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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Flood Insurance Reinstatement

Flood waters in residential BerkshireWe are currently overseeing an insurance reinstatement of a flood damaged property in Kingsclere, Berkshire.

We first became involved when our client was having difficulty in getting the loss adjustor from their insurance company to assess the property. We were asked to supply a defect diagnosis report to assess the cause of the water damage to their building.

We undertook the survey and produced the report which we supplied to the loss adjustor, who had not understood the gravity of the technical failure. As a result, we were able to explain that the insurance claim was likely to be larger than the loss adjustor had orginally anticipated and that a larger scale reinstatement would be necessary.

We were duely appointed by our clients to undertake and oversee the project management of the reinstatement, which is currently on site.

If you have damage to your property due to flood, fire or other insurance related loss, please contact us as we may be able to provide our professional assistance.

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Buy-to-Let Boom

Brook House, Northbrook StreetThe move is over the dust is settled and I have found some time to write a long overdue web update. So, what’s new?

The fanfares are out. RMA Surveyors Ltd have moved into Brook House in Northbrook Street. We now lease offices with Young Associates, an independent, specialist property management and consultancy firm. The move is a positive step for us, and we are sure it will be of benefit to both ourselves and other businesses in Newbury, now we have a presence in the heart of the town centre.

The RICS released an article this week formally recognising we are in a but-to-let boom. “Boom” is not a word we have heard in recent years and the activity in this sector is a clear indication that property is still a good investment. For those landlord’s or speculators who are making such investments I would add a cautionary note to invest in a detailed Building Survey or Home Buyers Report to prevent your investment becoming a liability. This service is an asset not a burden.

Older properties can require far more than a fresh coat of paint or a new kitchen or bathroom. Without the surety of a qualified surveyor’s opinion, investors could find themselves subject to all sorts of defects brought about by inherent poor design and previous lack of maintenance. I find the surveys I produce for my clients are a fantastic tool for negotiation. As such the survey pays for itself, and if it doesn’t bring the price down it should provide peace of mind that a property professional has cast their expert eye over it.

In the same vein, I have had plenty of experience of producing life cycle cost assessments to help commercial property building managers and businesses plan their budgets and maintenance cycles. In the residential market this approach is rarely taken. However, as landlord’s investments grow, commissioning of a stock condition survey of the entire portfolio is an invaluable tool. Allowing assessment of the current and future maintenance liability.

Good news for potential sellers. We now offer a presale survey, aimed at potential property sellers designed to make them aware of any defects their buildings may have prior to sale. This benefits a seller by identifying items requiring repair and defects likely to affect the sale or purchase price prior to marketing the property.

If you have any questions or need some professional property advice please contact us. An initial consultation is free and you will benefit from our advice.

Insurance Reinstatement Experts

Impact damge to house We keep hearing from clients that they never knew they could use an independent building surveyor to oversee the insurance reinstatement of their property. Here are a few reasons why it is better to use RMA Surveyors Ltd, an independent chartered building surveyor, to oversee the reinstatement of your property.

Larger insurance brokers offer their own in-house surveyors to oversee fire, flood, water and impact damage claims to property. These companies will appoint the services of their surveyors, to act on your behalf, after they have undertaken their initial assessment of the damage to your property. Often these brokers do not fully explain that you are not obliged to use their in-house surveyor’s services. You are free to appoint your own independent surveyor to specify, tender and oversee works on your behalf under your policy cover. Because your insurance policy covers the fees of an independent surveyor, like RMA Surveyors Ltd , it will not cost you a penny to get impartial, qualified and quality advice and management for the duration of the insurance reinstatement works.

Using an independent chartered building surveyor like RMA Surveyors Ltd is a better option for many reasons. Firstly, using RMA Surveyors Ltd guarantees you are using a qualified professional who is regulated by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). As RICS surveyors we are governed by a code of conduct and must act reasonably and impartially at all times.

Secondly, as chartered building surveyors we are professionally obliged to undertake projects diligently and must have the resources and capacity to fulfil a project. Large insurance broker surveyors often have many projects on the go at any one time over a large geographical area. They do not have the time to provide a tailored, bespoke service to each project. Consequently they cannot provide the same attention to detail, often missing important elements critical to the smooth completion of the project. A high turnover of staff and reallocation of resources in these companies can mean you deal with a number of different surveyors. Often works can be specified by the broker’s in-house surveyors by using template documents that do not fit the criteria of an individual project. RMA Surveyors Ltd provide a personal service with a meticulous approach, tailored to each individual property.

