mm away from it on your side you will not need to serve. The second type of notice is a Notice of Adjacent Excavation under section 6 and will be required if the excavations for the foundations to the new wall are within 3 metres of an adjoining owner’s structure and lower than the base of their foundations (this distance is increased to 6 metres in some situations although I doubt that applies here).

If you neighbour wishes to appoint a surveyor of their choice they are entitled to do that and they do not have to allow you to appoint that surveyor as ‘Agreed’.

An adjoining owner can dissent to your notice without giving a reason. The fact that your work comes within the scope of the Act means that there is a perceived risk. The award will cover ways in which the risk can be reduced and set out the rights and responsibilities of the 2 owners.

It will be up to your appointed surveyor to agree the adjoining owner’s surveyor’s fee. It should be in proportion to the complexity of the works, if required he can request a copy of the time sheet setting out how the billed hours were accrued. There is nothing to stop your neighbour from appointing a Central London surveyor and that would be unfortunate as it invariably will mean a higher fee than using a local surveyor although if your surveyor thinks it is too high he can refer it to the selected ‘Third Surveyor’ to make an award. If you agree to use a single surveyor you should be able to get an estimate of his fee in advance.

Follow-up

Sorry, one other thing (I promise this will be the last question!) – if I build a few inches away from the boundary, but my
extension roof gutter overhangs very near on the boundary line, does that count as building on the boundary and so requiring
a notice – I suspect not, but just want to be sure.

Answer

No, section 1 of the Act only refers to walls. You just have to be careful that you do not commit a trespass by encroaching the boundary with the eaves or guttering.

Follow-up

We’ve had 2 party wall surveyors visit today and they will take a week or so to
get the award report to us. My surveyor indicated that we can start work in
in the meantime (we’ve been anxious to start for a while).

I asked what if my builder does some work which later turns out to be contrary
to what the award may require, and my surveyor said we should be fine as long
as my builder does not damage anything.

This doesn’t make sense to me, as then the award process all seems to be pointless.
Can we start work before the award is sent to us?

Follow-up

Work should not commence until the awards have been agreed and served on the owners. In fact many surveyors would argue that work should not start until the 14 day appeal period has run but I would not hold with that view.

If I were you I would not start until the awards have been served.