In this blog post, we will be discussing what is a Third Surveyor and what is their role in the Party Wall award.
When a Party Wall notice is issued, and no agreement is finalised between adjoining owners, the Building owner and the Adjoining owner will both appoint surveyors. The surveyors will help guide and advise you through the process to reach an agreement. In the case that no agreement is not reached, a third surveyor must be selected to resolve the dispute.
The Relevant section of the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 in which this relates is S10(1)(B);,
Each party shall appoint a surveyor and the two surveyors so appointed shall forthwith select a third surveyor (all of whom are in this section referred to as “the three surveyors”)’
The Involvement of a Third Surveyor in the Party Wall Award Process
It is important to note that the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 was designed in a way to prevent litigation and disputes between neighbours when undertaking building work, not to cease works entirely. The third surveyor steps in when the agreed surveyors cannot reach an agreement. These disputes can range from the proposed works to the scope of the award etc. Using their experience it is up to the third surveyor to make an impartial fair decision that aligns with the Party Wall etc. Act 1996. They will review the plans and may even want to visit the site to identify potential structural risks. Most likely the third surveyor will not have been involved from the start of the project and may be able to resolve any misunderstandings/communication issues. They will also review the draft party wall award to look out for any errors or inconsistencies.
The Appointment of a Third Surveyor: When and Why is it Necessary?
The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 mentions three Surveyors, the agreed surveyors, the individually appointed surveyor and the third surveyor.
The agreed surveyor is appointed by both parties and will resolve the dispute between both parties.
The individually appointed surveyors are appointed individually by different parties to help resolve disputes. In the case that there are two individually appointed surveyors, a third surveyor will be selected to act as a mediator to help resolve disputes.
The Building owners surveyor will usually send a list of surveyors to the adjoining owners. Once a third surveyor is selected the appointed surveyors can proceed with drafting a Party Wall Award. The third Surveyor will most likely not know that they have been selected nor the scope of the works until a dispute arises. Usually, the surveyors can agree without the involvement of the third surveyor. However Third surveyors are included in the act to avoid stalemates.
If the appointed surveyors are unable to select a third surveyor the matter will be referred to the local council as stated in Section 10(8) of the Party Wall etc. Act 1996.
‘If either surveyor appointed under subsection (1)(b) by a party to the dispute refuses to select a third surveyor under subsection (1) or (9) or neglects to do so for a period of ten days beginning with the day on which the other surveyor serves a request on him (a) the appointing officer; or (b) in cases where the relevant appointing officer or his employer is a party to the dispute, the Secretary of State, may on the application of either surveyor select a third surveyor who shall have the same power and authority as if he had been selected under subsection (1) or subsection (9).’
Who Pays for the Third Surveyor's Services?
The fees for a third surveyor can vary, it is important to note that the surveyor will most likely be senior and more experienced. As a result of this, you can expect costly fees, ranging from
£800- £2000 + VAT. The fees of the third surveyor generally fall onto the party who is judged to be at fault, which puts both the Building owner and the Adjoining owner at financial risk. It advised to avoid the use of a third surveyor when possible to prevent unnecessary costs.
The Benefits of Hiring a Third Surveyor
Although appointing an agreed surveyor may be more cost-effective. The parties involved may be at a disadvantage if a disagreement arises as they will have nowhere to take their complaint. The third surveyor acts as an impartial arbitrator, as they are not affiliated with either party so they can remain objective through the process.
Concerns to be aware of when involving a Third Surveyor
As mentioned before a third surveyor can be costly as they are most likely senior surveyors, therefore their fees are high. Not only will the third surveyor have to get up to speed with the project, but they may also wish to add additional steps or precautions, resulting in delays. Once a third surveyor is involved you may limited control.
The third surveyor’s involvement is to provide a fair and experienced opinion whilst maintaining impartiality. They are there to protect both the Building owner undertaking work and the adjoining owner. They have more than likely been involved in every party wall dispute imaginable and can use their experience to minimize disputes, ensuring a smooth construction process. If also else fails and the dispute persists, the Party Wall award would need to be appealed in court. This is not advised as it can be a costly drawn-out process.