Home Post-award action by Appointed Surveyors

Post-award action by Appointed Surveyors

Little or nothing has been written about the post-Award role of Surveyors.

Section 10 (12) of the Party Wall etc Act 1996 requires Surveyors to make an Award determining the:-
  • right to execute any work
  • the time and manner of executing any work and
  • any other matter arising out of or incidental to the dispute including the costs of making the Award.

Thereafter it is submitted that the Surveyors have no further part to play unless
  1. The Award specifically includes, for example, defined inspections Section 10(13)(b) or
  2. A dispute arises Section 10(13)(c)

Post-Award Inspections

Many Awards provide for the Adjoining Owner’s Surveyor to make interim inspections and “sign-off” the awarded work.  The costs of these inspections are included in the Award.  There are, however, arguments against this custom and practice.  The Adjoining Owner’s Surveyor is not a Building Control Officer, Project Manager, Designer or Safety Officer and surely would not wish to undertake the duties of these other parties so it has to be asked what purpose would site visits serve?

Most Adjoining Owners are capable of seeing for themselves whether their building has suffered damage at the hands of the Building Owner’s contractors but of course there will be exceptions when Surveyor’s services are required.

In the majority of cases damage arising out of building work occurs long after the contract completion so an inspection made say six months after underpinning is completed will probably reveal nothing untoward.  In any event the Building Owner remains liable for defects even if he sells the property on completion of his work.

The Adjoining Owner’s Surveyor is paid in advance for ascertained site visits and it should be remembered that these costs add significantly to the Building Owner’s expense and should not therefore be undertaken lightly.  It is arguable that these additional costs should not form part of an Award, Section 10 (12) referring only to the costs of making this Award, however, this interpretation is tempered by Section 10(13).

To be safe some Building Owners will require and pay for their appointed Surveyor to re-inspect the Adjoining Owner’s property on completion of the awarded work and the right of entry will be included within the Award. 

Disputes Arising During or After Service of the Award

These out of:
  1. Allegations of damage, real or imaginary, being made.
  2. Fear of the contractor’s working practices
  3. Failures of the contractor to take specified precautions and/or significant disregard of working methods set out in the Award.

The extensive use of digital photography has helped to reduce spurious claims but there are still some Adjoining Owners who are so concerned about their property that they demand a Surveyor’s attendance for it only to be discovered that this “new” crack is nothing more than a thick cobweb!

Site visits, responding to emails, telephone conversations etc all take time and therefore cost money.  If an allegation of damage or malpractice is unsubstantiated the Surveyor/Surveyors may and often will make a Further Award setting down their actions and for the payment of fees arising out of dealing with the complaint.

It must never be assumed that the Building Owner always pays and that the Adjoining Owner has the benefit of free service throughout the Party Wall Act processes.  Of course, where allegations are justified then the Building Owner will be obliged, by Award or Agreement, to pay the resulting reasonable costs.

It is submitted that Surveyors confronted with unsubstantiated post-Award complaints by an Adjoining Owner should make it clear that this could have cost consequences.