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The party wall act needs to be rewritten! ignore it!
24-02-2009, 07:15 PM
Post: #1
The party wall act needs to be rewritten! ignore it!
The party wall act has been designed by party wall surveyors for party wall surveyors. It is actually fairly corrupt.

I have a problem with their extortionate fees - £120 per hour plus. I am sure they have to go through a whole series of exams to get this far. However when it comes to a major residential building project they are the least contributive to the whole thing, yet they are also the most highly paid. I have paid an Architect (£50 per hour), an Engineer (£75 per hour), an Interior Decorator (£40/hour) and these people have all given me a beautiful home to live in. The party wall surveyors, my appointed one, and both my neighbours ones have cost me £10k and have delayed the project 5 months and caused nothing but headaches and completely tarnished the relationship between my neighbour and myself.

I have a real problem with this: your appointed party wall surveyor does not work for you, he works in the interests of the wall. With this in mind, you expect a 'professional' to be able to work 'impartially' and draw up an aggreement between both owners. However the surveyors on both side clearly are working in the interests of the same cause - thus duplicating the work. Settling the disbute by the means of a third surveyor is the worst part of the act. These guys all look after the interests of their own kind.

What is a party wall act supposed to do?

Give protection to the neighbour that the building works are being completed with structural integrity and ensure that the neighbours' properties are adequately compensated should their be any damage.

Say there is no award, does this get you out of paying for damage to your neighbours property? Clearly not. It does protect you from the neighbour claiming more damage than may have been caused over the course of the works, however with adequate photographic evidence, you should be able to put together a Schedule of Condition with your neighbour if you are prepared.

What are the consequences of not having an award and proceeding with the works anyway?

'This would be a foolish mistake' they tell you. Bullsh*t i say. They say they can get an injunction against you. How long does this take and how much would this cost the neighbour? it is just not worth their while and they would have to prove that you are causing them damage.

Had i known what an enormous stress the process was i would have done the following. Waited until my neighbour went on holiday and blitzed the party wall work while they were away. even if it overran and they were insistant on getting an injunction, it would take them a week or so. The worst case scenario here is that you have to pay your neighbour for any damage caused. but you would have saved £8k on party wall surveyors fees (from both sides).

I am not going to rant any more, but i hope and pray they reform the clearly flawed party wall act. And hopefully someone will have the courage to prove that using these leaches of society are a complete waste of time.
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31-03-2009, 02:15 PM (This post was last modified: 31-03-2009 02:26 PM by monty12.)
Post: #2
RE: The party wall act needs to be rewritten! ignore it!
Think Again before ignoring party wall legislation

So they had to pay for damages. What difference would having followed correct procedures make? The risk is that the ajoining building owner could potentially claim for any prior damage. If you are really clever you could get some photos taken prior to starting.

I like this guy. A party wall surveyor who recognises that you don't ultimately need to use the full process. Always try to do your own Schedule of Condition though.

and finally, someone else who shares my frustration

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13-01-2010, 09:33 PM (This post was last modified: 20-07-2011 08:10 AM by TheWall.)
Post: #3
RE: The party wall act needs to be rewritten! ignore it!

Costs in getting an Award can seem disproportionate to the proposed work to which it refers. These costs arise from typical fees of anything from about £95/hr to about £160+VAT/hr or more inside London. There may well also be an extra £75/hr or so for an independent second opinion structural engineer to check your design calculations. These hourly fees in themselves are unremarkable. However, total fees of £5,000+ can happen readily and a building owner might want to consider whether the expense is worth it on balance when a few minor amendments to his plans could remove his proposed work from within the scope of the Act entirely, so not requireing him to serve Notice and so avoiding any dispute under the Act and associated surveyor fees. Fees should be about £1000 per Adjoining Owner's surveyor plus about £1000 for the Building Owner's surveyor, or about £1500 if a single Agreed Surveyor is acting.

Problems to look out for during a dispute include surveyors effectively educating themselves at the expense of the Building Owner or drawing matters out that could be otherwise dealt with far more quickly. The concept of "necessary research" to "establish the legal position" seems to be popular and in just a couple of hours combined fees of two surveyors could add £700+ to the Building Owner's costs.

It also seems surveyors can have little regard for Building Owner's costs, and there is certainly no guidance to suggest they should. Therefore, just on a whim, it would seem, a second opinion structural engineer could be appointed to double check the Building Owner's design calculations, or questions put to a firm of solicitors, and all charges to be paid by the Building Owner.

The Act is, however, quite pedantic itself about the appintment of surveyors, and this works well at minimizing delays for the Building Owner and preventing Adjoining Owners or other legislation from causing unreasonable delays. However, some delay from the dispute resolution process is inevitable, and a wait of between 2 and 6 weeks is probably typical, depending on the complexity of the proposed work.

