What to consider when appointing a Party Wall Surveyor
The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 under section 20 defines a surveyor as any person not party to the matter who has been appointed or selected to determine disputes in accordance with the procedures set out in the Act. There is no mention here that a ‘surveyor’ must be a fully trained regulated professional, nor does it offer any guidance on who to appoint as ‘surveyor’.
So with the Act not specifying the need for a Party Wall Surveyor to have any required qualifications, how does one establish who to appoint as their surveyor, whether you are a building owner proposing works or an adjoining owner living next door to a developer proposing works it is important to ensure that you have a surveyor capable of looking after your rights and the integrity of your structure before, during and after any proposed notifiable works.
So, who to choose as your surveyor? The first two professional membership organisations that we would recommend that you look to are the Faculty of Party Wall Surveyors and The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, both promote the highest standards of professionalism and conduct, with the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 being a specialist area and with the role of the Party Wall Surveyor being a specialist field of expertise, we would suggest you appoint a surveyor who is a member of one of the above-mentioned reputable membership organisations, ideally being a member of both would be ideal, simply appointing a RICS Chartered Surveyor alone is not always sufficient, but that may also depend on the calibre of that chosen RICS surveyor and their experience in administering the Act, not all RICS Chartered Surveyors are party wall specialists. Both the Faculty of Party Wall Surveyors and Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors have a find a surveyor function on their websites; use this to confirm your appointed surveyor is, in fact, a qualified professional.
Implementing the legislation of the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 is one of the ingredients required in the makeup of a good Party Wall Surveyor; there are, of course, other elements of the process that require a sound understanding of both building design, construction, and dispute resolution and if your surveyor has a wide skill set this is of course advantages to ensure your interests are best looked after. We would advise looking to a leading governing body such as Chartered Institute of Building and Chartered Association of Building Engineers as additional qualifications/professional memberships that would give your chosen surveyor the skillset required to serve you best. The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 provides a framework for preventing and resolving the dispute; thus it is also important that your appointed surveyor has a sound understanding and experience in dispute resolution. The Chartered Institute of Arbitrators again offers a find a professional function on their website, but a member of this organisation should also ideally have a construction background/qualification.
We have now identified the ingredients required for your chosen Party Wall Surveyor in terms of expertise, knowledge, and experience. Managing the process on behalf of a building owner is also of great importance.
There are lots of different points of contact your surveyor will have to deal with during the process, such as other surveyors, architects, structural engineers, contractors and checking consultants and of course, the adjoining owners themselves. Having a surveyor who understands the concepts of the design and the detail the building owner needs to provide is important to make the process work this allows a surveyor to be best placed to get a building owners project up and running with minimum cost and delay. Also, when dealing with other professionals during the course of the party wall process, a background in project management or a qualification that demonstrates the experience of having been in charge of the planning and execution of projects both large and small is an important skill set for a surveyor to have, you are we believe a construction professional firstly and a Party Wall Surveyor secondly in order to evolve as an expert on party wall matters.
Lastly but most certainly not least is personality and temperament, which is not something any governing body, university or professional membership organisation can teach but is something that comes, in part, with the experience of dealing with other construction professionals on many projects over a number of years. This is important as the Party Wall Surveyor will be dealing with a number of other points of contact during the course of the process thus strong communications skills and the ability to work with other people during the course of the process in a forward and progressive way is imperative to a successful and cost-effective process. The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 is of course, an Act of enablement.
The works notifiable under the Party Wall etc Act 1996 will often carry with them a significant structural risk to the adjoining structures and the rights of those adjoining owners during the course of the works. The part of an experienced, qualified Party Wall Surveyor is to implement the legislation of the Act to mitigate and reduce those risks to the adjoining structures whilst also allowing the building owner to carry out the notifiable works. The rights of the adjoining owners must also be taken into consideration during these works. It is often the case that the Party Wall Surveyor will recommend and administer changes to drawings prior to works commencing.
You should ensure that your Party Wall Surveyor has an experienced, qualified understanding of the construction works that are being proposed. Most construction works can be complex, requiring the input of other surveyors, architects, structural engineers and checking consultants. Ensuring the surveyor is qualified through the membership organisations we have already mentioned are all good points to consider when choosing a Party Wall Surveyor.
The more experienced and the better qualified the Party Wall Surveyor is for the works being proposed, the better placed they will be to offer advice and guidance.
It is always recommended that you do your due diligence and ensure that before appointing your surveyor that they are qualified through one or ideally both of the two primary governing bodies,The Faculty of Party Wall Surveyors and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors both organisations have a find a surveyor function on their websites to confirm that the surveyor meets the standard and experience to be your Party Wall Surveyor. Other desirable qualifications to consider in addition to RICS and the FPWS are the MCIOB, MCABE, MCIArb and MAPM.
It is also worthwhile speaking with a Party Wall Surveyor before you appoint them; this will give you a good measure of who they are and how they do things and as this will all play a big part in the implementing of the legislation of the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 on your behalf, be sure to check they meet your requirements that best suit your timeframe and design of your project.