I receive calls from building owners who before they have served notice, have been approached by the adjoining owner to inform them they have obligation under the Party Wall etc. Act 1996. Quite often this is due to party wall surveyors writing unsolicited letters to the adjoining owners to let them know their neighbours are planning work and they should appoint a surveyor to act for them.  
 
The source of this information is the local authority planning lists which they scour or subscribe to, in order to mass mailshot anyone who is living next door to where planning permission has been given. 
 
Unlike the majority of party wall surveyors who use marketing techniques that invite the owners to contact them, these firms rely on signing up as many adjoining owners as possible rather than acting for building owners where the costs are in most cases, fixed at the onset.  
 
In panic and ignorance sometimes, some owners sign the surveyors letter of appointment and are then stuck with a surveyor who then starts writing to the building owner asking them to serve notice and supply drawings. Remember you cannot not rescind the appointment of a surveyor easily under the Act. The industry has given these surveyors the name 'ambulance chasers' from the term used for lawyers who persuade clients to bring an action against the person responsible. 
 
I have seen some of these letters that introduce the surveyor and I have to say the content is worrying. I too would be confused if I was unaware of the Act and received one of these letters. They are written in terms which can only have one intention; to frighten the adjoining owner into signing the surveyor up as quickly as possible. 
 
What is paradoxical is the fact that these surveyors are causing a dispute that may never have happened had it not been for their scaremongering. And lets not forget, getting appointed as adjoining owners surveyor can be far more lucrative than acting for the building owner.  
 
There are probably 4/5 firms that are well known for this tactic of scaremongering and they no doubt make a good living out doing it. Problem is their reputation precedes them and you find out after it is all too late. 
 
My advice is to file all unsolicited party wall letters in the bin along with the double glazing and window blind flyers.  
 
UPDATE: The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 does not allow you to rescind a surveyor's appointment once made. In other words you are stuck with the surveyor you appoint unless the surveyor himself/herself rescinds their own appointment. In other words, be very careful before you sign up with one of these companies as there is no going back. 
 
 
 
 
 
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On 11th March 2018 at 18:22, eamon o'sullivan wrote:
What are you doing about ambulance chasing? Don't those surveyors have professional bodies that are supposed to regulate their conduct?
On 30th January 2018 at 19:50, Pete wrote:
Hello, my elderly mother has signed and returned one these unsolicited letters. Is there a cooling off period for these types of agreements?

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