Subsidence and Heave
I know about fire and flood but what is Subsidence and Heave, and are they covered by my insurance policy? Subsidence is downward ground movement and the corresponding movement of affected foundations. Heave is upward ground movement and the corresponding movement of affected foundations. Both subsidence and heave are covered by most standard buildings insurance policies.
How is my Insurance Claim Progressed? We endeavour to progress the work as speedily as is reasonably possible. However, building damage claims, and subsidence claims in particular, may take many months to be completed, the average period being 18 months to 2 years. This is particularly the case when it is necessary to monitor the damage over a period of time, which will usually exceed six months.
What is the procedure for dealing with a subsidence Claim?
A typical procedure for the technical management would be:
INITIAL INSPECTION AND APPRAISAL
(a) Is the damage subsidence related? (b) Is it historic or recent? (c) What is the likely cause?
(d) What further Investigations are appropriate? (e) Should precise crack monitoring stations be set up.
Arrange site works. Carry out soil and other testing as necessary. Arrange CCTV/hydraulic testing of drains,
if required. Prepare/plot data. Recommend alternative courses of remedial action as appropriate, with budget costs.
Take readings at 4 to 8 week intervals, as considered appropriate. Plot and report at regular intervals
REPAIRS AND REINSTATEMENTS
Prepare remedial works scheme details and contract documents. Obtain competitive tenders. Project Manage the contract works.
What is underpinning, and will it be necessary to underpin my house? Underpinning is a method of foundation strengthening, which transfers the building loads to a deeper subsoil level. The usual approach to subsidence is to identify and remove the cause of the problem so that the building becomes stable, once again, without foundation strengthening works. If, however, it is not possible to stabilise the foundations in this way then it may be necessary to underpin. We will in most cases undertake the scheme design and prepare detailed documents for submission to Specialist Contractors for competitive tendering. We will manage the works, monitor progress and inspect where possible at specific stages as defined in the tender document. It is not practical or economic for us to supervise the whole of the works, but by regular visits we endeavour to ensure as far as is reasonably possible that they are completed satisfactorily and to the highest standard. It must be understood that partial underpinning is not a guarantee against further movements and, in a very small proportion of cases, it has been found necessary to carry out further work
What about the damage to the superstructure - crack repairs and decorative works? As soon as it has been established that the cause of the damage has been removed or remedied then superstructure reinstatement works, crack repairs, stitching of brickwork, making good of plaster etc, and redecoration, may be carried out. Our schedule of reinstatement works will incorporate all aspects of the work necessary to make good the damage. Again, we manage the works, monitor progress by regular visits and carry out inspections at specific stages.
Must I continue to occupy the property during the building works? In some cases it is necessary for the occupier to move into temporary accommodation during the course of the remedial works. This is often the case if internal underpinning is required. Crack repair and redecorative works can usually be carried out while the building remains occupied. Most Building Insurance Policies provide for alternative accommodation, where it is necessary.
Structural Engineer s Reports
What is a Structural Engineer s Report? A Structural Engineer s Report should not be confused with a building survey report prepared by a Chartered Building Surveyor because it deals specifically with the problem or problems that a Surveyor or the Client has highlighted, whereas the Building Surveyor s report will advise on the general condition of the whole property. How long does it take to issue the Report? Assuming that access to the property is freely available during normal working hours, the Report should take no longer than five working days from receipt of instructions to electronic issue by email and by first class post, if required. We will collect keys from an estate agent at no additional cost, provided that the key-holding office is within two miles of the property.
We will quote a competitive fixed fee for the Report, which will depend upon the number of issues to be addressed and the location of the property. In accordance with industry practice, we require payment before issue of the Report. How much does it cost?
Party Wall etc Act 1996
What is the purpose of the Act?
The purpose of the Act is, on the one hand, to protect the rights of a building owner to repair and maintain a building or to carry out excavation works adjacent to a neighbouring property whilst, on the other hand, to protect the adjoining owner from any adverse consequences of such works. For the purpose of the Act, whilst both parties may be building owners, the term "Building Owner" refers specifically to the owner of the property in which the building work is to be carried out. The owners of adjoining properties affected by the proposed works are defined as "Adjoining Owners".
How is the Act brought into force?
The Act requires formal Notice to be served upon an Adjoining Owner or Owners, as defined in the Act, by the Building Owner who proposes to undertake specific works. This may be a PARTY STRUCTURE NOTICE, for work intended to be carried out to a shared structure; or a THREE METRE NOTICE or SIX METRE NOTICE for excavation work intended to be carried out within defined depths and distances from a structure of an adjoining owner. If the Adjoining Owner formally indicates his or her consent to the works within the specified time, then the works may proceed as set out.
What is a Surveyor , as defined by the Act?
If an Adjoining Owner does not consent to the works within fourteen days there is deemed to be a Dispute and the Act provides for the appointment of Surveyors by the Adjoining Owner and by the Building Owner. Alternatively, an Agreed Surveyor may be appointed by mutual consent. If an Adjoining Owner does not respond at all to a Notice, there is a procedure for appointing a Surveyor on his or her behalf but, although the appointed Surveyor must act in his or her best interests, it is much better for the Adjoining Owner to co-operate from the beginning.
What is an Award ?
The Surveyor or Surveyors agree a course of action, called an Award, setting out the rights of the Owners, the extent and method of construction of the building works, and any restrictions regarding noisy works. The condition of the Adjoining Owners property is also agreed so that any consequential damage can be easily identified. If two appointed Surveyors, acting together, cannot agree the Award then a Third Surveyor is appointed who will act as arbitrator and prepare the Award. The reasonable fees and costs of the Surveyor or Surveyors, together with the cost of carrying out the agreed works set out in the Award and any reinstatement of damages, falls to the Building Owner unless agreed otherwise in the Award and no costs should fall to the Adjoining Owner if he or she has acted reasonably. If a Surveyor charges fees or incurs costs which are not deemed reasonable, then an element of costs may not be paid by the Building Owner and may fall to the Adjoining Owner.
Can a Surveyor be dismissed?
Once a Surveyor has been appointed under the Act by either or both parties, he or she cannot be dismissed other than by a Court and the appointment must continue until completion of the works as set out in the Award other than extreme circumstances such as death or incapability to act. This is to prevent an Owner who does not agree to the terms of an Award from dismissing his or her Surveyor. The Award, once signed by the Surveyor or Surveyors, is a legal document and the Building Owner and Adjoining Owner are bound by its terms. It is therefore very important that the right individual is appointed in the first instance.
Can a Surveyor act for both parties?
A Surveyor jointly appointed under the Party Wall Etc Act 1996, that is an Agreed Surveyor, should be independent and play no part in the design or construction of the works. An Agreed Surveyor must act completely impartially and serve the best interests of both parties or reach a compromise that is fair to both sides.
Expert Witness Services
What is an expert witness?
An expert witness is a person with detailed knowledge of a technical subject that qualifies them to testify in a Court of Law, Tribunal or other less formal proceeding. The expert witness may state his or her opinion on the meaning of facts, even though he or she may not have observed the actual events. A non-expert witness is confined to testifying about facts they observed and not their opinions on the meaning of those events.