I have received a Letter form my Adjoining Owners’ Surveyor informing me of his Fees which are £170.00 per Hour plus vat. In my Opinion this is Excessive. What are my Options?

by The Party Wall Surveyor

Question

I am building a single storey extension within 1.0 metres of my Adjoining Owners’ garage. I have served notice and appointed a surveyor. Unfortunately, my neighbour has opted to appoint his own surveyor. I have received a letter form my Adjoining Owners’ surveyor informing me of his fees which are £170.00 per hour plus vat. In my opinion, this is excessive and I am not willing to pay such fees. Furthermore, what protects me from the adjoining owners surveyor spending hours and hours on the award and racking up ridiculous costs?

Am I correct in assuming that I have the following options?

  1. Drop the whole thing and re-submit planning to build on the rear of my property where no party wall issues will arise
  2. Proceed with the works at risk. If so, what are the risks and what potential costs may I incur?
  3. Trust that the third surveyor will agree that £170.00 per hour (limit is uncapped) is excessive and hopefully agree on more sensible rates

Any advise or guidance that you may offer will be greatly appreciated as I am beginning to loose faith in the whole system as it appears that the only winners are the surveyors!

Answer

The first point to make is that you are only responsible for the Adjoining Owner’s surveyor’s reasonable fee. In the first instance it is for your surveyor to agree what is reasonable. If the 2 surveyors cannot agree the matter will be referred to the Third Surveyor. To answer you specific queries:

  1. If you change your plans and the work no longer comes within the scope of the Act you should withdraw the notice. In those circumstances the Adjoining Owner’s surveyor would be entitled to invoice for time which has been expended to date in good faith. That shouldn’t be more than 1-2 hours work.
  2. The risk of proceeding with the work without an award in place is that your neighbour obtains an interim injunction. The chances of that happening are greater now that you neighbour is being advised by a surveyor. It’s very hard to put a number on the likely cost to you of this scenario but assuming that any injunction was shown to be necessary you would probably be ordered to pay all of the costs on top of the costs incurred by the delay to your works.
  3. From my experience Third Surveyors are less interested in hourly rates than the overall fee. £170 per hour is at the top end for London surveyors (ignoring surveyors from large firms that use cheaper assistants to do the leg work) so someone charging that much should in theory complete matters more quickly than a less experienced surveyor.  You and your surveyor can also help to limit the expenses by making all the information available at the start of the process. Your surveyor should advice you whether a referral to the Third Surveyor is likely to succeed as that will generate further fees.