Advantages of getting an Award:

A fall out in neighbourly relations is not uncommon, and not really an advantage arsing out of the dispute. However, at the end of it all the neighbours should have gained an appreciation that the Act's purpose is fundamentally to enable the Building Owner to go about his intended works and to interfere with Adjoining Owners' property rights if the proposed works require -- so the Building Owner should always win in the end!

However, if damage is caused, then the Act can make life yet even more expensive for the Building Owner -- even a hundred pounds of damage could cost more than £1000 in surveyor's fees to assess and Award. Without the Award, a Building Owner would just get on and repair as necessary and the neighbours would have rights to claim from him in law if he did not do so. However, a Building Owner has an implicit right to exhaust attempted settlement with the Adjoining Owner before any Award on damage is written, and he can refer to the Third Surveyor (provided there are two party appointed surveyors acting from the initial dispute) if he doesn't want either or both of the two surveyors awarding on the alleged damage.

The dispute resolution process can help a Building Owner to check his plans, but that is not something he is likely to welcome if he has already paid a reputable architect and engineer good fees to come up with a sound design in the first place -- Ultimately, if there was a problem with the design that escaped their respective expertise, then the Building Owner should have no difficulty claiming from these professionals.

Any Building Owner concerned to minimize his costs under the Party Wall etc. Act or even avoid the Act entirely, can proceed in a number of ways:

1. Check his engineer's design including careful consideration for the rights of the adjoining owners with respect to the act, and where practical undertake design alterations to remove aspects of the design from within the scope of the Act.
2. Agree a schedule of condition with each of the neighbours prior to work commencing -- surveyors are not needed for this.
3. If Notice is unavoidable, then include in the Notice only drawings and plans that contain the minimum information required under the Act, so that they could be correctly notified of the proposed works that affected them with respect to the Act, but so that they are not to be distracted by any aspect of the works they may not like but which they have no rights of influence over.
4. Foundations: Notice for excavation is not required unless the excavation is actually going below the adjoining owner's building or structure foundation as written in the Act .

Need for Guidance in the Act:

It seems some party wall surveyors will draw out excessively various points of argument on issues that they come across in the course of the dispute process with the result that costs are far higher than need be.

It does seem surveyors can take advantage of the lack of knowledge of both Building Owners and Adjoining Owners alike. For example, when invoicing their fees. Here, to the uninformed it appears surveyors can demand whatever fee pleases them – they simply put their bill in their Award in order to apparently force the building owner to pay it without question unless he appeals the Award (appeals are thought to be costly and complex and so avoided – no other profession provides for professionals to demand payment in this way). However, it should be known that surveyors cannot enforce their awards, so in reality writing fees into the award would not help them directly in recovering their fees any more than had the fee not appeared in the award (in the case of the Building Owner's surveyor at least), so there seems to be a degree of sharp practice on this point. In practice, when it comes to enforcing payment Adjoining Owner's surveyors must pursuade their Appointing Owner to take legal action to have the Award enforced and the Building Owner's surveyor can only sue his appointing owner and has no assistence from the Award at all.

Furthermore, "unreasonable" costs can indeed be appealed, but determining exactly how the costs are unreasonable can be difficult -- particularly difficult to sort out within the short 14 day appeal limit. This is especially the case for the unsuspecting novice homeowner experiencing the Act for the first time. Subsequently, I believe a comprehensive guidance note for surveyors, building owners and adjoining owners should accompany the Act, to effect that...

1) party wall surveyors are compelled to offer a fixed fee option, in order to give the surveyor some incentive to keep his costs down;
2) the role and jurisdiction of surveyors and the procedures of the dispute process clarified "up front" at the time the dispute is initiated. This would help the building owner to be aware and observe the dispute progress from an informed position, so helping him to notice if the surveyors were effectively educating themselves on the job, drawing out arguments unnecessarily or involving themselves beyond their rightful extent;
3) state a clearly defined duty of care so that the building owner knows from the outset of the dispute what to expect in terms of costs, time frame and procedure, rights and responsibilities. This would minimize costs to the building owner by reducing the potential time surveyor(s) would otherwise expend explaining such things to the building owner / adjoining owner.

There are a number of ways a Building Owner may avoid a costly dispute. These including gentle diplomacy towards gaining agreement with the neighbours and so avoiding any dispute and so avoiding any surveyor fees. Alternatively, if Notice is served and a dispute arises then there are still many ways to minimize costs including referral to the Third Surveyor (possible only when there are party appointed surveyors) and taking care to ensure the proposed works comply with the Act's requirment of avoiding unnecessary inconvenience to the Adjoining Owner(s) and minimizing the extent to which the design falls within the scope of the Act.