Thirdly, RMA Surveyors Ltd provide a fully accountable service which is efficient, detailed and comprehensive at all stages of the project. We also understand the stress and upheaval caused by such events as flood, fire, impact and water damage and endeavour to provide swift reinstatement of your property. As a result of their limited resources, broker’s in-house surveyors are often difficult to contact, do not properly oversee the quality of materials and workmanship on site, are slow to react to problems that arise and provide incomplete documentation.

Lastly, RMA Surveyors Ltd ensure that all works are undertaken by quality independent building contractors, using industry standard building contracts which protect you and clearly define your rights. Therefore, in the unlikely event that something does go wrong you are protected. Often broker’s in-house surveying departments use contracts that heavily favour themselves and their own approved contractors; effectively absolving them of responsibility should a problem arise.

If you have an insurance claim that is causing undue stress or you need some free advice please contact us. We would welcome the opportunity to help you.

Why pay for a construction professional?

Judges gavel and the scales of justiceWe have picked up several projects in the last 6 months where the clients have had builders start or about to begin works with no formal contract, specification, scope of works or even a sketch on the back of a beer mat. As building professionals we see these as shocking omissions. We implore anyone thinking of embarking upon a building project, whether it is a refurbishment, extension, alteration, repair or cyclical maintenance, to only do so if they have taken appropriate professional advice.

Invariably construction is expensive. People want to limit costs as much as possible. Often the services of construction professionals are first to be omitted, in a bid to shave some of this cost. True, in the first instance money has been saved. The fees of surveyors, architects and structural engineers have been avoided. But the saving often doesn’t remain as the project spirals out of control without formal professional management. Worst case scenario the building owner ends up paying for professional fees to put it right or act as an expert witness in court.

Often a good contract administrator or project manager’s value cannot be immediately seen. But a project that has benefitted from the process of feasibility, design, specification, tendering, contractor appointment, management and communication by a qualified professional adds value to a project. Using a professional to steer you through the process will save you money.

A good proportion of RMA Surveyors Ltd instructions are generated by clients who wished they had sought professional advice in the first instance. We have seen sewer pipes terminate below ground floors, all manner of poor masonry detailing and poor mortar specifications, non-compliant roof conversions, unsupported chimney breasts, undersized lintels, dangerous electrics and all manner of other defects. Often work has not been passed by building control and there is no formal contract in place to protect the client.

Many problems encountered are not even considered at the time of installation, but would have been picked up by an experienced professional. Even if a problem is not noted during or immediately after construction the chances are the problem will manifest itself in years to come. Most likely when the property is sold and a purchaser’s surveyor highlights defects or shortcomings. Inevitably the value of the property is reduced at the point of sale.

Coupled with the above, a project that has not been properly specified will undoubtedly result in spiralling costs during construction. We often hear of clients whose builder invoices an inflated final account where no agreement has been made for the extra costs. But with no formal contract or defined contract sum the client is often bamboozled by the contractors’ technical explanations when trying to negotiate. The result is that both parties become entrenched.

A construction professional may not always seem appropriate and can be a cost to be avoided. But RMA Surveyors Ltd experience is although the value we bring cannot always be calculated; the cost of putting it right when it goes wrong cannot either.

If you have a project you would like to talk about please contact us.

New JCT Contracts now available

JCT Minor works building contract front pageThe Joint Contracts Tribunal published a new 2011 suite of contracts and sub-contracts which are designed to comply with the provisions of Part 8 of the new Construction Act which came into force as of 1st October 2011.

The JCT Contracts 2011 edition reflects new legislation in regard to payment and makes other changes which include:
•    A revised definition of insolvency
•    Integration of the revisions appended to the 2005 form of contract
•    The provision for appointment of the principal contractor under CDM Regulations is extended to cover that function under the Site Waste Management Plans Regulations 2008
•    Reference to the Bribery Act 2010
•    Entries in relation to PI insurance and asbestos and fungal mould are omitted
•    Revised retention provisions in the sub-contracts

RMA Surveyors Ltd will be using the new form of JCT contracts where appropriate.

Independent Advice for Building Insurance Claims

Cracked wall caused by impact damageIf you have suffered an insurable loss to your building, did you know you are entilitled to appoint your own independent building surveyor?

RMA Surveyors Ltd are experienced experts who understand how the insurance reinstatement process works at all levels. Richard Mountain MRICS gives an insiders view to the corporate loss adjusters reinstatement operates.

Previously I worked for a major UK insurance loss adjuster, within their building surveying and project management department. I oversaw reinstatement of flood damage, fire damage, impact damage and malicious damage to residential property and commercial property insurance claims.

