Need a Party Wall Award?

party wallHaving recently undertaken Party Wall Award Notices in Windsor, Newbury and Leckhampstead. RMA Surveyors Ltd are experienced in providing advice in compliance with The Party Wall Act 1996, throughout Berkshire and the South-East.

The Party Wall etc Act 1996 provides a framework for preventing and resolving disputes in relation to party walls, boundary walls and excavations near neighbouring buildings.

The Act is separate from obtaining planning permission or building regulations approval. It provides a mechanism for preventing and resolving disputes relating to building work near or on a shared property boundary, or ‘party wall’.

If you require advice on a Party Wall, contact us on 01635 579 208.

For further reading on Party Walls visit the RICS information page.

Building Survey vs Homebuyer Report

House SearchBased in Berkshire, RMA Surveyors Ltd have recently surveyed properties in Newbury, Reading, Wokingham and Windsor.

When making an initial enquiry for a survey on a property, we are often asked what the difference is between a Homebuyer Report and a Building Survey. Our simple response is that while both involve a survey of the property, a Homebuyer Report details all the essential elements of a building but goes into less detail than a Building Survey.

If you would like to read more about the details of each report, take a look at our Property Surveys page.

As chartered surveyors, RMA Surveyors Ltd always provides professional advice and will recommend which type of survey best suits the proposed property. By analysing the age, type (e.g. semi-detached or bungalow) and whether there are any extensions to the property, we can determine which survey would best outline the condition of the building.

If you are unsure which type of survey would be most suitable for the type of property that you are intending to purchase, please contact us and we shall be happy to discuss this with you.

For a Homebuyer Report or Building Survey quote, please call RMA Surveyors Ltd on 01635 579208 or complete the enquiry form.

Property Checklist for Winter

ricsRMA Surveyors Ltd, Newbury have been reading an article from RICS (the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors) which offers a checklist to homeowners on how to look after their properties during the winter months. With another cold snap predicted in the forthcoming weeks, it’s worth a read.

Below is a snapshot of the RICS winter property checklist; for the full article, click here.

  • Roof: Inspect the roof and replace any cracked tiles.
  • Loft: Check the insulation is in good condition (up to current standard). Avoid over insulating. It is important that the tanks and pipes in the loft do not freeze, so do not insulate below the tank. Make sure the lid is on the cold-water tank.
  • Gutters and drains: Clear them of leaves and debris. Take particular care that the gulley’s are clear. Overflowing gutters can drench walls and cause damage.
  • Walls: 33% of heat lost in the home is through the walls. Cavity wall insulation is a good option and can boost its value and saleability while reducing your energy bills. Check the pointing – frost can play havoc with poorly maintained walls.
  • Windows: It is important to minimize draughts. If double-glazing is not in place (it cuts heat loss through windows by 50%), consider fitting cheaper options such as secondary glazing or put polythene across the window frames.
  • Boilers: Have your boiler serviced.
  • Heating: Check your heating system is in order; insulate hot water tanks, and bleed radiators.

While many of these simple tasks can be undertaken safely in the home it is important that people seek the advice of reputable professionals when looking to complete larger jobs. RICS advise people to avoid using builders and tradespeople who cold call. To find a local, trusted chartered surveyor in your area go to www.ricsfirms.com.

If you require advice from a Chartered Building Surveyor in Berkshire, contact RMA Surveyors Ltd on 01635 579208.

A Party Wall Matter

Party Wall workWe recently acted as a Party Wall Surveyor for an adjoining owner, in Newbury, Berkshire.

The works being undertaken by the next door neighbour included an extension to the rear of the building and some cutting in and weathering of the Party Wall.

The owner that we acted for was concerned that their second floor flat may be affected by the works. We checked that the Party Wall notice that had been issued was valid, contacted the building owners surveyor and liaised with them to confirm the method and approach to which works affecting the Party Wall should be undertaken. In addition we took a schedule of condition of the property prior to the works commencing.

We have now issued an Award and works are underway.  Our final piece of involvement should be to attend site once works have been completed to ensure they have been undertaken satisfactorily and have not affected our appointing owner’s property.

If you have a Party Wall enquiry or have been served with Notice under the Party Wall Act, please contact us on 01635 579208 or by using the contact form. We will be happy to act on your behalf.

Issuing Party Wall Notification

Terraced housingWe were recently instructed to act as Party Wall Surveyors in Pangbourne. We were acting on behalf of the building owner to issue party wall notices to two adjoining owners on a Victorian Terrace.

Our client had already approached their neighbours and explained to them the works to be undertaken, then requested we issue formal notification of works to them.

Sometimes, as in this case where there is more than one adjoining owner, party wall notification can be more complicated. It is our role to determine who has an interest in the adjoining properties and which are the correct notices to serve under the Party Wall Etc Act 1996.

Our client had quite a tight deadline in which they wanted the Party Wall Agreements to be in place, as their appointed building contractor had an extremely busy schedule. So we acted efficiently and effectively to ensure everything was in place.

If you would like any advice regarding the Party Wall Etc Act 1996, please contact us on 01635 579 208, or complete the form below with your enquiry.

For further reading on Party Walls read our Understanding a Party Wall page.

Contact Us

Fill in the below form to contact us today.
  • If you are requesting a survey quotation please provide the address and postcode of the property.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

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.

