Third (Party Wall) Surveyors – The What. The Why. The Who.

wall3

If you are not in the business of party wall surveying, you could be forgiven for being a little unsure as to what they are put on this earth to do. Firstly, a third surveyor is selected and agreed upon by the surveyors appointed by the parties to a dispute under the Party Wall etc. Act 1996, usually unbeknownst to the third surveyor until something goes wrong.  It’s important to understand what a party wall is; there are 2 conditions that create one, a) Where a wall is standing to some extent on the land of 2 owners, and b) Where 2 buildings are joined.   In a nutshell, a third surveyor comes in to play when two parties (neighbours) are in dispute.   If their own appointed surveyors cannot come to an agreement, then a third surveyor who has been selected will make an award (a written document settling the matters in dispute.).    The parties themselves can call upon a third surveyor to determine a dispute.  However, either side has 14 days to appeal the decision and cases can quite often go to court; the appellant is required to let the third surveyor know it’s been appealed, but is not obliged to let them know the outcome.

Most third surveyors are chartered surveyors, engineers or architects but interestingly, a specific qualification is not necessary – so long as you are competent & fair minded, with a large dose of patience and diplomacy, anyone can potentially become a third surveyor.

If you have any queries regarding a third surveyor our very own David Moon will be able to help you.

 

New Electrical Safety Regulations for Private Landlords

Different modern streamlined mirror copper chandeliers. Bubble metal copper shade pendant.

Subject to approval by the Houses of Parliament – landlords and agents will need to ensure electrical installation inspections and testing are carried out for all new tenancies in England from 1 July 2020 or from 1 April 2021 for existing tenancies.

The Regulations require landlords to ensure that every fixed electrical installation is inspected and tested at least every five years by a qualified person.

  • The landlord is required to obtain an Electrical Safety report and supply a copy to each new tenant prior to occupation or within 28 days. The agent should also retain a copy until the next inspection is due.
  • Upon request, the report must be provided to the local housing authority within 7 days.
  • The regulations allow the local housing authorities to enforce the legislation and have the power to arrange remedial action.
  • Proven breaches of the regulations can result in the local housing authority imposing a financial penalty of up to £30,000.

With the final legislation still to be confirmed, our understanding is that failure to provide tenants with an electrical safety report at the start of their tenancies does not seem to invalidate a Section 21 (Form 6A) notice to terminate the tenancy, unlike evidence of failure to provide tenants with EPCs and gas safety certificates at the start of their tenancies.

The mandatory nature of the new 2020 electrical safety regulations and the high potential penalties for failure to comply may have been regarded as enough incentive for landlords to comply with the regulations. It is also possible that the proposed abolition of section 21 notices explains this omission. Time will surely tell with the impending 1st July 2020 deadline to provide electrical safety reports to new tenants.

Some tenancies are however, excluded from the electrical safety regulations and these are private registered providers of social housing, lodger arrangements, long leases or tenancies which grant a right of occupation for a term of 7 years or more.  Student lettings in halls of residence and tenancies granted to occupiers of hostels, refuges, care homes, hospitals, hospices and other accommodation provided as a result of a duty imposed on an NHS body.

 

 

Ref: ARLA & Blake Morgan

Block Management – Legal Requirements 2020

Converted warehouse apartments in Schiedam – The Netherlands

In light of the recent fine of a London property manager for serious fire safety breaches, our Block Management team have put together an important safety checklist for both residential and commercial properties.  The responsibility of fire safety varies between Leaseholders and Building managers so the lease should always be thoroughly checked, but the below points are a useful rule of thumb.

  • Leaseholders are mainly responsible for their front doors. Ensuring they are FD30 and Fire Safe compliant.  26 Fitzroy Square - External
  • Leaseholders should not have their personal belongings or décor items in the communal areas. No shoes, bikes, plants etc unless authorised by the freeholder. If items are in place they would have to be confirmed as fire safe.
  • Building/block managers are responsible for the maintenance of the fire alarm, emergency lights and Legionella disease. Authorised personnel will need to conduct a report on these issues on a regular basis & must inform us of Fire and Health and Safety risks within the building. This might entail compartmentalisation of cupboards, changing cupboard doors in communal areas (eg: electricity meters & cleaning cupboards), and instructing liable parties to change their main front door etc.  Change of fire alarm from an LD3 to LD2 would also fall under our remit as block managers. The report would also need to include the fire exit plan for the building.  Adeline Place 15-ext-7
  • Once the report is received, it is the building manager’s responsibility to action all the recommendations. This report should be reviewed regularly & failure to do so can lead to a fine or prison sentence if works have not been completed after LFB notices.

