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  • Clio Domenech

Exploring the Pros and Cons of Agreed Surveyors versus Separate Surveyors in Party Wall Disputes

Updated: Mar 14

Party wall disputes can be complex, and one of the critical decisions made by homeowners at the start of a dispute is the appointment of surveyors. The two approaches are: appointing an Agreed Surveyor to act on behalf of both parties (the Building Owner AND the Adjoining Owner) or each party selecting their own separate surveyor. Today, we will discuss the pros and cons of each option to help property owners make an informed decision.

Agreed Surveyor:

One of the primary advantages of appointing an Agreed Surveyor is cost efficiency. Since both parties share the same professional, it often results in lower overall fees, reducing the financial burden on the Building Owner who is typically the one covering the costs. As it is the duty of party wall surveyors to act impartially, an Agreed Surveyor will still maintain and conduct neutrality, with no perceived bias toward one party. With fewer layers of communication, decisions and agreements can be reached more swiftly, preventing unnecessary delays in the project timeline. Thus, having a single Agreed Surveyor can greatly expedite the resolution process.

Despite the intent for impartiality, there's a risk of a perceived conflict of interest when both parties use the same surveyor. Concerns may arise regarding whose interests the surveyor truly represents, potentially leading to distrust. Moreover, a single Agreed Surveyor may lack the diverse viewpoints that separate surveyors could provide. Different surveyors might bring unique insights, ensuring a more comprehensive assessment of the situation.

To bring one disadvantage that the Act specifically creates over the separate surveyor route, there will be no "Third Surveyor" selected for the dispute. The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 states that when separate surveyors are appointed to represent each party, it is the first duty of the surveyor to agree on a "Third Surveyor" to be selected. This third surveyor rarely needs to come actively on board in the dispute but in the unlikely situation that the two surveyors come to a disagreement, they have the option to consult this third surveyor who will they be requested to determine the matter.

Separate Surveyors:

Each party appointing their own surveyor ensures that their specific interests and concerns are directly addressed. This individualised approach can lead to a more thorough and tailored assessment of the situation. Separate surveyors bring diverse perspectives and expertise to the table. This can be particularly valuable when dealing with complex projects or unique circumstances, ensuring a well-rounded evaluation. Parties may feel more confident having a dedicated surveyor advocating for their interests. This approach helps ensure that all relevant factors and potential impacts are considered during the dispute resolution process.

However, a notable downside to opting for separate surveyors is the potential for escalated costs. Typically, the Building Owner bears the responsibility for both surveyors' fees, especially considering their direct benefit from the project moving forward. This financial burden can swiftly accumulate, particularly if the resolution process extends over an extended period. While a congenial relationship between the parties might dissuade the Adjoining Owner from imposing these costs, it remains the Building Owner's duty to budget for all additional expenses associated with project undertakings. To preemptively address financial and emotional impacts, it is advisable for the two parties to engage in a face-to-face discussion before the Adjoining Owner delivers the official written response. This dialogue helps clarify how the party wall process will influence each party, fostering a more transparent and collaborative approach to the entire dispute resolution procedure.

Finally, the potential for conflicting opinions among separate surveyors could give rise to extended disputes. While such instances are infrequent, it is noteworthy that the majority of party wall surveyors maintain a professional tone and undergo specialized training to adeptly handle disagreements. Moreover, the Party Wall Act provides a mechanism for resolving disputes between surveyors, involving consultation with the Third Surveyor, as previously discussed. This built-in resolution process serves as a safeguard, ensuring that any differences in opinion can be efficiently addressed, maintaining the integrity and efficiency of the overall dispute resolution framework.

In conclusion, the decision to appoint an Agreed Surveyor or separate surveyors in a party wall dispute comes down to a careful consideration of the specific circumstances and the parties involved. While an Agreed Surveyor offers cost-effectiveness and efficiency, separate surveyors provide individualised representation and diverse expertise. It's crucial for parties to weigh these pros and cons in the context of their unique situation, considering factors such as project complexity, budget constraints, and the importance of maintaining positive neighbourly relations. Ultimately, a well-informed decision on surveyor appointments is essential for a smoother and more successful resolution of party wall disputes.

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