Category Archives: Fees

I am acting as the Adjoining Owner’s Surveyor and there is a Dispute over my Fees. How will the Third Surveyor Resolve this?

Question

I am acting as a surveyor for the Adjoining Owner concerning a residential party wall matter. The other party is in dispute with me concerning my fees. I am happy for the matter to be placed in the hands of the agreed Third Surveyor but they are saying that if my fees are reduced by the Third Surveyor the adjoining owner must pay any fee charged in making a decision. Is this correct ?

Answer

It’s not quite as clear cut as that. The Third surveyor will put in to the award who is liable to pay his fee – if he considers your proposed fee to be well above what would be considered reasonable he is likely to award that your appointing owner should pay his fee but if he finds that it is slightly high he may apportion the fee between the owners.

If you haven’t already done so you should supply the Building Owner’s surveyor with a copy of your time sheet detailing how the billed hours accrued. As long as they all relate to matters arising out of the dispute and your hourly rate is a reasonable reflection of your skill and experience as a party wall surveyor you should be confident in any referral.

I should also mention that in a large number of cases the Third Surveyor finds that he does not have the jurisdiction to act as a result of an error on the notices or letters of appointment so you should make sure that all of that is in order in advance of any referral.

I am planning a Loft Extension, with my Neighbours looking to extend their Kitchen at a Later Date: What are the Implications under the Party Wall Act ?

Question

I live in a terrace house and was planning on commencing work on a loft conversion in the next 3-4 weeks so have asked my neighbours to sign a party wall agreement.  One of neighbours as refused to sign this. He has not stated any issue with the actual work I plan to carry out, but has told me he wants to extend his kitchen flush up to our adjoining garden will which would require me to sign his party wall agreement.

He has told me I now have to wait for him to get plans drawn up, find a builder etc so we can sign each others party wall agreements at the same time as he is concerned I will not agree to his work.  From my perspective i think he is not using the act in the intended manor and basically blackmailing me into agreeing to his work (which ironically i wasn’t too happy about but was going to agree for the sake of relations).

I have tried all the nice approaches to reason with him but he is not budging and happy for it to go to dispute – which i understand will almost certainly go in my favour as the work really has no impact on him in the slightest.  However obviously this means additional expense to me and delay to the work.  My only regret is that i mentioned a month ago that the work would commence in mid October – as he made no objections at that point i didn’t ask him to sign as i didn’t anticipate an issue (but obviously he has changed his tune a little now)

Do you have any idea of the time/cost if I start getting surveyors involved?  Could you also advise me on the realistic repercussions if I start the work without his consent?

Answer

When you say ‘signing an agreement’ I assume that you are referring to an acknowledgement to a party wall notice. If your loft works involve cutting into the party wall you are required to serve a Party Structure Notice – upon receipt of that notice your neighbour can either confirm his consent in writing or dissent and invoke the Act’s dispute resolution procedures. Those procedures would require you each to appoint a surveyor.

None of this would prevent your work from going ahead but as you say it would delay matters (the statutory notice period is 2 months) and cause you to incur additional costs.

Regarding fees, I don’t know which part of the country you are in but the average hourly rate for a party wall surveyor in the London area is around £120 plus VAT. If your neighbour is intent on delaying matters he will insist that you each appoint separate surveyors (as opposed to an ‘Agreed’ surveyor). Your surveyors fee is likely to be somewhere between £600 and £800 plus VAT and your neighbour’s surveyor’s fee (for which you would be responsible) a little higher.

There are no penalties for ignoring the act but you run the risk that your neighbour will obtain an injunction to stop the works; which would be costly and delay your works further. You would also be in a weak position if damage was to occur and you had not followed the proper procedures.

It appears to be costs rather than consents which are at the root of the problem. Your neighbour is concerned that having consented to your works you will dissent to his and incur him additional costs – he must realise that if he dissents to your notice you are more likely to do the same when his arrives.

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?

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.

Two Walls of Outbuilding I Wish to Repair Form the Boundary – Who Pays for What?

Question

I have issued a Party Wall Notice to my neighbour via a building surveyor. The work is to repair an outbuilding of which two walls of it form the boundary. Initially it was my intention to repair his side at my cost as i was not aware it was a party wall but he wouldn’t give me access. On finding it is noted on both our deeds it is a to be “repaired and maintained as a party wall”. I understand that if he dissents the surveyor/surveyors decide who pays for what but if he consents to the work without appointing a surveyor, does that mean I am liable for all repair costs? If not who decides who is liable for what?

Answer 

Your neighbour should only consent if you are in agreement over responsibility for the repair costs. If you cannot agree on that point then you are in dispute and surveyors should be appointed to resolve that dispute by way of an award. The notice should have referred to Section 2(2)(b) of the Act so that your neighbour is made aware that the walls are jointly owned and he may have to contribute to the repair costs.

