Party Wall
Apr 30, 2024

Are You Obligated to Pay Party Wall Surveyor Fees if Works Are Cancelled?

The Party Wall Act delegates the responsibility of agreeing on the payment of surveyor fees (which must be reasonable)...

Responsibility

The Party Wall Act delegates the responsibility of agreeing on the payment of surveyor fees (which must be reasonable) to the surveyors themselves. Typically, the owner benefiting from the proposed works bears these costs in normal circumstances. However, what occurs if the works don't proceed?

Uncertainty

Over the past few years, economic uncertainties have led to an increasing trend where owners develop plans, serve party wall notices, and then opt to postpone or cancel their projects.

Notice

Serving a party wall notice serves a dual purpose: informing neighbours of proposed works and initiating a statutory process. If a neighbour chooses not to consent, they must appoint a surveyor or risk having one appointed for them. It's common for surveyors to respond on behalf of their appointing owners without immediate notification to the other party.

Since the Act doesn't provide for withdrawing a notice, there are no explicit provisions on fee handling when works are abandoned. However, it's reasonable for surveyors to expect payment for work done in good faith post-notice service, with costs typically borne by the owner benefiting from the works. 

No Response

When a building owner serves a notice but doesn't proceed or appoint a surveyor, resolving fee disputes becomes more complex. 

Both parties must appoint a surveyor for an award to be served. If the building owner refuses to cover the adjoining owner's surveyor's fees, the adjoining owner may use section 10(4) of the Act to appoint a surveyor on their behalf. This could lead to the building owner paying fees for two surveyors despite abandoning their plans, a situation that seems absurd but offers limited alternatives.

Timesheet

In such cases, the building owner or their surveyor informs the adjoining owner's surveyor about the works' cancellation and requests a summary of time spent. Early in the process, time incurred could range between 1 to 2 hours. Ideally, the building owner pays these fees to close the adjoining owner's surveyor's file. If they refuse, the matter is addressed formally by both surveyors, potentially increasing fees in the process.