How Much Will Your Neighbour’s Party Wall Surveyor Charge?

Saturday, 2nd March 2024 | by: Justin Burns

I’ve previously written about owners’ concerns when their neighbour exercises their right to appoint a surveyor of their choice. As I explained in that post, the surveyor acting for the adjoining owner is not required to confirm their fee before they are appointed but must ensure that it is reasonable. In this post I will be looking at how that is achieved.

Section 10(13) of the Act includes a reference to ‘reasonable costs’ and confirms that it is for the surveyors to determine both who pays those costs (generally the owner benefitting from the works) and their quantum. This means that the fee charged by the surveyor acting for the adjoining owner must be agreed by two of the three appointed surveyors or be determined by the third surveyor.

Let’s turn to the practicalities of how that is achieved. The surveyor acting for the adjoining owner should keep a record of the time that they spend on the matter in case it is requested by the other surveyor but, in the first instance, they will put forward a lump sum. Experienced party wall surveyors have a good handle on fees and, having been at the heart of the process, will have an idea of what is reasonable. If the sum put forward falls within those parameters, it is entered into the party wall award and paid by the building owner.

There are 3 reasons why the fee put forward by the surveyor acting for the adjoining owner may be unreasonably high:

  1. Some of the time has not been reasonably incurred – a surveyor acting for an adjoining owner will sometimes make requests that are either unreasonable or beyond their remit. They might also spend an unreasonable amount of time liaising with their appointing owner. This may be due to pressure from their appointing owner, which they do not feel able to resist, or because they do not have a good enough understanding of their statutory role but, whatever the reason, that time should not be charged to the building owner.
  2. The hourly rate applied is too high – although the Act states that fees must be reasonable, an appointed surveyor has the freedom to set their own hourly rate. If that hourly rate adequately reflects their skill and experience the total fee should be reasonable as a surveyor on a high hourly rate will deal with matters more quickly than most other surveyors. When reviewing time sheets, I find it more productive to assess how long a surveyor on X hourly rate ‘should’ reasonably take to complete a task rather than argue that an hourly rate is too high.
  3. The time spent has been exaggerated – thankfully I believe this is a rare occurrence and is impossible to prove. If the time sheet is assessed on the basis described above (time that ‘should’ have been taken …), any such exaggeration will be flushed out.

In most cases, the surveyors acting for the owners come to an agreement after some discussion but, should they fail to do so, the matter must be referred to the selected third surveyor for determination. I will be looking at the role of the third surveyor in a future post, and how they determine such disputes, but, in short, having received submissions from both surveyors they will confirm their decision in an award and that award will also confirm which of the owners pays the third surveyor’s costs (which will generally follow their decision).

As you can see, arriving at a reasonable fee for the adjoining owner’s surveyor can be a tedious and time-consuming process. It’s therefore essential that the surveyor acting for the building owner uses their skill and experience to anticipate issues, address them in advance and limit the time input of their counterpart.

If you live in the Cambridgeshire of north Essex area and require advice on a party wall matter, you are welcome to contact the author of this post on 01799 543532 or via email.

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