Dilapidations Instruction in Newbury

DilapidationsWe have recently been instructed to undertake a terminal Schedule of Dilapidations for a commercial building in a prominent location in Newbury, Berkshire.

Our instruction is to serve a costed schedule of dilapidations on the lessee, in order that the Landlord can recoup any costs in relation to breaches of the lease. The instruction is complicated by the fact that the Landlords lessee has long since vacated the premises and sub-let the premises to a sub-lessee.

If your lease is coming to an end and you are either a Landlord requiring a schedule of condition to be compiled, or a Tenant who has been served with a terminal schedule of condition, please contact us as we will be pleased to assist.

Multiple Party Wall Awards

party wallWe undertook an instruction as Party Wall Surveyor to act on behalf of a building owner who was developing a site in Newbury.

The site itself was bounded by some residential properties at the front and a commercial property to the rear. The residential property at the front also had a retail unit on the ground floor.

To properly undertake the instruction notice was required to be served to all adjoining owners with an interest in the property. This included the freeholder of the residential units, the leaseholder of the retail unit and the freeholder of the commercial unit to the rear. Fortunately, the leaseholder and the freeholder of the commercial unit were the same party.

All parties dissented to works and required the appointment of their own surveyor to act on their behalf. In actuality, one of the adjoining owner’s surveyors acted on behalf of two parties, with a second adjoining owner acting on behalf of the other party.

Three separate Party Wall Awards were required to be issued. In order to minimise the cost to our appointing owner who would be responsible for all fees, we made assessment of adjoining owner’s fees and agreed a reasonable rate. We also organised to meet all surveyors out on site on the same day, to minimise time on site while discussing the critical issues that needed to form the basis of the Party Wall Award.

Without our professional input, the developer may have found difficulty in identifying the correct parties to serve the notice on, issue applicable notices, liaise with adjoining owner’s surveyors and form a Party Wall Agreement.

It is often thought by building owners that the Party Wall process is easily managed by themselves but we have often found that parties that have issued notice have issued invalid notice, which can delay works or can become confounded by the detail surrounding the Party Wall Act and can quickly find themselves out of their depth when matters become more complex.

If you have any Party Wall issues, please contact us for advice on 01635 579208 or complete the form below and we’ll get in touch.

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Homebuyers Survey finds damp

HBR dampWhilst undertaking a homebuyers survey in Newbury, our surveyor discovered damp to the base of internal and external walls and damp also to the ground floor throughout the property.

The exact cause of damp could not be determined, although our suspicions were that the damp was caused by a damaged or failed damp proof membrane to the floor. Other possibilities included buried service pipes within the floor screed, which could be leaking.

It is very common for service pipes buried in screed prior to the 1970’s to not be properly protected. Copper pipes can react with the cement within floor screeds causing corrosion; this process is accelerated where moisture is present. In some cases, where we have found similar problems and pipes have been exposed, the copper pipes are extremely thin due to this corrosive process and prone to leaking.

If you have any concerns regarding damp or are experience any similar problems please contact us on 01635 579208 or use the form below.

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Project Managers for Repairs

Project Management. Repair & Redec Block of FlatsRMA Surveyors Ltd acted as project managers for an external maintenance and repairs programme to a block of flats in Cockfosters, London.

The contract included roof repairs; including repairs to parapet walls and the repair of roof coverings, maintenance to external doors and windows; including repairs and redecoration, providing insulation to tank rooms located on the roof, internal plaster repairs to common areas and redecoration and masonry repairs; including crack stitching and repointing repairs to arches and lintels above openings.

The contract value was for £70,000; we provided specification, tendered the works and oversaw the works in two phases. Unfortunately the initial contractor went into liquidation between phases, so we were required to re-tender the works and oversee phase two using a different contractor.

We saw the work through to completion, awarded final certification and ensured the work was undertaken to a satisfactory standard.

If you require a project manager for any similar repairs, redecoration or refurbishment contracts, please contact us using the form below or call us on 01635 579208.

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Building Survey found no Chimney Breast

Chimney StacksWhilst undertaking a building survey in Reading, Berkshire, we identified that a chimney breast to a shared chimney stack (or party stack) had been removed by a previous occupant.