Contact Us

Fill in the below form to contact us today.
  • If you are requesting a survey quotation please provide the address and postcode of the property.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Leaning Tower of South Korea

Leaning Tower in KoreaTake a look at this seven-storey building – still under construction in South Korea – leaning 20 degrees.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2014/may/13/south-korea-building-leans-video

Hopefully your building doesn’t have concerns of this magntitude. But if you are concerned about a defect, take a look at our Defects page to see how a Chartered Building Surveyor could undertake a defect specific survey and report on a property, or contact us to discuss your situation further.

How do you know if the Party Wall Act etc 1996 applies to works?

New structure adjoining older structureIf you are planning on undertaking building works the Party Wall etc Act 1996 may apply. If you do not know of a requirement to serve or respond to notices you are not alone and we can help.

Many people are unaware of their obligations and rights that the Party Wall Act provides. Building works that proceed without complying with the Act can lead to significant difficulties, legal action, and a breakdown in neighbourly relations. Iit is not just building works directly affecting a party wall or boundary wall that may require action under the Act.

A Building Owner may decide to build a permanent structure on his own land within 6 meters of a neighboring party structure, build near or on a boundary or cut into or otherwise alter an existing party wall. In all these cases the Party Wall Act can apply. The Act allows for a Building owner to progress with works whilst protecting the an Adjoining Owners’ interests.

Where an Adjoining owner has concerns regarding a neighbors’ proposals they can appoint an independent party wall surveyor to provide help and explain the implications and procedures of the Act.

The requirements of the act stipulate that where there is a disagreement, a Party wall surveyor can step in to guide the process according to a defined protocol. Anyone can act as a Party Wall Surveyor. However a surveyor should ideally be experienced in construction,  have read, understood and be able to operate within the Act, interpret technical details, drawings and ultimately work diplomatically to provide swift resolution.

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.

Top 5 Building Maintenance Tips

Defects that affect the structure of a building are usually caused by the simplest of issues,  which are easily remedied with a regular cyclical maintenance programme. The age old adage that prevention is better than cure rings true. The following is a list of the RMA Surveyors Ltd top 5 problems regularly encountered that could be easily prevented.

Poorly maintaned guttering1.    Keep rainwater goods regularly cleared and maintained. This is one of the simplest practical steps one can make to maintain any property. Safe access should always be factored in, particularly on larger commercial premises. That said the regular maintenance and clearing of rainwater goods will save hundreds, often thousands of pounds in remedying associated defects. We have discovered a dry rot outbreak covering three floors of a four story commercial premises; damaged masonry and staining; water ingress inside the building saturating the concrete floor screed; rotten external timbers and windows; damaged plaster and decorations internally; rusting of steel framing to a prefabricated system built property. All of these defects could have been easily prevented by maintenance of gutters and downpipes. In some cases poor rainwater management can lead to more serious structural damage caused by subsidence, where soil has been eroded away. For a small annual cost such problems could easily be avoided.

Partially blocked sub floor ventilation grille2.    Ventilation of buildings. This is a broad ranging subject, but in essence all one needs to do is remember a simple rule that buildings and their materials need to be adequately ventilated (or breath). The typical scenario we find is where suspended timber ground floors are not adequately ventilated. The presence of ventilation grilles on external walls indicates that the floor is likely to be timber and the void below needs to be well ventilated to prevent the accumulation of moisture. Typically solid floor extensions are installed and no provision is made to retain ventilation. This can create unventilated pockets where moisture can accumulate allowing the conditions for wood boring insects larvae (commonly called woodworm) and all kinds of rot to establish. Simply ensuring that ventilation grilles are maintained and not covered over could end up saving you thousands.

Loose repointing undertaking using cement rich mortar3.    Masonry repairs are often undertaken without due consideration for what original materials were used. Commonly I find that brickwork gets repointed in a cement mortar that is stronger than the surrounding brickwork. The result of this is that the mortar joints no longer allow water to evaporate and the brickwork begins to retain more water. On solid walled properties this can lead to damp on the internal wall surfaces. It can also mean damage to bricks in cold weather as the surface of the brick can be pushed off by the freeze/thaw cycle. Often repointing work can work itself loose due to expansion and contraction at differing rates with the brickwork and repointing is required far sooner than should be required. Make sure that when you are undertaking external masonry repairs it is done so by a contractor who understands the original construction and the work is correctly specified.

Flashing junction weathered with bitumen tape4.    Critical junctions between building elements such as chimneys and extensions are often poorly weathered with lead flashings in poor condition or missing altogether. The recent spate of metal thefts has compounded to the issue, as people are becoming increasingly reluctant to replace lead. Opting for cheaper bitumen backed aluminium tape is a temporary solution, but should not be relied upon to form a proper long term weatherproof junction. Where lead flashings are installed the standard of workmanship can often well below par. If you are planning to have any lead work undertaken make sure it is done by an experienced installer who understands the material and follows the industry standard guidance available from the Lead Sheet Association.

Jungle outside a back door5.    Finally, external decorations and maintenance of vegetation. Innumerable problems are associated with the simplest of maintenance tasks, namely vegetation management. Ivy climbing up walls may look idyllic but in some cases it can do permanent damage to masonry and cause all manner of associated problems. Careful pruning and maintenance of trees near buildings is also worthwhile especially in drought affected areas as the amount of water taken up by maturing trees can cause subsidence. A simple lick of paint every 5 years to external joinery will prevent costly maintenance of external and internal elements.

The above are simple measures that will save you time, stress and money. If you have a property that requires a detailed cyclical maintenance program, so you can plan and manage your maintenance budgets, or you require more urgent repairs and remediation, then please contact us. Our initial consultations are always free and we would be pleased to provide you with a full quotation based on the level of service you require.

Richard Mountain MRICS