 

A Slice of Davis Brown History

basrelief

 

This is a picture of David Isaacs (on the right) who commissioned and presented this bas-relief (created from Portland stone) to the world famous Lord’s Cricket Ground, St John’s Wood, which was unveiled in 1934.  David Isaacs was frustrated at the lack of creativity along the long stretch of wall on the outside of the ground, and took the opportunity to add something of interest to this wasted space.  The well-known artist was Gilbert Bayes, a local man, who pieces of artwork, many in the form of sculptures, are still dotted all over the country, including exterior work at the Victoria and Albert Museum circa 1909, the exterior bas-reliefs and interior work at the BBC in London, 1931 and the sculpture of Destiny in Albion Gardens, Ramsgate in 1920. You might well be asking why this is relevant, well David Isaacs was the founder of Davis & Co, which is where DB has it’s roots.  Davis & Co – an Estate Agent, was founded in 1901 with it’s office in Berners St, W1, it merged with William H Brown in 1987, and in 1998 Davis Brown was born, and here we are still going strong in 2020.

Leasehold & Freehold Enfranchisement

The Law Commission has recently published a report setting out options to reduce the cost to leaseholders to either buy the freehold interest or extend their lease under the various Leasehold Reform Acts.  The proposals would intend to make it easier and more affordable to lessees to deal with these matters.  The proposals include setting out prescribed rates to be used in calculating the price/premium, capping any onerous ground rents and the creation of an online calculator for determining the premium.

In the Upper Tribunal decision Zucconi and Anor v the Trustees of The Barry and Peggy High Foundation in which Tony How of Davis Brown, represented the Trustees, the Tribunal preferred his approach in respect of the calculation of the Relativity which is based on the new Savills (2016) and the Gerald Eve’s (2016) graphs.  This property was outside prime central London and the new graphs should provide the basis of calculating the Relativity comparatively simply in the future, rather than arriving at an average of many other graphs which did not contain any open market evidence analysis.

5 Key Pieces of Legislation Hitting the Private Rental Sector

lost man in a boat

If you’re feeling a little “lost at sea” with the new legislation coming in to play this year, here are the important points to pay attention to:

1.Extension of the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act, in March

The association says that the original Act – which means landlords or agents acting on their behalf can be forced to carry out improvement works to properties or risk being sued – is being extended from March 20 this year to include existing statutory periodic tenancies.  Until that date it applies only to tenants who signed contracts on or after 20 March 2019.  The association says this legislation applies in England only – with responsibility for these standards in Wales falling under the scope of the Renting Homes (Wales) Act.  Under the Act, the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 is amended to require all landlords (private and social) to ensure that their properties, including any common parts of the building, are fit for human habitation at the beginning of the tenancy and throughout. The Act states that there is an implied agreement between the tenant and landlord at the beginning of the tenancy that the property will be fit for human habitation.

The government wants to support the majority of good landlords who provide decent and well-maintained homes. Landlords who do not maintain safe properties prevent the operation of an effective and competitive rental market where all landlords operate on an equal footing. This Act provides an additional means for tenants to seek redress by giving them the power to hold their landlord to account without having to rely on their local authority to do so.

The government expects standards to improve as tenants will be empowered to take action against their landlord where they fail to adequately maintain their property. This will level the playing field for the vast majority of good landlords who are already maintaining homes fit for human habitation without serious hazards, by ensuring that they are not undercut by landlords who knowingly and persistently flout their responsibilities.