The removal of the chimney breast will have required permission from the Local Authority Building Control Department and the person undertaking the work would have had to demonstrate to Building Control that the method of supporting the retained chimney breast in the roof space was structurally adequate. This would usually involve a design from a structural engineer to demonstrate that the method of restraint had been properly calculated.

Additionally, because this is a party structure, the work will likely have required agreement under the Party Wall Act and there should be record of such agreements available for inspection. Without such an agreement in place, the building owner may be liable for repairs to the neighbouring property in association with any structural defects in relation to the removal of the chimney breast.

In such situations, liability is not always clear and the fees of solicitor’s and construction professionals can lead to spiralling costs. These matters can be all dealt with prior to exchange of contracts through a legal advisor.

Were this item not identified prior to the sale of the property, our client could have taken on an expensive liability.

If you’re in need of a Building Survey or Homebuyers Report please contact us on 01635 579208 or use the form below.

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Discovering Dry Rot

Dry RotWhilst undertaking a refurbishment of some flats in Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire, RMA Surveyors Ltd noted in the ground floor shop, beneath the flat, a large yellow fruiting body.

On closer inspection and pulling back the floor covering, we discovered an extensive and well established infestation of dry rot (Serpula lacrymans).

Although not part of our original instruction, we were able to inform our client of the presence of rot, and were duly instructed to oversee strip-out treatment and reinstatement of the shop.

The rot was associated with a long term damp problem. The affected floor was a timber parquet floor, we provided advice to the client as to how the damp was ingressing into the property and delivered a solution to deal with the damp.

Although there was additional cost in dealing with the rot and damp, we managed to save our client a considerable amount of future repair. If a dry rot infestation is left unnoticed, it can spread to other parts of the building, potentially creating a far greater remediation bill.

If you have a problem with rot or damp please contact us for the appropriate advice. Call us on 01635 579208 or complete the form below.

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Project Manager for Fire Reinstatement

Melted LightbulbRMA Surveyors Ltd have recently been instructed to act as project managers for the restoration of a fire damaged flat in West Ilsley, Berkshire.

The property has been significantly damaged by fire within a couple of rooms, while the rest of the property has been heavily damaged by residual smoke and water, where the fire was extinguished.

Our instruction required us to:

  • appoint and oversee the initial clean up and restoration – cleaning smoke residue, removing items such as white goods and furniture, cleaning surfaces and removing floor coverings and soft furnishings;
  • advise the client to have the electrical services isolated, as they had been badly damaged by the fire;
  • and draw up a specification and schedule of works to issue to tendering contractors.

Once a contractor has been selected, we will be responsible for overseeing the works through to completion. This will include regular site visits, liaison with the building contractor and the client, valuing and certifying works at key stages, liaising and reporting back to the loss adjustor and dealing with any ad hoc queries as required.

When works are completed we will certify and sign off the work. Works will be tendered and executed under the JCT Minor Works Contract. The fees for our appointment as project managers are covered by the insurance policy.

Appointing a project manager can help to reduce the stress that such potentially distressing situations can cause. As Chartered Surveyors, acting as project managers, we are able to use our professional knowledge and expertise in order to facilitate a swift and effective remediation process.

RMA Surveyors Ltd are highly experienced in insurance reinstatement work and as such we provide a service that is cost effective in regards to managing spend for the insurance claim and one that gives the client peace of mind that the project is being overseen and undertaken by professionals.

If you have been affected by fire, flood or other insured risk, please contact us on 01635 579208 or by completing the form below.

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5 Steps to Flood Reinstatement

RICS Guide to floodingThe Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors has issued helpful advice in the wake of the recent flooding throughout the UK. A copy of which can be downloaded here.

Unfortunately, for many, the flood waters have far from receded. Reports of more rain this week, and the potential for rivers to rise further, is unwelcome news. Once flood waters do eventually dissipate the process of reinstatement can be a long one.

Many people have been affected and are asking themselves, “How do we get back to normal?”

These five steps chart the process back to normality.

STEP 1 – THE LOSS ADJUSTER

If your building is insured against flood damage and you have been seriously affected, you will usually have a loss adjuster appointed who will deal with your claim on behalf of your insurance company. They are the main point of contact in regards to the claim, and will make the decisions as to what can and can’t be allowed under the policy. A loss adjuster should undertake an initial visit between three and five days from receiving notification of a claim. This may be longer in peak levels, such as now.