The Building Owner should know that only he can invoke the Act and he does so by serving Notice. Neighbours (Adjoining Owners) cannot invoke the Act in the absence of Notice from a Building Owner and the Building Owner cannot be forced to give Notice. And, if a Building Owner does not like either his surveyor or his neighbour's surveyor then, provided there are two surveyors acting and not a single Agreed Surveyor, then he can refer the entire dispute to the Third Surveyor, so halving potential costs and effectivly getting rid of the offending party appointed surveyor.
The content of this post is not necessarily accurate and should not be relied upon or quoted without first contacting the author.
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14-01-2010, 06:04 PM (This post was last modified: 09-11-2010 02:12 PM by PeeBee.)
Post: #4
RE: The party wall act needs to be rewritten! ignore it!
Whilst it sounds as if the contributors have had a bad experience follow the advice of not complying with the act at your peril. The Courts do not like those who flaunt the law so if it goes wrong be prepared to dip into your pockets deeply.
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15-01-2010, 12:40 AM (This post was last modified: 15-01-2010 12:45 AM by partywallsurveyors.org.)
Post: #5
RE: The party wall act needs to be rewritten! ignore it!
In the Appeal Court case of Roadrunner Properties v John Dean (2003) it cost the building owner, who had ignored the Act, something in the order of £30,000 in fees and legal costs to defend a case where the damage caused by chasing out a wall for radiator pipes was less than £5,000. The judges took an exceedingly dim view of party wall procedures not being followed and penalised him accordingly. As Geoffrey says, you ignore the Act at your peril.

That said, there is no excuse for surveyors charging excessive fees and anyone practicing party wall surveying should know the Act like the back of their hand and not be learning on the job. As suggested in a posting above, as a rule the costs for dealing with domestic level works shouldn't be much more than £1,000 per surveyor although it will vary from case to case.

Of course, if you can keep your neighbours onside by keeping them well informed and carefully explaining what is happening, they might well consent to your notice, in which case surveyors wouldn't need to be appointed. It's always worth explaining to a neighbour that as long as valid notices have been served, their consent doesn't stop surveyors being appointed to adjudicate on damage at a later date, or indeed to determine any future dispute arising from the works notified.

If you want this explained in more detail or free online advice on other party wall matter go to http://www.partywallsurveyors.org - you'll also find there direct links to the Act itself and the government's explanatory booklet, although unfortunately the latter only tells half the story.
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15-01-2010, 01:18 AM
Post: #6
RE: The party wall act needs to be rewritten! ignore it!
One further piece of advice. Under Section 10(13) of the Act, fees charged by surveyors in making or obtaining an Award must be 'reasonable'. Incidentally, in the 2007 case of Bansal v Myers, the judge held that £160 per hour was not unreasonable.

If you are aware of the fees before the Award is made and wish to dispute them you can call upon the third surveyor directly to consider their reasonableness under Clause 10(11) although he will charge a fee for doing so. Alternatively, you have 14 days after service of the Award in which to appeal to the County Court against the level of fees. You can do this yourself by bringing proceedings under Part 52 of the Civil Procedure Rules. Be aware however that the Court will disapprove of this being done spuriously or wantonly and if you fail, costs wil be awarded against you.
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15-01-2010, 07:13 AM
Post: #7
RE: The party wall act needs to be rewritten! ignore it!
I think the same rule applies here as with all financial commitments - get a quote - nay, get a few quotes and see what you are expected to shell out before committing yourself.

Fees for consultants are a weird thing. From experience I find the less I charge the less work I am awarded ?? ( explain that too me please ? )

There are some out there charging about double and more of my rates, in fact on one legal case on which I am currently working, my “opposition’s ” fees are some 15 times higher than mine, and they have not discovered the reason for the failure ~ I have.

So when you pick a professional, pick them not only by the size of their fee, but by their experience. Find out if they have the technical knowledge of the trade, preferably at the working face, not just as pictures on a computer screen. ~ Oh and do they have teh proper Insurances? In the case above, the other company used lots of bodies, carried out several tests and wrote telephone directory size reports, padded with pages upon pages of useless information such as the weather, how to get to site, what the reporter had for lunch (LOL) …….. Great for padding a report out, but of no use to a client or court. This consultant’s experience had only been achieved by general building experience and not by specialist knowledge of the trade they were inspecting.

On a similar vein, the hourly rate is no indication to overall cost. If you have a consultant quoting £60 / hr and one £100 / hr , who is going to be the cheapest ?
What if the £60/hr takes twice as long to do the work ?????

Would you have building works carried out purely based on hourly rates ? Then why do it with Consultants ? Set price – no arguments.

