In this blog we will take a brief look at the potential fees you could incur under the Party Wall etc. Act 1996, how these are determined and what happens in the case of unreasonable fees being charged by a surveyor.
Party Wall Fees
The Party Wall Act is a relatively complex piece of legislation and the industry is essentially self regulating. This means that surveyors tend to determine their fees based on their position in the market, the type of scheme, the geographical location among other factors. Some surveyors will charge on an hourly basis and others will offer a fixed fee proposal. In order to delve deeper into this we will look at a few scenarios:
As we have seen in previous blogs, it is possible for a surveyor to act as what is known as an Agreed Surveyor. This means that they can act for the person/s undertaking the works and also the neighbour/s in an impartial capacity. On residential schemes this will often mean that a potential client will approach a surveyor and ask for a quote and this will either be in the form of a fixed fee or an hourly fee with a rough guide on how many hours they expect to use. They should not charge additionally for acting as an Agreed Surveyor and there will be one fee, payable by the person undertaking the works, known as the Building Owner. Fees for acting as an Agreed Surveyor between a Building Owner and an Adjoining Owner can vary dramatically depending on the factors outlined in part above but as an example, a loft conversion fee can range from £800-£1500 + VAT in London. This is not normally doubled if there are two neighbours and there should be an economy of scale.
Where an Adjoining Owner appoints their own surveyor, the Building Owner will be liable for both their surveyors fees and the neighbours surveyors reasonable fees. Often this broadly doubles the fee however it is the right of a neighbour to appoint their own surveyor and this right can not be removed.
The surveyors will then undertake their normal duties and the Building Owner’s and Adjoining Owner’s surveyor will agree the Adjoining Owner’s surveyors fees and put these into the Award, the legally binding final document that allows the works to proceed.
In most cases, an Agreed Surveyor will quote a fee prior to being engaged and so there is little scope for this fee to become unreasonable. You should however carefully read that surveyors engagement letter, unscrupulous individuals can include wording that allows for additional fees to be charged and you must make sure you are protected.
Where a neighbour appoints their own surveyor they have not quoted for work prior to engagement and so will charge on an hourly basis. There are occasions in the industry when a surveyor will try to charge unreasonable time input (thankfully this is rare) and in this instance it is incumbent on the Building Owners surveyor to challenge this.
To challenge an unreasonable fee, the first step should always be a frank and open discussion on the level of fee and if this can not bring down the sum then the matter is escalated to what is known as the Third Surveyor. This is an individual mutually selected at the outset of the process and they have the power to determine disputes between surveyors. A submission is made to the Third Surveyor on fees and they will either agree that the fee is high or not as the case may be and will Award accordingly.
There is always a risk in this process that a determination will go against you and so a submission must be careafully weighed up.
Where you are undertaking complex works such as a basement, often a neighbour will appoint their own surveyor. Clearly this has a cost associated with it however there can be further costs. A neighbours surveyor will often appoint their own engineer to review the complex scheme because it is beyond their professional remit. This engineers reasonable costs are also normally met by the Building Owner and can range from £800-£2000 + VAT depending on the size of the scheme.
Other costs can include further design fees if the design is in an outline phase and requires more detail to agree an award; movement monitoring costs if you are undertaking a large engineering scheme; vibration and sound monitoring on larger schemes.
Being a self regulating industry it is important to select the right surveyor who can guide you through with the minimum of risk and help you avoid the common pitfalls of the process. Here at the Hopps Partnership we have many years of experience and can navigate you through from start to finish. We have a great track record of combating unreasonable fees and we offer fixed fee proposals for most types of work undertaken on residential schemes. We do not charge hidden fees and always ensure an open and frank discussion on monetary matters relating to the Act.
Feel free to give us a call if you have any queries.