My Appointed Surveyor says he is Unable to Assist us due to Previous Unpaid Fees

Question

September 2009 for Party Wall works our neighbour/Building Owner wishes to carry out.  The Award states that upon signing of the Award the Building Owner shall pay the Adjoining Owners’ Surveyor’s fee, however to date this has not been paid. Last week, on 8th July 2010, the Building Owner commenced digging the foundations for multiple extensions.  According to the Award, ‘The Building Owner shall effect… to maintain adequate insurance… and shall provide evidence of such insurance to the Adjoining Owners’ Surveyor.’ 

Due to previous unauthorised Party Wall work the Building Owner has carried out (not covered in the Award), which has caused damage to our property and which the Building Owner refuses to acknowledge or address, we are keen to know if the Building Owner has insurance in place in starting work.

We have contacted our appointed Party Wall Surveyor in order to find out whether he has evidence of the insurance, but our Surveyor has replied to say that he is unable to assist us due to the fact that his fees have not been paid by the Building Owner.

Would you be able to tell me whether we are in a position to do anything and whether our appointed Surveyor can refuse to assist us?

Answer

Your appointed surveyor should assist you whether his fees have been paid or not. Assuming that the award was not appealed his fee is payable as a civil debt so he should have no problem in enforcing payment.

Having said that the Building Owner is responsible for any damaged caused by their works whether they are insured or not. In reality any insurance that they have is unlikely to cover damage to your property caused by their works. If damage occurs the appointed surveyors should either arrange for the contactor to make good or agree a payment in lieu. Should your surveyor refuse to act in that scenario it would be up to the Building owner’s surveyor to proceed ‘ex-parte’ i.e. on his own. He would have an obligation to be impartial. If that situation does arise you may want to put a call in to the selected Third Surveyor who would hopefully talk some sense in to your surveyor.

Regarding the damage which occurred by the unauthorized works, you should have a strong case if you were to make a claim. This piece of relevant case law in enlightening on that point – http://www.malcolmhollis.co.uk/website/Attachments.nsf/LookupMultiAttachView/LDEV-6U2GGC/$File/Think%20again%20before%20ignoring%20party%20wall%20legislation.pdf?Openelement

Follow-up

And just to update you, I did contact my surveyor regarding his continued assistance despite the non-payment of fees and he replied today to say that recent case law means he is only able to recover the fees in our name, and until we give permission to do so he will not assist us further.

Answer

I think the case law that your surveyor is referring to is Van Maanen V. West Greenwich Developments LLP. This was only a County Court decision so does not set a precedent – my understanding is that surveyors fees are payable as a civil debt and that debt can be enforced in the Magistrates Court. I have personally taken a Building Owner to court to claim my fee in relation to acting for the Adjoining Owner and been successful.

This doesn’t change the fact that you appointed surveyor has a statutory duty to continue to act for you.

Follow-up

To let you know it was indeed Van Maanen v. West Greenwich Developments to which my surveyor referred. He informed us that after this case they now word their Awards to place responsibility on the Building Owner to pay. However, he wants to sue the Building Owner in our name nonetheless, and has told us to either sign the court papers he has prepared in our names or he will take action against us. And he has said he is not willing to assist us further until he has been paid, despite us pointing out his statutory obligation.

Whilst I can see his perspective for pursuing the Building Owner in our names, we are also aware that our surveyor could also pursue this himself successfully, without putting us in an uncomfortable and openly liable position. It seems more and more to me that the whole process puts Adjoining Owners in a lose/lose situation if they are dealing with unscrupulous people. In our case, I think we are unfortunate and might have to consider lodging a complaint of some kind and/or contacting the third surveyor for assistance.

Cutting Back Projecting Part of Recently Built Party Wall – Who Bares the Cost?

Question

My neighbours built an extension and in the process they built a party wall astride the party line. The wall was built that way with our permission and on the condition that they would bear all the costs for the wall, but that the wall once built would become a jointly owned party wall that we could use for any building work in the future.

The neighbours’ extension was built though in such a way that our side (as opposed to their side) of the new wall bears the bottom of their roof and thus the gutter hangs over on our side.
 
If we are building a similar extension on our side, we need to cut back the bottom of that roof a bit and make a gutter in the valley between the roofs on top of the middle of the party wall, so that we can support our similar roof on the side of the party wall that is sitting on our side of the party line.
 
I am told that the costs for cutting back that roof should be the borne by the neighbours, but before I decide if I will do that, where is that requirement for them to pay the costs arranged in the law? I don’t seem to be able to find it in the Party Wall etc. Act of 1996.

Answer

There is nothing in the Party Wall Act that says the neighbours must cut back the projecting parts of the roof structure – that would be dealt with as a trespass at common law.

