Am I Safe Using the Same Party Wall Surveyor as my Neighbour?
If you have been served a party wall notice by your neighbour who is planning a project such as a loft conversion or rear extension you can respond either by consenting to the works or dissenting.
If you dissent to the works you must then appoint a party wall surveyor.
You can choose to appoint the same surveyor as your neighbour known as the agreed surveyor or you can appoint your own surveyor who will work with your neighbour's surveyor. If two surveyors are appointed they must then select a third surveyor who can arbitrate in the case where the two surveyors cannot agree.
Reasonable fees of the surveyors will be paid by the building owner having the work done. So the question arises, should I choose my own surveyor or should I go with an agreed surveyor?.
An agreed surveyor is normally sufficient for small projects such as loft conversions and rear extensions. When the work is more complicated involving underpinning or basements or perhaps construction of a multi-story extension or a block of flats it is sensible to have two surveyors appointed as you will have two professionals who can help resolve any issues.
The advantage of using an agreed surveyor is that you will be keeping costs down for your neighbour and thus are helping with good neighbour relations.
The advantage of having your own surveyor is that you also get a third surveyor which means if your surveyor and your neighbour's surveyor cannot agree you have a third surveyor with much more experience in party wall matters who can adjudicate.
Of course, a party wall surveyor, even though he has his fees paid by the building owner, remains impartial. It is a statutory appointment and not a client/agent relationship.
That said, legally a party wall surveyor can be anybody other than the building owner himself. That means he can be the builder, the architect, a family member, or a friend who lives down the road. For this reason, it is prudent for the adjoining owner to do some research to ensure that the building owner's party wall surveyor is likely to remain impartial.
If the adjoining owner wishes to keep costs down for his neighbour but at the same time does not trust the surveyor suggested by the neighbour, there is another option. He could ask the neighbour to use his own surveyor as the agreed surveyor. This means the original surveyor who prepared and served the notices would need to step aside. This is not usually a problem because they have merely been appointed to serve the notices on behalf of the building owner. They cannot be appointed as the building owners party wall surveyor until the adjoining owner has dissented to the notice.
As always, good communication and plenty of research will help the adjoining owner to arrive at the right decision. If you need any help or advice on this please do not hesitate to email in or give us a call.