Amy Etches, Interview with a Party Wall SurveyorNov 07, 2022
1. Tell us a bit about you and why you became a party wall surveyor.
Hi, my name is Amy and I am a party wall surveyor and I run the East Midlands branch of First For Party Wall Surveyors. I have been brought up around building projects and construction as my father is an architect and my husband was a builder. In a previous life I have had many customer relations jobs from frontline to management.
My brother in law introduced me to Party Wall which became of great interest to me, and I found I picked up the legislation around the act and how to interpret it quickly.
I am keen to help women who are employed in the construction trade or who are managing their own projects. It is important for women to feel comfortable, safe listened too and empowered when they are discussing construction and how builds can be achieved and what needs to happen to achieve this.
2. What is involved in being a party wall surveyor, what skills do you need?
A party wall surveyor is someone who specialises in the Party Wall act 1996 and interprets the act to support building owners manage their works properly. They offer support in regard to notifying neighbours of works that are notifiable or I am sometimes contacted by Adjoining owners who need help or advice with the building works that are due to start next door. (It is worth noting that if a neighbours chooses to appoint their own surveyor instead regarding your work, you are required by law to cover their costs in full and the surveyor will invoice you)
Once appointed as the surveyor it is my role to complete a number of tasks including –
- Land Registry Searches,
- Serving final notice to the adjoining owner/s
- Correspondence with all interested parties, verbally, electronically and written
- Interpreting plans to ensure notified works being completed are in line with the act
- Carry out a Schedule of condition of adjoining owners property to include photos and a detailed report of the property.
- Writing up of the award, which is a legally binding document, then serving the award.
The skills required are numerous and varied and includes some of the following –
Good Time keeping, excellent people skills, excellent communication skills, be able to remain calm under pressure, able to manage stressful situations and problem solve, ability to read intricate plans and create legal documents to an excellent standard.
I am educated to university level and have worked in fast paced environments, which involved managing risk on a daily basis, however I felt that I wanted a change of life allowing me to be the master of my own time and workload and not just be a number in an ever-increasing company, therefore joined the party wall company I am with currently.
I am an associate of First for Party Wall Surveyors and have opened the East Midlands branch. I am based in Derby however I am always happy to travel outside the east/west midlands to complete surveys. We have a number of surveyors who are associated to the company in the south of the country to include all areas of London, Surrey, Banbury, Oxford and the midlands.
3. How would you describe a party wall surveyor to someone for the first time?
A parry wall surveyor is there to support building owners and adjoining owners to ensure that any notifiable works, such as cutting into a party wall, excavation within 3 or 6 meters of a property or removal of a chimney breast is completed with the act in place. This offers both parties peace of mind, should there be any issues caused through the works this can be recompensed without delay to the satisfaction of all parties.
4. At what stage in a renovation project should someone appoint a party wall surveyor?
Party wall surveyors should be appointed at the beginning and defnitely before building works start.
This allows for a thorough inspection of the properties, to ensure the condition before work starts and then a final inspection is completed at the end to ensure the condition has remained to the same standard.
5. Where should someone start to look for and how do you choose a party wall surveyor?
I would suggest that anyone looking for a party wall surveyor would always look through social media to read about companies and then read reviews. I also think there is a huge advantage to word of mouth as this offers a level of certainty in hiring someone as you know someone who has already been through the process with that person.
Speak to the party wall surveyor, ask their advice from the outset and consider what they have told you. Do you feel you can work with them? Did they answer your questions clearly and offer explanations if needed? Did they go in for the hard sell which should not happen.
Appointing someone requires a level of trust and I would always recommend reading their website, read the company reviews and speak to the person. This should give you a good enough idea if you can work with this person.
Some surveyors will charge by the hour and some charge a fixed fee, your budget will dictate which you prefer as fees do vary so always get a quote of the cost and a breakdown of what this entails.
6. How long should one expect to have a party wall surveyor involved in a typical home extension?
This is difficult as the Act itself dictates some of the time frames and then this will further depend on how quickly the adjoining owners respond to notices and what their decision is in regard to consent. I would suggest the minimum is 3 weeks from start to finish however this can be shorter or longer depending on the correspondence of all parties. The building owner has to allow time for the adjoining owner to respond to the notice and allow 14 days plus 2 for postage, so it really is dependent on how quickly people respond.
7. Who does a party wall surveyor work with regarding other professional services the home owner has appointed and how should they manage that?
The party wall surveyor works mostly with the building and adjoining owners and the builders or architects. This can be achieved through a number of ways and is decided by every party as to how they are happy to receive correspondence, however if all parties agree to electronic communication this can speed the process.
8. What are the biggest problems you've seen with home renovations that can go wrong regarding party wall surveyors and Awards?
The biggest problem I see is Surveyors that overstep their remit and start to almost want to project manage. The act is quite simple if only the notifiable aspects of the work are dealt with. I have been taught not to over stretch my remit and fall into the trap of Awarding something I have no jurisdiction over.
9. How does a party wall surveyor address disputes between neighbours?
The act is very clear about the works that need to be notified, how those works are to be carried out and what happens should there be any damage and how this is managed. The act itself is an enabling act and is there to support building works whilst offering security to all parties should there be any damage.
The appointed surveyors refer to the act to address disputes which is the governing legislation for party wall matters.
10. Do you have any tips or advice for home renovators regarding party wall matters to help them manage this aspect as best as possible?
Contact a reputable party wall surveyor and gain advice. This initial advice should be free and impartial.
Have a discussion with the surveyor, talk about the proposed works, plans and worries and they will support you to understand the process and make you feel comfortable with what is happening.
Ask question if you don’t know something or don’t understand and ensure you have a full breakdown of the costs in any quote.
Amy can be contacted at http://www.fpws-eastmidlands.co.uk