Are you aware that you will have to compensate the neighbours for the cost of building the wall (Section 11(11) of the Act) should you make use of it in the future unless you have some agreement that they will waive that right.

We Cannot Afford to Repair Our Garden Wall.

Question

My question relates to a party wall that was made of concrete blocks and has fallen down after 40 years – their were no footings for the wall and therefore insurance would not pay. Our neighbours who share the party wall live behind and slightly above us. Their garden is about 5 feet higher than ours so now we have a vertical drop with nothing to support it other than a line of trees close to the edge of their garden.

We have had some quotes and agreed on one which would costs us both £1,000. Our neighbours are panicking that the trees and soil may collapse into our garden and insist we build the new wall as soon as possible. At this time we do not have this money spare and said we would try and come up with it during the summer months.

After one week our neighbour appears to have lost patience and has bought in a surveyor and tells us via telephone message that he is going to serve a party wall notice.

Answer

If the wall is in shared ownership and has fallen in to disrepair your neighbour can force you to pay your share of the repair/rebuilding costs. They would need to serve notice under section 2(2)(b) of the Act.

The costs of work which is the subject of notice under section 2(2)(b) is defrayed according to section 11(5) of the Act. That section says that if one of the owners is responsible for the defect then they should pay for the repair. If the owners cannot agree responsibility then it will be up to the appointed surveyor to decide.

Follow-up

I don’t know how they would get the money – would they have to take us to court?. We could prove that we are severely stretched financially and may even have to sell the house to pay out £1,000.

Answer

Yes, they could take you to court to enforce the surveyor’s award. Bear in mind that you would also be responsible for half the surveyor’s fees which could add a few more hundred pounds.

I’m Worried About my Neighbour’s Extension But He Doesn’t Want to Spend Money on Surveyors

Question

My neighbour contacted me to advise he was going to build an extension and wanted my permission to build it on to the wall of my extension.

I get on well with this neighbour and would not want to object for no reason, but how do I know if the planned work would have an adverse affect on my property or not?

I have read a bit about the Party Wall agreement and understand that if I object we would have to employ a surveyor, which he would have to pay for, but my neighbour is reluctant to spend money on a surveyor as he is building the extension himself.

One issue is that the wall of my extension has a vent providing ventillation for my boiler. My neighbour plans to use ducting to take this vent out into a cavity and then up to the roof.

I do not want to object to his plans but feel that i need a professional inspection of his plans to ensure they will not cause me any problems. I have spoken to the Council planning office and Building Controll office but they say it is a civil matter and that any affect to my property is not their concern.

Answer

If you are worried about the impact that the work will have on you own property you should dissent and appoint a surveyor – that is why the law is there. To keep the costs down you and your neighbour could agree to use just one surveyor.

If your neighbour’s extension will make use of a wall that you originally paid to build then some compensation would be due to you under Section 11(11) of the Party wall Act. It would be up to the appointed surveyor to work out the amount of that payment.

How Do We Know if a 3m Notice is Needed?

Question

We own a semi detached property which we currently rent out.  Our plans have been approved so we have permission to extend – 120cm along the front, 300cm along the back, and to build over the garage.  We have served party wall act notices to our neighbours – 3m notice to both, line of junction notice to both, and party structure notice to the neighbour who has the adjoining garage as our work will affect her garage (I’ll call her Neighbour A).  The neighbour on the other side (to which we are adjoined as a semi – Neighbour B) has kicked up a fuss – she made a number of complaints against the plans and got the parish council involved but the plans still got passed with no issue.  We feel that her grounds for complaning were unreasonable, e.g. saying the work will pose a security threat etc.  She is clearly trying to make things difficult, and although we are keen to extend and live in the property, to some extent she is succeeding in putting us off.

My question is around the process which we will now need to follow and the costs involved.  We visited both neighbours before submitting the plans, and again when we took the notices round, as we are trying to be as open as possible.  Both were friendly and positive about the extension.  However, Neighbour B is proving to be rather two faced – being happy about things to our face, and then objecting through the official channels.  Having served notice, we have received a prompt response from Neighbour B who, contrary to the conversation we had with her, is not happy and is electing to employ her own surveyor.  She has also noted on the response notice to us that she intends to “use the surveyor she has retained since March” when we originally put the plans to her.  We are now trying to work out what to do next and would also like to get an idea of how much the process may cost us.

Firstly – in these kinds of circumstances, what level of surveyor costs would be involved if we employ a surveyor, and she employs a different one.  Also, can we ensure that we are not liable for the costs of any kind of fee she has already incurred, for advice she has already taken from her surveyor or for any kind of retainer she may have him on?  We also know that Neighbour B has been visiting Neighbour A, who was originally very happy for us to extend and move back next door, but Neighbour B is trying to put everything in a negative light – so if Neighbour A decides to employ a 3rd surveyor, is that then additional cost to us?