  1. Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards, in April

From April 1, ALL existing tenancies will fall in line with the existing law introduced in 2018, whereby landlords or their agents cannot let to new tenants unless it has an EPC rating of E or better.  This means that anyone whose rentals have F or G ratings will no longer be able to legally let them out.  The association says: Landlords will be expected to pay up to £3,500 towards energy efficiency improvement works. However, if work will cost more than that landlords can apply for an exemption.”  More details here:  https://www.arla.co.uk/media/1046302/minimum-energy-efficiency-standards.pdf

  1. Capital Gains Tax changes, in April

Until now, CGT has been paid on profits made through the sale of any property that isn’t the owner’s principal home; owners can also seek lettings relief (a tax break) if they once lived in the non-principal home themselves.  From April this is scrapped and landlords will only be able to claim lettings relief if they share the property with their tenant.  Currently if you sell a residential property which was at one time your main residence but has then been rented out, it is possible to deduct ‘letting relief’ up to £40,000 from any capital gain. However, from April 2020 – this relief will no longer be available unless the letting of the property occurred while the owner was living in the property.  More details here: https://www.bkl.co.uk/insights/capital-gains-tax-cgt-property-changes-april-2020/

  1. Mandatory CMP for agents, from April

New rules on money laundering have been extended to cover letting agents, with an April 2020 deadline for agents to join an official Client Money Protection scheme – this marks the end of a 12 month grace period agreed following technical problems over the original 2019 deadline.  More details here:  https://www.arla.co.uk/news/may-2018/cmp-mandatory-from-1-april-2019-heres-how-it-transpired.aspx

  1. Extension of the Tenant Fees Act, in June

 The Tenant Fees Act came into force in England in June 2019 and is extended to cover all existing tenancies in June 2020.

This means landlords and letting agents cannot charge fees other than rent, deposits, holding deposits and charges for defaulting on the contract – with additional restrictions on how much tenants must pay.

Deposits are already limited to a maximum of five weeks’ rent where the annual rent is below £50,000 for any new or replacement tenancy. If the annual rent is above this, the maximum is six weeks, with holding deposits limited to a week.

Charges for ‘extras’ such as cleaning, pets, referencing, inventories and admin are all off limits.

Where a banned fee has been taken, tenants will be able to get money back via the county court. Landlords could be fined up to £5,000 for a first offence, and £30,0000 for subsequent breaches.

More detailed information on the Act is available at www.rla.org.uk/feeban

 

References:  Letting Agent Today, ARLA, Menzies.co.uk, RLA.co.uk , bkl.co.uk

 

Thinking of Moving Home? Do it Now!

Many houses symbols over black, Three of them are pierced by an arrow in the center of the target. 3D illustration concept of real estate and property search

In times of economic & political uncertainty – as we are now, people are naturally cautious when it comes to making big money decisions, such as buying or selling a home.  None of us have a crystal ball but we at Davis Brown are continuously studying the property market very carefully, and if you are wanting to move or buy then waiting until political issues are resolved could mean you might be waiting a very long time, so we would suggest you take the bull by the horns and take the plunge now.  Let’s take a look at why:

Property prices have remained relatively stable over the last 3 years, so moving now would mean you won’t be contending with an unpredictable market, avoiding big price movements in both directions.

Let board DB

The cost of moving is rising all the time, and this trend is unlikely to change, so you’ll be saving money on your move if you decide to do it sooner rather than later.

Wooden Blocks with the text: Fees

At first glance, you might think that stock is a bit thin on the ground, but if you do some digging around you might find your perfect home, and are able to negotiate a good deal, especially as many people are keen to sell before Brexit.

plants

Interest rates are at an all time low, and while a sharp rise isn’t expected any time soon, it would be a good idea to fix at a decent rate if you are able to.

Waiting to sell at the top of the market – you really could be waiting many years!  This would potentially be limiting your life choices, getting your kids in to your choice of school, missing out on a good job etc.

We have helped people buy their second home who have since been benefiting from several years of high demand from UK holiday renters.  The number of UK residents taking “staycations” has been rising steadily over the last few years.   Downsizers have enjoyed the economical and practical benefits of downsizing.  Buy to let investors are finding excellent bargains in the new build sector where rents have been buoyant, and we are expecting to see further rises.   Whatever you might be hearing or reading on the grapevine, whatever happens with Brexit (or not), we are unlikely to see dramatic price rise or falls; so in summary, waiting to buy or sell could well be a futile exercise.

Planning Permission – Unpicked!

  1. Do you need Planning Permission? 

Under Permitted Development Rights you can extend up to set parameters and may not need planning permission at all.

  1. Listed Building Consent 

black and white historic building in Shropshire, UK

If your property is listed you will need Listed Building Consent as well as Planning Consent.

  1. Understanding what Precedent means

People incorrectly assume that if someone else has done it, they will be able to get the same feature on their house with no problems.