I project managed in excess of 25 insurance reinstatement projects at any one time (many project managers had as many as 50 ‘live’ projects), all at various stages of the reinstatement process. I covered a 2,500 mile2 geographical area. The volume of work was phenomenal. The role required assessment and reporting of the initial damage compilation of specifications and tender documentation, tender issuing and tender analysis and monitoring the execution of the building contract to completion. Inevitably, delivering the volume of projects in the required time meant that the role was highly pressurised and very time consuming.

I learnt a great deal in my time dealing strictly with insurance reinstatements. Principally, like any business, the primary goal is to generate profit. Secondly, large loss adjusting companies are set up to generate as much profit from insurance claims as possible. They do so through structuring a claims process in such a way that policy holders are steered in a direction towards services or subsidiaries of that company.

Typically a loss adjuster visits a claim. He makes an assessment of the claim and whether or not it is straightforward (e.g. a collapsed ceiling) or more complicated (e.g. a flood damaged block of flats). In the latter case he will refer the work to an in-house surveying department. A surveyor will be appointed to act on behalf of a policy holder. S/he will assess, specify and tender works to a list of ‘approved’ contractors. The succesful ‘approved contractor’ will then complete the works.

In such cases a loss adjuster’s fees are typically capped at a low figure, and treated as ‘loss leaders’. This is done in the same way supermarkets expect to lose money on basics such as bread and milk, in the hope that you will be tempted by other goodies on the way round the store. Larger fees are accrued when the surveyor gets involved.

As with any surveyor dealing with this type of work, in-house firms of surveyors and project managers will receive fees typically in the region of 10% of the net contract sum. Coupled with this ‘approved contractors’ pay a percentage back to a central contractor administration unit (also owned by the loss adjusting company) for each project they successfully tender. Ultimately the loss adjusting company can generate in the region of 18% of a net contract sum from each project, making the ‘loss leader’ adjuster’s fee a worthwhile endeavour.

What does this mean to a policy holder? Well, on the face of it not a great deal. The structure behind the system is rarely explained in any great detail to the policy holder and rarely do they want, or need to know. Only when the level of service begins to be affected does it become a problem. My experience is when problems occur it is usually the policy holder who loses out.

By way of example, a recent claim I took over as an independent surveyor had a contractor making many unfair and unsatisfactory expectations of my client, the policy holder. I was provided with a two page specification, compiled by the contractor, and a four page letter of caveats and impositions expected of the policy holder by the contractor that formed the basis of the building contract. The whole project was strongly weighted in favour of the contractor. I had no choice but to compile a proper specification and tender the project to competent contractors, effectively taking the policy holder back to square one. It had taken him six months to get as far as he had. The process took a further four months for me to complete. But we managed to do so using a good contractor, under an industry recognised form of building contract for a competitive and realistic contract sum.

For contractors to become ‘approved’ by the loss adjuster’s central administration body they need to meet a lot of separate criteria. They need to have a workforce, who are adaptable and can react quickly. They need to be geared up to visit a property with a leaking pipe within an hour of a phone call. Coupled with this, most of the insurance claims work they deal with is typically low-value, small-scale and does not require a project manager or building contract in place.

Good building contractors are rarely suited to this type of business model tending to deal predominantly with larger contracts. Therefore, it is very difficult to secure ‘approved contractors’ who can meet the needs of a larger building contract. I once went to five of my project sites in a single day and not one of them had any personnel on site. This was in spite of the fact that I had specifically cited this as a clause in the specification. I found that contracts were poorly managed on site and beset with problems in terms of quality and understanding of material performance. When employed by the loss adjusters I was not allowed to use any other than the list of ‘approved contractors’. This was a major frustration for me.

At the outset, it is down to loss adjusters to explain that policy holders are able to use their own independent surveyors. I often found that policy holders did not understand, as it was not explained, the difference between the surveyor and the loss adjuster. Policy holders often seemed compelled to remain with whoever was assigned to deal with their case.
The insurance reinstatement claims I have dealt with as an independent surveyor are wholly different. All of them have been far easier to execute without the constraints of a corporate enterprise behind me. I am not overworked and would not take on a project unless I knew I had the resources to deal with it.  In every project I have had the fortune to appoint good local independent building contractors, who have performed admirably to ultimately benefit the client.

I would recommend to anyone who has the misfortune to suffer an insurance claim that they appoint an independent chartered building surveyor to oversee the reinstatement works. The cost will be covered by your insurance policy. We will bring peace of mind, as you can be sure that you are using a qualified construction professional, who understands the construction industry and has you and your building’s best interests as their primary concern.

If you have problems with getting your property adequately reinstated please contact us RMA Surveyors Ltd will be pleased to look at your case and provide initial free consultation.

Richard Mountain MRICS