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Property Surveying Blog

Written by Liam Wilkinson

In conversations with your Appointed Surveyor or perhaps whilst reading your Party Wall Award, you may have heard the term ‘Third Surveyor’ and wondered what it meant.

In simple terms a Third Surveyor is a tertiary Surveyor who is chosen unanimously by both the Building Owner’s and Adjoining Owner’s Surveyor and exists to resolve disputes as a third party between the two appointed Surveyors.

To elaborate, in jobs where both the Building Owner and the Adjoining Owner have their own appointed Surveyors a Third Surveyor will be picked. When a dispute does arrive the matter is forwarded over to the Third Surveyor in a process called a ‘Third Surveyor Referral’. A Third Surveyor Referral can be made by anyone involved in the Party Wall matter, including the owners.

A Third Surveyor Referral  commonly refers to the process of contacting the Third Surveyor so they can make a decision on a dispute. It will often consist of initial discussions between the appointed surveyors and end with a formal decision from the Third Surveyor. A Third Surveyor Referral can be raised for many reasons, most commonly in relation to surveyors’ fees, any unreasonable requests within the award or if the Award is not in accordance with the Party Wall Act.

A Third Surveyor Referral can also be made when one of the Appointed Surveyors is being unresponsive.  In cases when one of the Appointed Surveyor has not responded to communication with the statutory time frame stated within the Party Wall Act, the Third Surveyor can be referred to so they can step in and take over the stated Appointing Surveyors role.

The benefit of a Third Surveyor Referral is the protection it provides both the Building Owner and Adjoining Owner from poorly constructed Awards that can be damaging both to their properties and financially. For example, if one surveyor is charging an exorbitant amount for their services it may save the Building Owner a lot of money if the Building Owner Surveyor enforce a Third Surveyor Referral and it a decision is made in their favour. In another example the Adjoining Owner Surveyor may enforce a Third Surveyor Referral in order to limit the amount of time the Building Owners builders can have access to the Adjoining Owners property in respect to Section 1 of the Party Wall Act.

The downside of a Third Surveyor Referral is the cost. As the Third Surveyor is themselves a Surveyor they too charge for their time and the fees can be substantial. Rates do differ between Third Surveyors and he final fee is dependant upon the time spent on the matter, but one can expect costs ranging from £500-£700 for the referral. This fee may seem steep, but it is more reasonable when you consider that Third Surveyors are often highly knowledgeable and have a lot of experience under their belt. When you consider this alongside the impartiality provided, you can see that this is an invaluable service.

It is important to mentioned that the Third Surveyor will decide who their fees are payable by at the end of the referral process. This means that the Third Surveyor Referral process puts both the Building Owner and Adjoining Owner at financial risk. Because of this the Appointed Surveyors will often try to prevent a Third Surveyor Referral at all costs. In most cases disputes should be resolved between the appointed surveyors, which is why Third Surveyor Referrals are rare.

If you have any more questions regarding Third Surveyor Referrals of any part of the Party Wall process, please give us a call at 020 7935 2502 for 30 minutes of free, impartial advice.