STEP 2 – THE PROJECT MANAGER/SURVEYOR

In claims where the cost of reinstatement to your property is likely to be expensive, a project manager with specialist building knowledge is often appointed. The project manager is usually a surveyor, and both terms are used interchangeably. It is their role to specify the extent of the necessary remedial works, send the specification to different contractors to get the best price (often referred to as a competitive tender), appoint the contractor and oversee works through to completion. They will liaise with both you and the loss adjuster at all critical stages of the building reinstatement process.

IT’S YOUR PROPERTY – IT’S YOUR CHOICE

Some loss adjuster companies often seek to appoint their own in-house surveyors to project manage. The loss adjuster’s fee is usually set very low; profits are therefore generated through their in-house surveyor’s fees. Their in-house surveyors will only ask ‘approved’ building contractors to quote for the work. The building contractors sometimes pay these large loss adjusting companies a percentage fee for each project they successfully procure, in order to remain on the ‘approved’ list.

Because of this, we have found some loss adjusters from some large loss adjusting firms can be obstinate in approving the appointment of anyone other than their in-house surveyors. When an independent surveyor becomes involved, the loss adjuster’s company does not generate any additional fees. It is very important to know that you are free to appoint your own independent Chartered Building Surveyor to act on your behalf. You are in no way obliged to use a surveyor appointed to you by your loss adjuster. It is your property and you decide who works on your behalf.

Some in-house surveyors working for some large loss adjusting firms are overworked, juggling over forty projects at any one time, and over seventy projects in peak crisis periods; whilst covering a wide geographical area. These in-house teams are often not regulated by a professional body such as the RICS.
Flood waters in residential Berkshire

STEP 3 – ASSESSING THE DAMAGE & INITIAL RESTORATION

Flood waters can contain sewage, waste and the accompanying bacteria and disease. At the same time as appointing a surveyor your loss adjuster should appoint a restoration company to assist in the initial clean up. They will remove all soft furnishings and flood damaged contents and take an inventory of flood damaged items. These items will be covered under your contents insurance and will be treated as a separate claim from your buildings insurance. The restoration company should also install fans, dehumidifiers and heaters to assist the drying of your property.

As well as the obvious water damage to the visible elements of a property, unseen damage may also have occurred. For example, all service installations should be thoroughly checked and any voids, such as those in timber stud partitions should be exposed, to allow these areas to thoroughly dry out. Damage can also occur to other elements of the property while the property is drying out, due to the high humidity levels and differential rates of drying to timber elements, caused by dehumidifiers. Plaster often needs to be removed from walls, where it has been contaminated with bacteria, soluble minerals and salts in the ground water. A building contractor is also frequently appointed at this early stage, to strip out such items as plasterboard, kitchen units and other elements to assist the drying of the structure.

This stage can take anything between two weeks to over two months, depending on the extent of damage and the approach to drying adopted. The restoration contractor will return frequently to monitor drying and empty dehumidifiers. They will provide regular updates to your surveyor and loss adjuster.

STEP 4 – SPECIFICATION & TENDER PERIOD

While the property dries out, the surveyor will provide a schedule of works detailing the extent of the reinstatement required. They will provide a cost estimate of works to the loss adjuster. This can take a week to ten days. The schedule of works will then be issued to a few different building contractors. A two to four week period is usually required for the contractors to return a price (or tender) for works.

Once tender returns are received the surveyor will report back to the loss adjuster, making a recommendation as to which building contractor should be appointed. When the loss adjuster has agreed the costs the project manager will then appoint the building contractor on your behalf.

STEP 5 – THE CONTRACT PERIOD

You may already be in temporary alternative accommodation or need to move out of your property whilst repairs are in progress, which will be a matter of negotiation with the loss adjuster.

There is usually a mobilisation period of around four weeks from appointing the building contractor, allowing the contractor to plan resources and labour. Reinstatement works can then begin. This can take anywhere between six to eight weeks on a typical domestic claim.

The whole process can take much longer where the building is larger or more complex. For example if a building is listed, approvals will be required from the local authority, which can take eight weeks from the date the application is processed.