I usually quote a set price, but advise the client of my hourly rate in the event of additional meetings or further work.

If, as appears you have done, you have agreed to these rates, I don’t think you really have anywhere to go, save question the hours consumed, but that I suggest may be a difficult case to win.
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15-01-2010, 12:15 PM (This post was last modified: 15-01-2010 04:34 PM by PeeBee.)
Post: #8
RE: The party wall act needs to be rewritten! ignore it!
cmlhall Wrote:...the second opinion structural engineer spent £970 just to conclude... His report letter was one and a half pages. He clearly overcharged.

Your opinion, and you are entitled to it. The SE would argue otherwise - and it's his PII and reputation on the line. After all - you were already questioning the first guy...and he obviously got it right in the first place! Rolleyes

cmlhall Wrote:My surveyor had the duty of care to question the engineer's cost, but chose to ignore it...

1. You know this for sure?
2. As the PWS would charge you to query the cost, would this result in a savingConfused

cmlhall Wrote:There was also the extra cost incurred by my neighbours telephoning their surveyor to ask questions and inappropriately complain that they were not happy with my works going ahead in any form.

So dispute these costs...

cmlhall Wrote:It is arguable that the second opinion structural engineer may have been necessary because the party wall was structurally suspect...

ARGUABLE?? Bloody essential, I would say...

cmlhall Wrote:...and my engineer's calculations were quite involved (over 35 pages in total), but then surveyors should not have had any trouble reading them...

Okay - I'm getting a bit bored now. Do yourself a favour, and look up what qualifications a Party Wall Surveyor requires. Tell you what - I'll save you the hassle. None. Zilch. Anyone who can read and understand the PWA can act as a PWS. You seem to believe that you have had half the RICS running around Sheffield trying to put walls (sorry - lame joke...) in your way.

cmlhall Wrote:Total overcharge was therefore about £1,500.

Again, your opinion which you are entitled to. If you feel that there are any contentious issues, as previously mentioned above - dispute them! Just remember you might set the clock away again...

cmlhall Wrote:I was delayed by about 6 weeks, which may not sound very long, but it was the difference between having works completed for the arrival of our baby daughter and what happened, which was a house full of noise and dust disturbing the new-born, which has made the house virtually uninhabitable for us under the circumstances.

NOW we're getting to the real issue! You want to let off steam because your other half gave you grief Rolleyes Understandable - wouldn't have liked to be in the same situation - but maybe then you should've kicked off at noon instead of 3pm, knowing what was coming...

cmlhall Wrote:In addition..., I had to ask my structural engineer to provide further detail on his drawings and write several further explanatory letters, which totaled about £1000...

This is an issue to take up with the SE. If his drawings were incomplete, you should not have to pay for required information.

cmlhall Wrote:With the experience of hind site, I can see that I could most probably have proceeded without invoking the Party Wall Act dispute process by being careful as follows:

1. Double check that my structural engineer's calculations were correct and comprehensive in respect of drawing details.
2. Check that my engineer's design included careful consideration for the rights of the adjoining owners with respect to the party wall act

And how would you set out to do that? Are you qualified?? If so - why need a SE in the first place - and then a second one to check the first... Rolleyes

cmlhall Wrote:Conclusion:

You think????

cmlhall Wrote:1) party wall surveyors are compelled to offer a fixed fee option;

Pal - the reason they charge by the hour is so that they get reasonable remuneration from cases from Hell like this!

cmlhall Wrote:In my opinion, there are a number of ways to avoid a costly dispute as the building owner...

Great. Show us one that will comply with current legislation, and we'll all work to it.

Oh - don't bother, there is one already - it's called the Party Wall Act etc 1986. It's a bit hard to understand, mind... Rolleyes

cmlhall Wrote:I would be happy to help anyone in respect of planning around the Party Wall Act and minimizing costs as far as I am able from my experience; please send my an email if you have any questions.

AHHH! - I geddit! You're setting yourself up as a Party Wall ADVISOR! Then, you can advise Building Owners, Adjoining Owners AND Party Wall Surveyors! Ramp the cost up higher again!

Good move, mate Wink Let us know how you get on... :
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15-01-2010, 04:29 PM
Post: #9
RE: The party wall act needs to be rewritten! ignore it!
Jeeeez having a bad day PeeBee Shy Rolleyes
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15-01-2010, 04:35 PM (This post was last modified: 15-01-2010 04:38 PM by PeeBee.)
Post: #10
RE: The party wall act needs to be rewritten! ignore it!
DHA Ltd Wrote:Jeeeez having a bad day PeeBee Shy Rolleyes

Who... MOI??? Wink

Nah - happy as a sandpiper, old PeeBee is Rolleyes
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