roles of party wall surveyor

In Part 1 of this blog, Icon Surveyors will be looking at the jurisdiction provided to surveyors under the Party Wall Act. In other words, the extent of the power a surveyor has been given under the Act to make legal decisions.

Under the Act, building owners are given a statutory right to carry out certain construction works at the boundary of an adjoining property. The Party Wall Act provides that any building owner who intends to exert their rights under the Act has a statutory duty to notify any adjoining owner of their intentions. This triggers the adjoining owner’s rights under the Act not to be unnecessarily inconvenienced by the notified works.

Works of this nature can cause a varied array of disputes and as such the Act provides that the parties are required to appoint at least one surveyor to mediate and determine a resolution for any matters that are considered to be in dispute. The surveyor’s decision is usually in the form of a statutory party wall award which, unless appealed, is binding on all of the named parties. Under the party wall act, the surveyors are given certain powers to deal with the disputes, some of which will be discussed in Part 2 of this blog. As will be seen, a surveyor’s participation in achieving this goal is core to the legislative objective.

It should be noted that surveyors are not, under the Act, considered as appointed agents for those owners that appoint them and as such have no authority to contractually determine disputes in the capacity of an independent expert or arbitrator, nor under the Act, can they contractually bind the parties by whom they are appointed.

A surveyor’s authority to determine disputes arises solely from the Act and any decision made in deviation from such authority may render it invalid.

Surveyor’s authority under the Act can be defined under the concepts of jurisdiction and power. A surveyor who lacks jurisdiction is powerless to make any decisions under the Act. This is also true if a surveyor makes a decision that they have not been given the power under the Act to make.

A Party Wall Surveyor is effectively a practical tribunal that has the power to adjudicate between building and adjoining owners who are in disagreement about building works that will affect each of the owner’s property. A surveyor’s adjudication culminates in what is termed as a Party Wall Award. In order to resolve the concerns being addressed, surveyors have the power to impose their decisions on both parties by way of a Party Wall Award.

A practical tribunal will be ineffective if it is not constituted in accordance with the Act. In other words, for it to be legally constituted, the surveyors, building and adjoining owners must comply with section 10(1) of the Act. Firstly, a dispute must be deemed to have arisen under the Act. This can occur in a number of ways, the most obvious being an adjoining neighbour's refusal to consent to, or, failing to respond to, a Party Wall Notice. If either of these situations arises both of the owners are legally obliged to appoint a surveyor.

Thus, to form a tribunal, there must be an appointment of; a ‘single agreed surveyor’ or, of two party appointed surveyors and/or a third surveyor, in writing. The appointment in writing must clearly identify the dispute the tribunal has been asked to adjudicate over. The dispute must be one that the surveyor has been given the power under the Act to address. That is, the purported works must be works to which the Act applies and any matters under dispute must arise as a result of those works. Failure to comply with the Act’s provisions pertaining to the formation of a tribunal would render such a tribunal, invalid and the surveyor(s) powerless.

Icon Surveyors are happy to provide free consultation on party wall matters to any building or adjoining owners who may be affected by the subject matter raised in this blog.

Icon Surveyors

We are a team of party wall surveying experts based throughout London and the surrounding areas. Here, we share informative property survey blogs created by industry experts.