Suspect Party Wall Surveyor

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gander0
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Suspect Party Wall Surveyor

Postby gander0 » Sun Sep 30, 2018 6:55 pm

Hi all,

If anyone has any expertise in the following I would appreciate any advice.

We currently have a kitchen conversion including side return proposal in for planning permission with Merton council. The side return will extend to the half way point of the party wall with our neighbours. Foundations will need to be dug along the boundary line.

A couple of weeks ago I got a letter from a party wall surveyor informing me that he had been appointed by my neighbours. I have not as of yet issued a party wall notice as I was waiting for the outcome of the application.

Initially I thought the appointment of the surveyor by my neighbour wasn't a bad thing and that I could potentially use the same surveyor for the party wall award.

After (very little) research however I have discovered that the surveyor has a dubious track record and pretty much no positive feedback.

I spoke with my neighbours first to confirm they had appointed this surveyor and second to raise my concerns about their appointed surveyor. I think however it will be unlikely that they will change surveyor now.


My queries are:

Are they now tied in to using this surveyor? Is that fact that they signed before receiving a notice a factor?

What are my options if they go ahead with a dodgy surveyor? Can he pretty much charge whatever he likes with me footing the bill?

I presume I would have to hire an alternative surveyor just to mitigate any against any decisions my neighbours surveyor makes?

Any advice would be very much appreciated.

Many thanks
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Denwand
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Re: Suspect Party Wall Surveyor

Postby Denwand » Mon Oct 01, 2018 6:43 am

I can't answer your question but I can throw some light on the possible background of this surveyor after what happened to us recently.

Six mounths ago my next door neighbour told me, well in advance, that they were altering their conservatory - we get on well with both our neighbours and both are considerate and help where they can. I had no problems with this the alterations were well away from our party wall.

However with days of the planning application being posted on the councils website I got, not one, but two letters informing me of my neighbours pending work and offering thier services on some sort of "no win no fee" basis.

I had to show thse to my neighbour because I a) Didn't like the "ambulance chasing" marketing of their approach and b) even if they were affecting the party wall I felt that this was a "spivvy" operation (like the random phone calls that ask if you'd had an accident)  and could only lead to bad feeling and my neighbours being pressured financially on some spurious clause for no reason and these spivs and chancers walking away with a nice pecentage of the claim for very little work leaving an emotional  mess behind.

This activity seems a horrible development, if this is how they approached your neighbour I'm not at all surpised they have a shady reputation  - like all cads, bounders and chancers they should be horse-whipped  :D

 
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gander0
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Re: Suspect Party Wall Surveyor

Postby gander0 » Tue Oct 02, 2018 8:38 am

Dewand,

Unfortunately I don't think our neighbour will be as accommodating as you. They have now formally objected to our application and I don't think them costing us large amounts will bother them at all.

Many thanks for your feedback.


 
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sloaney donkey
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Re: Suspect Party Wall Surveyor

Postby sloaney donkey » Sat Oct 06, 2018 7:11 pm

Flick your cigarette butts over the party wall and park in front of their house. Get them ready for things to come.

Then make sure your builders really work those angle grinders hard, sending surplus material over their side of the wall.

That's what I call a solid party wall agreement!

Tally-Ho!
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bentpwc
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Re: Suspect Party Wall Surveyor

Postby bentpwc » Wed Oct 17, 2018 10:06 am

Hi all,

I am a party wall surveyor and I am sorry to hear of the circumstances whereby a surveyor (who I probably know) has sent unsolicited letters to neighbours. This happens when certain surveyors trawl the internet for planning applications. I imagine your neighbour received a letter from several surveyors shortly after your planning application was submitted.

In my opinion such behaviour is unethical.

I have challenged these surveyors in the past and they take the stance that they are merely 'informing' people of their rights and that the work they do is good as it is 'educational'. 

In practice, they couldn't care less about the people who appoint them, they literally just want to pick up the cash, nice and quickly, and without fuss.

This means that you will pay their fees, and in my experience, you are looking at about £1,100 + VAT.

I will answer your specific questions as follows:

Are they now tied in to using this surveyor? Is that fact that they signed before receiving a notice a factor?

This is very difficult to answer and I have changed my mind on this several times. Some people argue that the act is not invoked if a notice has not been served. I used to believe this, but this would suggest 'no notice - no act'. The act itself implies that it can be invoked without serving a notice (for example section 3(3)(a)). There is also case law where someone who had done work without serving a notice argued he was not subject to the act as it had not been invoked. The Judge disagreed, essentially saying the act had been invoked and notices were not necessarily required.
In the past, I have had a surveyor step aside and you will find that this will usually happen if your neighbour regrets his decision. There are also other options, however these would require co-operation from your neighbour.

What are my options if they go ahead with a dodgy surveyor? Can he pretty much charge whatever he likes with me footing the bill?

Absolutely not - but be prepared to pay around £1,100 + VAT. Paying anything for this type of a surveyor is too much as far as I am concerned. He may act as the 'agreed surveyor' which would save you your own surveyor's fees. However, if for example you were to appoint your own surveyor, part of the award would include the determination of the other surveyor's fees and these need to be reasonable. There are plenty of arguments as to what 'reasonable' is and unfortunately party wall surveyors can often be greedy.

I presume I would have to hire an alternative surveyor just to mitigate any against any decisions my neighbours surveyor makes?