THE SURVEYOR’S ROLE

The surveyor will oversee the contract. Providing valuations, issuing instructions, certifying works as they proceed and agreeing works are completed satisfactorily. The surveyor will report back to the loss adjuster at key stages agreeing interim payments be made to the contractor.

The work should be undertaken under the framework of a formal building contract, such as the JCT minor works form of contract. A contract defines the duties of you (the client), the contractor and the surveyor.

The reinstatement process can be long and involved. Many factors can come into play that delay or frustrate the process, particularly where there are so many claims being processed concurrently. In our experience it is better to have an experienced Chartered Building Surveyor appointed to steer you through this lengthy and sometimes frustrating process. If you need the assistance of a qualified and experienced Chartered Building Surveyor please call on 01635 579 208 or contact us via our contact page.

RICS Publish Housing Market Forecast for 2013

Front doors, residential property

The RICS have issued their forecast for the UK housing market for 2013. According to the RICS prices are set to rise in the UK by an increase of 2%. The cost of renting is also expected to rise by up to 4%.

The RICS recognise the UK is not out of the economic doldrums quite yet but predict some “slight improvements” which will be reflected in the housing market.

They predict a rise in the number of transactions by just over 3% to 960,000; against a total of 930,000 in 2012. The RICS report this is still a significant decrease on 2006; their 2013 forecast representing just under 58% of the 2006 transaction figures.

London’s prime central market is predicted to remain stable, whereas the rest of the capital is expected to continue with above average increases. The South East and North West are predicted to see modest rises. The remainder of the UK is expected to dip slightly or remain stagnant, indicating that the London bubble is expected to drive market growth.

Gloomier news is that due to the negative equity generated by large loan to value ratios in the peak of the boom, repossessions are predicted to continue, with only a modest drop in repossession figures to below 35,000.

See the full RICS report here. RICS Housing Update December 2012

Six Steps to a Party Wall Award

Party wallRecently we have had a number of requests for information regarding party wall procedure. With the aim of providing guidance the following is an overview of the basic procedure of serving Party Wall notices:

1. Firstly, do you need to issue a party wall notice? For the sake of argument let’s say you do. Do you know what type of notice needs to be served? A line of junction notice? A party structure notice? Or a notice of adjacent excavation? In some cases it may be just one in some cases it may be all three. This can easily be determined by any good Party Wall Surveyor who knows the Party Wall Act.

2. Secondly, on whom are you serving notice? Who is the freeholder? Are there any leaseholders? Does the proposed work affect more than one structure? If so, there are likely to be a number of parties to whom notice must be served.

3. With the aforementioned identified notice can be served. RMA Surveyors Ltd are often asked to become involved in Party Wall matters after notice has been served. Clients sometimes see an early saving being made by not appointing a Party Wall Surveyor, as the process seems simple at the outset. However, as the process develops it can become more complex and Building Owners seek to appoint Party Wall Surveyors to untangle the knots. We would say two things at this juncture. Firstly, fees for initial notice are usually minimal. Secondly, issue of the correct, properly drafted notices at the outset will save time. If a notice is not correct, it is invalid and another valid notice must be served. It can take two months before works can start from date of issue of a valid notice.

4. Valid notice is served to the Adjoining Owner. They now have fourteen days to respond. The adjoining owner can assent or dissent to the proposed works. If the adjoining owner does not respond in this period, works are deemed to be in dispute. If the Adjoining Owner agrees to works, the Building Owner may, by written agreement, proceed with works. We strongly recommend a condition survey of the Adjoining Owner’s property be undertaken prior to works commencing, to provide a benchmark and avoid later dispute.

5. If no response is received or the Adjoining Owner dissents to works the building owner will need to write to the adjoining owner to request they appoint a Party Wall Surveyor. The Adjoining Owner may opt to use the Surveyor appointed by the Building Owner. They may prefer to appoint their own Surveyor. In most cases the fee for the Adjoining Owner’s Surveyor will be borne by the Building Owner.

6. Once appointed the Agreed Surveyor or Surveyors should then work to draw up a Party Wall Award. A Party Wall Award is the framework whereby works affecting the party structure are to be executed. A condition survey of the Adjoining Owner’s property will be undertaken. Once the Party Wall Award is agreed and published works can commence from the date stated within the Award.

Please also see our Party Wall Pitfalls blog with more useful guidance about the Party Wall process.