We’ve Received a Letter from a Surveying Company Offering to Act on our Behalf

by The Party Wall Surveyor

Question

We have an old garage next door and have just had a notice of proposed development from the council that the owner wants to knock it down and build a detached three storey house. Fine.

We were surprised to get a letter a few days later from a surveying company offering to act on our behalf, almost, but not quite, assuring us that it would not cost any money etc. I am trying to get a feel for how important it is to be represented in this way (rather than just letting things take their course) and how likely it is that we will end up with a bill.

Answer

Under the Party Wall Act it is for the appointed surveyors to decide who should pay their expenses. The phrase which is generally used is ‘in all normal circumstances that will be the Building Owner’. An ‘abnormal’ circumstance may be if the Adjoining Owner were to call the surveyors out on what turned out to be a wasted visit.  That can sometimes happen when an Adjoining Owner spots a crack which they think is new but upon investigation turns out to have been there before the works commenced.

Without knowing the nature of the works it is difficult to say whether you require the input of a surveyor but I would be wary of so called ‘Ambulance chasing’ surveyors that trawl the planning lists and write to the neighbours touting for work – many of them have no relevant technical qualifications.

There are 2 respected party wall organisations which have online public directories of their members – we have a link to them both on our resources page.

Follow-up

In fact my concern was such that I forgot the most pertinent issue – that our building is a house split into two flats and we are only leaseholders. So I guess it is up to the freeholder to decide what they want to do? I have notified them anyway.

Answer

Long leaseholders are also recognised as owners under the Act so you will also be served a notice if your flat is affected by the works. If you  choose to dissent and appoint a surveyor it would make sense to appoint the same surveyor as your Freeholder.