These houses may have had these features for a long period and these could have been approved through a certificate of lawfulness. Also planning policy changes and the feature you want may now not be in favour with the local authority.

  1. Use the pre-app system

The pre-app system is there to help you put in an application which will get approved. It will generally only cost a few hundred pounds and the likelihood of the application going through it greatly increased and should save you a great deal of time with refusals, although this is not guaranteed.

  1. Talk to your neighbours

Finger ringing doorbell. Hand pushing door bell. Friend visiting or unwanted guest. Neighbor complaining about noise. Police with bad news.

Always talk to your neighbours before putting in your application. If you are going to disagree its better that you do it at this early stage so you can try and come to an agreement. Rather than them putting in an objection once the application is in and it being refused for something that could have been avoided. You will usually need cooperation from your neighbours in the course of a build so it’s not worth starting off on the wrong foot.  Ultimately a neighbour’s objection will not stop your application going through if it’s in line with policy but when it comes to further down the line and you need a scaffolding licence from them, a chat before it all starts can do wonders.

  1. Get Design Advice

Elegance of a Loft (drawing) - 3d visualization

Appoint an architect early to go through potential designs and what is feasible.

  1. Appointing a Builder

 Get several quotes from recommended builders and ask for references along with evidence of their insurance. When you receive the quotes ensure it is itemised and don’t forget about VAT.

 8. Party Walls

You can’t start work until you have your party wall awards signed off, speak to Davis Brown!

  1. Inform your Insurer

Before you start work you will need to inform your insurer that you are carrying out works to the house and you may face an increase in your premium for the period of the build. If you fail to inform your insurers of the work you may not be covered if something happens during the build.

  1. Do you need a Rights of Light Survey?

Blue sky with clouds and sun reflection. looking up view

Are you adjacent to another property with windows? In which case you will probably need a right of light survey.

  1. Tree Preservation Orders

Fresh green tree.  Light in the sun and The big tree which grew

 Check if the property has any TPO (Tree Preservations Order), these are protected and cannot be removed.

  1. Ecology

A colorful Red-Eyed Tree Frog (Agalychnis callidryas) in its tropical setting.  (A colorful Red-Eyed Tree Frog

Protected species like newts, reptiles and bats can stand in the way of development! If you anticipate any of these on your site you need to get an ecological survey undertaken.

  1. Drainage

You need to consider how the build will be drained and what it will link into such as a public sewer and in the case of surface water a soak away.

  1. Time Limits

Most planning consents expire after 3 years so don’t leave it too late once you have consent!

  1. Planning Refused

If your planning is refused all may not be lost, you can go to appeal and if rejected there you can take it to the High Court

  1. How much does a planning application cost?

Golden pound sterling signs falling on the white background.

The cost depends on the nature of the build. If you are constructing a new house it will be £462 for a full application whereas a home extension will generally be £206.

  1. What are Planning Conditions?

Sometimes the local authority will impose specific conditions like the materials you use.

  1. Scaffolding

If your scheme is using scaffolding you may need a licence especially if it’s on another owner’s land.

  1. How Long Does it take to get Planning?

Once your application has been submitted and accepted as complete along with the fee the local authority are supposed to determine planning applications within 10 to 12 weeks of registration. The majority of straightforward householder applications will be dealt with within this time frame

  1. What if I don’t get Planning Consent?

While it is not illegal to develop land without planning permission, it is not lawful and if you have failed to get consent for your project, then the local planning authority can take action to have the work altered or demolished. In this instance, you can make a retrospective planning application and if this is refused you can appeal the decision. If you lose, it can prove very costly.

Altering a listed building without prior permission is, however, a criminal offence, and in extreme cases it can lead to prosecution and unlimited fines — and even imprisonment. So do ensure you apply for this first.

 

Hidden Costs of the Party Wall Act

A scared businessman in a protective pose with loads of money hanging in the air on the background of the grey wall. Business and finance. Corruption. Earning money.

Defrayed Costs

If your neighbour wishes to demolish and reconstruct the party fence wall on the basis that it is in a state of disrepair, you may be required to pay half of the cost of the new wall. The relevant sections of The Party Wall Act etc. 1996 for this example are 2(2)(b) and 11(5).

