After going through the Party Wall process with my adjoining owners I felt it necessary to share my experiences with others who are about to commence a development, and in that situation, the Party Wall etc Act 1996 will apply.
Most readers of this post will have little or no knowledge of Party Walls or how this process can affect your finances.
I hope to explain and share all elements of the 1996 Act and draw the public’s attention to pitfalls and how to avoid costly mistakes.
You need a Surveyor but how to find one? Google, recommendations, yellow pages etc its all hit and miss, but you have to start somewhere so invite three quotations from local firms. If you live in London, its common sense to use a London Surveyor and not one from Bristol or the midlands simply because your Surveyor needs to be at hand if problems develop.
You will as I did become confused with the differences in the quotations for what is a simple process once understood. I had two adjoin owners and my development was a loft conversion in SW London. The quotations came in £800, £1100 and £2200 all for the same job. Confusing? Very!
Not all Surveyors are the same, but it appears there are two distinct levels of Surveyor those is formal qualifications such as MRICS, BSc, MCIOB etc all graduate level and then those with lesser or no formal qualifications but tend to use the letters MFPWS after their name- this is membership of the Faculty of Party Wall Surveyors, it’s a three day course that is almost open to all. This normally accounts for the vast difference in quotations submitted.
But to be clear there is no requirement for a Party Wall Surveyor to have any formal qualifications at all apart from a good understanding of the 1996 Act and buildings. So should you use a MFPWS or go for the expensive RICS Surveyor? Readers may be surprised to hear that my experience with a RICS Surveyor ended up with his dismissal for absolute gross negligence, he failed to serve the Notices as required, he failed to keep me informed, he failed in communications with my neighbours Surveyors and I had to become a go between. He initially quoted £2200 which seemed fair at the time, but sent me various emails with increasing estimates, projecting to £3200, enough was enough and I dismissed him. He then invoiced my for his fee, I rejected his invoice and made a formal complaint to RICS which I won. He never received a penny and got a serious reprimand from RICS.
I employed a second Surveyor, not a RICS but he had a BSc and seemed very knowable, he had to start the entire process de novo. He served Notices, met with the other Surveyors and undertook the vital schedule of condition and finally raised the Awards having both adjoining owners Surveyors sign them. All went well and the development is complete. His fee was £1100.00 + VAT
So what did I learn? The Party Wall process is actually very straight forward and using the right Surveyor is essential, don’t worry too much about formal qualifications more applicable is experience.
So my guide to picking a Surveyor is follow this check list and hopefully you won’t go wrong:
1. Make sure he’s London based.
2. Ask to see his professional indemnity insurance certificate.
3. Ask for a breakdown of this fees. £800.00 per adjoining owner seems very fair and reasonable.
4. Don’t engage a RICS Surveyor, they are not needed for Party Walls there is no real technical involvement.
5. Make sure he’s VAT registered if not in all probability he’s a chancer, a cowboy, looking for a quick buck, how can any surveying practice turn over less than £84,000 which is the VAT threshold.
6. If the above are not all satisfied ask for references.
Happy to answer questions. PM me if you require my Surveyors details but simply do it yourself here:
£695.00 + VAT for full service.