We would also like to understand the process from here – we have paid to have steel calculations done, and these are now with the building regs man – from our understanding, he will work out how deep the footings need to be.  My questions on this are how and when do we find out the decision on the depth of the footings – or can this only be once work commences, by which point we have effectively decided to proceed?  And would this be before or after Neighbour B’s surveyor costs start?  And if the footings are not of such a depth that the 3m notice is actually needed, can we then withdraw it, and remove the need for a surveyor to be employed for Neighbour B?

Answer

When I get quite long questions such as this I tend to pick out the most important points and respond to those rather than going through it line by line. Let me know if I have missed anything.

Upon receipt of your notice your neigbours gained the right to dissent and appoint a surveyor. They are each free to appoint separate surveyors and you would be responsible for the reasonable fees of those surveyors. I don’t know the full details of your work but Adjoining Owners’ surveyor’s fees for domestic extensions typically come in at between £800 and £1,200 plus VAT (London prices c.2010) depending upon the complexity of the matters in dispute. There may be some cost saving in the same surveyor acting for both of your neighbours so it may not be a bad thing that they are discussing the matter. The Act allows you to appoint the same surveyor as your neighbours (referred to as the ‘Agreed Surveyor’) although that would require your neighbours’ consent.

Regarding your 3 metre notice – you can withdraw it later if you find that your excavations do not come within the scope of the Act but the general view is that you would be responsible for the costs of dealing with that notice up until the point that it is withdrawn.

Follow-up

We don’t yet know if the footings will go as deep as to require the 3m notice, we were just covering ourselves, but perhaps we shouldn’t have served notice yet – we were just trying to do the right thing.  If we send a letter to the Neighbours to withdraw the notice now, to avoid unnecessary costs, can we serve notice again at a later stage if the footings go to a depth that requires it?

Also, are we liable for any costs for the Neighbour’s surveyor between March when she instructed him of her own accord and when we served notice i.e. 10th June?

Finally, as the Line of Junction notice does not require a response (the templates I used only have acknowledgement letters for the 3m and Party Structure notices) does that mean we can just go ahead, i.e. no surveyor needed even if the Neighbour wanted a surveyor for this?

Answer

You can withdraw and the re-serve the Section 6 notice later although if your neighbour wanted to be difficult they could hold you to the 1 month notice period on the new notice.

You are only liable for your neighbour’s surveyor’s costs from the time that you served the notice – if your neighbour has used a surveyor to advise them on planning matters that would be down to them. It will be up to your appointed surveyor to agree the other surveyor’s fees in accordance with Section 10 of the Act.

No response is required to a notice served under Section 1 if the new wall and its foundations are wholly on your land and you are not requesting to commence work early – you can start once the notice period runs.

What are the Costs Involved in Drawing up a Party Wall Agreement?

Question

I recently received planning permission to build a rear extension on my terrace house. One of the walls is shared. I have discussed it with my neighbour and they had no issue. However, my neighbours property is owned by the council, so I contacted them to see if they had an issue. They said no. But since that I have had contact from the management company employed by the council saying a party wall agreement is required. During the course of this contact, I sent a draft version of a “party wall agreement” i.e. one I had downloaded from the net and modified the appropriate parts. It was not signed and was meant purely as a means to determine what the management company wanted.

I received an email from the management company saying we are in dispute. Finally, my questions!

To be in dispute with me, they must first have received a signed notice from me?

Is it true that all costs incurred will be my responsibility? So I must pay for their surveyors costs as well as my own?

What are costs involved in drawing up a Party Wall agreement?

Answer

I’m guessing that what you sent the council was a notice rather than a party wall agreement. You are correct to say that a notice has to be signed to be valid so the correct course of action would have been for them to reply stating that they intend to dissent and appoint a surveyor when you do serve a valid notice. ‘Dispute’ is the term used in the Act when an adjoining owner fails to consent within the given time period.

Technically it is for the appointed surveyors to agree who should pay their fees but in all normal circumstances that will be the beneficiary of the works i.e. the Building Owner. You should get a quote from your surveyor upfront. The Adjoining Owner’s surveyor’s fee is one of the last items to be agreed and it will be for your surveyor to judge what is reasonable.

The Act allows both parties to use a single ‘Agreed Surveyor’ although in my experience most Local Authorities will not agree to that. They tend to appoint surveyors from their homes division; for instance Haringey Council will appoint a surveyor from ‘Homes for Haringey’. The Act does not allow an Owner to appoint themselves but Local Authorities will argue that their homes division is a Arms Length Management Organisation (ALMO).

It is always difficult to advise of fees as they vary quite considerably. From experience you should expect to pay between £600 & £800 plus VAT to your surveyor (London rates c.2010) and the Adjoining Owner’s surveyor’s fee is normally a touch higher as it allows for a second visit at the end of the works.