Enclosure Costs

If you wish to make use of a party wall previously constructed by the neighbour, you may have to pay 50% of the total cost of that section of wall which you are making use of. This would be based on the amount that it would cost to construct the wall today not when the wall was originally built. See section 11(11) of The Party Wall act etc. 1996.

Third Surveyor Submission

If there is a dispute between the two appointed surveyors, in order to settle the dispute they would have to make a referral to the third surveyor who will decide in favour of one surveyor or the other. If you are an Adjoining Owner and your appointed surveyor is unsuccessful in their referral to the third surveyor, you may be expected to pay the third surveyor’s fees for making the determination. See section 10 of The Party Wall etc. Act 1996.

Cutting Away Over Spilled Concrete

A common example of this is where a basement has been constructed and the neighbour wishes to carry out work at a later date, the discovery of the over spilled concrete produced by your previous work could mean that you would have to pay to have the trespassing concrete cut out and removed. The act of cutting away the trespassing concrete is notifiable under section 2(2)(g) of The Party Wall etc. Act 1996.

Appealing an Award

If a party wall award is served upon you and you believe it is unreasonable, you may appeal the award to the county court within 14 days of the award being served. It is important to note that you can leave yourself at risk of paying a large cost in this scenario, as if an appeal to the court is overturned you may have to pay both incurred cost for your neighbour as well as the cost of the delayed works. It is advisable to seeks advice from an experienced party wall surveyor if you are considering making an appeal. See section 10(17) of The Party Wall etc. Act 1996.

Q&A with Davis Brown Director – David Moon

_MG_0852

David Moon has been a Chartered Surveyor in London since 1975 and director at Davis Brown since 1998.  He is a highly regarded member of the Party Wall Surveying community.  He is a former Chairman of the Pyramus & Thisbe Club, has chaired the Subterranean Development Bill Advisory Panel to the House of Lords and has worked all over London from St James’ Palace to The Banqueting House.  We interviewed him to find out a little more about his career as a Chartered Surveyor in W1.

You began your career as a Chartered Surveyor in Central London working for the Ministry of Public Buildings and Works; can you tell me more about your role there?

‘I first worked at the Ministry of Public Buildings and Works whilst on summer break from Leicester Polytechnic and my first office was at Elizabeth House, Waterloo, where I worked on a former Victorian Workhouse among other projects.  I also spent my sandwich year with the Ministry, and was lucky enough to work on the Royal Palaces, particularly St James’ Palace.  After completing my diploma, I started work full time with the Ministry, and moved between a number of offices.  One of the projects I dealt with as a qualified surveyor was the temporary structures that were built to host the NATO and G7 Summits in The Banqueting House, Whitehall in 1977. For this, I was based in Whitehall and it was unique experience.’

When did you begin to specialise in Party Wall Matters?

1974, which funnily enough is also the year that the Pyramus & Thisbe Club was founded.  The job was at Monsanto House where works were taking place in the building next door.  At the time, Party Wall Matters only really applied to the Inner London Boroughs and it was not until the 1996 Act that Party Wall Matters were widened to include the rest of England and Wales.’

What is your proudest career achievement to date?

‘I would have to say my proudest career achievement was being elected as Chairman of the Pyramus & Thisbe Club, which has over 1,300 members and works to advance and promote best professional practice in all matters Party Wall.  I was also happy to win the Henry Stewart Structural Survey prize for a large survey project in Kent.’

Tell me about winning the Henry Stewart Structural Survey prize.

‘We were very fortunate to be instructed, on behalf of an international rock star, to survey a wonderful 17th Century manor house in Kent.  The work was split between two of us, one of us on the inside of the house and the other on the outside, keeping in touch at intervals which made the whole process quite entertaining.  Our client very kindly allowed us to enter the report and we were delighted to find out that we had won.  We received the prize, presented by Ian Melville, at The Café Royal.  I was especially pleased because the prize had been won the previous year by a very good friend’.

What is the most interesting thing about Party Wall surveying?

‘Acting as a third surveyor! It is always enjoyable to help settle disagreements or disputes – it’s an important part of working in Party Wall surveying.’

What do you believe to be the top five key skills to possess for those looking at a career in Party Wall Surveying?

‘Impartiality, an even temperament, an eye for detail, interpersonal skills and the ability to stay calm at all times!’

For more information about our services in Party Wall matters from our contact our Chartered Surveyors in W1.