Yes - I imagine the way forward now is to get your own surveyor. Do some research and make sure your surveyor hasn't got a bad reputation. I would be happy to assist (ben@tpwc.co.uk).

To summarise, I think the party wall act is being abused and is not working as well as it should be. This is mainly down to the conduct of surveyors and 'ambulance chasing' is just one example of many where surveyors are pushing the boundaries and acting unethically to make money of people who just want to do work to their homes. I am trying to challenge behaviour where possible as change needs to come from within, but it is very tough and as you can imagine, challenging such behaviour can leave me a little isolated. There are plenty of good surveyors out there, but too many are silent on this type of behaviour.

Good luck!
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BuildingABC
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Re: Suspect Party Wall Surveyor

Postby BuildingABC » Tue Oct 30, 2018 10:54 am

Party Wall Surveying is not a thieves charter as might be implied from what has been written on here.  There are bodies whose express purpose is to educate and award the right to use specific post nominals. Hence raising standards and driving the cowboys out.

I recommend that when looking for a party wall surveyor you simply search on the Faculty of Party Wall Surveyors website:

https://fpws.org.uk/

That link takes you to the front page and on that front page is a 'find a surveyor'.  All surveyors listed have met the minimum standards and will use the post nominal of MFPWS (Member of the Faculty of Party Wall Surveyors).  I found 106 within a 5 mile radius.  Ample choice of qualified practioners.

I also think you should be selecting with a view to the works to be carried out.  If you want to dig into the ground or create something complex I'd look for additional capability inhouse, qualifications giving post nominals of C.Build E, BEng, CEng or MIstructE or you may find you are paying the surveyor to act as a postbox on even the most basic matters as he consults an engineer and that really would be a waste of money.

There is also an excellent FAQ page which answers most of what has been written about on here but more clearly.

Background
I arrived at the FPWS website having read the posts in this thread and having also consulted a number of surveyors. It seems there is a 'belief' in some quarters that  surveyors are 'on the make'. To negate the doom-mongers who usually lack any form of research to back up their claims and to gain a balanced view I also asked accountants, solicitors and bankers I know if they too faced such accusations of being on the make.  Indeed they did.

The principal issue with the Party Wall etc Act 1996 is that anyone can be a party wall surveyor (note the lower case there) so long as they are not a party to the matter appointed.  You cannot be your own surveyor and this seems reasonable because if you are effectively in a dispute you aren't likely to resolve it or it wouldn't have existed in the first place.

Further a party wall surveyor is appointed by statute and cannot be dismissed unless very specific circumstances apply.  The person acting as the party wall surveyor is a named individual so whomever's name appears on the appointment form is whomever is appoointed.

Normally one looks to organisations such as RICS, CIOB, CABE, IstructE to regulate members.  This role uses the term surveyor so I consulted Chartered Surveyors for comment.  It seems that due to the statutory appointment of party wall surveyors the usual RICS Complaints Handling Procedure does not apply because the party wall surveyor is acting under statute.  There is even a guidance note on party walls published by RICS for its surveyors which makes the specific statement 'It is, however, well established that a party involved in a party wall dispute cannot use the Complaints Handling Procedure to influence or intimidate a surveyor who is acting in a statutory role under the Party Wall etc Act 1996'.

Invariably the money grabbers have identified this gap in legislation.  It is those few who are giving the industry a bad name and simply appointing a surveyor from a list of qualified, regulated professionals solves this problem.
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bentpwc
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Re: Suspect Party Wall Surveyor

Postby bentpwc » Sun Dec 30, 2018 9:19 pm

@BuildingABC

You state as follows:

‘I arrived at the FPWS website having read the posts in this thread and having also consulted a number of surveyors. It seems there is a 'belief' in some quarters that surveyors are 'on the make'. To negate the doom-mongers who usually lack any form of research to back up their claims and to gain a balanced view I also asked accountants, solicitors and bankers I know if they too faced such accusations of being on the make. Indeed they did.’

A few quick points. Whilst I appreciate you may not have been referring to me specifically, I can confirm that I have actually undertaken a lot of research including:

1. Writing a dissertation on the effectiveness of the party wall act (achieving a 2:1).
2. Interviewing as part of that dissertation very well known surveyors including the authors of party wall books.

I would also add I am a member of the faulty of party wall surveyors and that I know a fellow member who actually sends unsolicited letters as mentioned above. Clearly not enough is being done to stamp out this type of behaviour as you suggest (and what ‘evidence’ do you have that the issues are being tackled?).

I have gone to the third surveyor seven times over unethical behaviour involving excessive fees and luckily I have won every referral. There is no incentive for surveyors to act with integrity, as every time a third surveyor has found in my favour, it is not the greedy surveyor who pays, it is his appointing owner. Hardly fair.

I have served over one thousand awards, so I should be a good source of information for the general public. There are plenty of good honest surveyors out there, but there are far too many dishonest greedy surveyors and it isn’t just a few who are spoiling it for the rest of us - it is bigger than that. It is just convenient for party wall surveyors to pretend that it is only a minority acting unethically for the sake of self preservation.
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gander0
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Re: Suspect Party Wall Surveyor

Postby gander0 » Sat Jan 05, 2019 2:49 pm

Ben, Building ABC,

Many thanks for the informative feedback.

Fortunately my concerns have alleviated by our neighbours choosing a more legitimate surveyor than the ambulance chasing one previously mentioned.

This will clearly be better for our neighbour as well as ourselves.

 
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