Role of a Surveyor in A Party Wall dispute resolution

Once a building owner serves a party wall notice, should the adjoining owner dissent, a dispute will have arisen. An appointed surveyor plays a crucial role in resolving this dispute once they are appointed. This statutory appointment, triggered by a formal letter of appointment, allows the appointed surveyors to resolve the dispute, and they do this is a number of ways.

Assessing design information: The surveyors assess the design information that accompanies the notice. They may request more detail from the design team in order to ensure clarity and relevance to the Award. In some cases, particularly with complex structural designs, the surveyors may agree to use a checking engineer’s services.

Impartiality: Although appointed by, and acting on behalf of, a building owner or appointing owner, it is important to remember that they are not the surveyors’ ‘clients’ in the traditional sense of the word. Whilst each owner may feel, or even demand in some cases, a certain course of action is taken or clause inserted in the Award, the surveyors can only agree an Award within the limits of their jurisdiction under the Act. Owners’ concerns are obviously considered, and where applicable to notices served, they can be addressed in the Award. Other matters outside the Act are generally matters between the two owners themselves and classified as ‘neighbourly matters’.

Assessing and recording the condition of properties: Before the works commence, the surveyors inspect the adjoining owner’s property to establish its existing condition. The areas of inspection are generally up to 3 metres of the proposed works although photographs of other remote areas may be taken if agreed. A formal ‘Schedule of Condition’ report is produced and forms part of the Award.

Agreeing an Award: The resolution of the dispute concludes with the surveyors agreeing a Party Wall Award. This is a legal document which confirms the notifiable works a building owner has the right to carry out, as well as the manner and timing. It also confirms obligations the building owner has in relations to these works. During the process, it is usual for draft Awards to be sent and amended before a final version is agreed.

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