All Aboard The Great Party Wall Train…

The gripes are becoming more vocal and regular.

Party wall matters seem to be nothing but an expensive inconvenience for building owners wishing to carry out building works that fall within the Party Wall etc. Act 1996.

Whether it be extortionate fees and/ costly delays, few people have much good to say about party wall surveyors.

Now, it is invariably true that there are a number of mauvais oeufs” who are ruining the reputation of the vast majority of party wall surveyors that take their responsibility to building owners, adjoining owners and the Act itself seriously and carry out their role in an ethical and equitable manner.

The good ones are at the front of the queue of victimisation at the hands of the tricks and sleights of hand that the bad ones use to frustrate the process and rack up fees.

So here my top six most annoying things bad party wall surveyors do:

  1. Send endless reams of unnecessary correspondence and charge for each item e.g. a surveyor once sent me an email, then another the next day referring to his email of yesterday and asking when he would receive a response. This was not an isolated incident and happened many times during this matter. Why charge for time spent sending one email when it’s so much more profitable to charge for two?
  2. Let’s make a banquet out of a picnic. Now method statements, engineering advice, legal advice and monitoring are all perfectly reasonable when the work is significant enough to warrant them but in every scenario, no matter what is proposed? Again, this seems to be with a view to expanding on the scope of the matter and invariably, the fee.
  3. Smart Alecs. This is not confined solely to the life of a party wall surveyor but to all but aren’t they just annoying? If you want someone to do something, be nice to them. Sarcasm and patronising behaviour is unlikely to make me want to bust a gut to help you out.
  4. Acting as an agent. Rumour has it that some surveyors are recommended by solicitors who promise to “make life difficult” for building owners wishing to carry out works; “They want to dig a basement you say? The Council didn’t listen to your objections? How very dare they? especially after they granted you permission for your basement…don’t worry Jim, I know just the chap. He’ll make their life absolute hell”.
  5. Very often this practice takes place in prime central London where neighbours can generally be less neighbourly than elsewhere.
  6. Playing the waiting game: those lovable rogues that see fit to charge for whatever they feel they can get away with do sometimes drag things on, not just to frustrate matters but with the added benefit that if the building owner becomes so desperate for his Award, he is less likely to challenge the Adjoining Owner’s surveyor’s fees. “Let’s just get it done” is a common phrase uttered by many a fraught Building Owner. These surveyors know this and take full advantage.

At Davis Brown, we have a number of party wall and neighbourly matters specialists. We pride ourselves on doing things the right way, no matter who we are acting for. If you would like to discuss any aspect of party walls please call Tony Guerguis on 020 7907 1808 or email at tguerguis@davis-brown.co.uk.

 

 

Xin Nian Kuai Le

And that’s “Happy New Year” in Mandarin!  This weekend sees in the Chinese New Year and it’s the Fire Rooster that rules 2017, this year’s sign signifies fidelity and punctuality.  In Chinese astrology each zodiac year is not just associated with an animal sign, but also with one of five elements – gold, wood, water, fire or earth, element sign combinations occur every 60 years.  Traditionally the year of one’s birth sign is said to be the most unlucky year in the 12 year cycle, however if you avoid the colour red, but get involved with the colours gold, brown and yellow you should be just fine!

Being such a cosmopolitan city, the West End of London is buzzing at this time of year where all sorts of celebrations will be taking place.  Sunday is New Year’s Day and things will be kicking off at 11am in Trafalgar Square where there will be speeches, ceremonies, dances, acrobats, martial arts and even some Chinese rock music!  In Shaftsbury Avenue at the Family Stage you’ll find all sorts of family shows and music, and on Charing Cross Road at the Hong Kong stage there will be more celebrations on the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover to China.  If you’re in the West End this weekend you really must pay a visit to the world famous China Town in Soho, where from 12-6pm you’ll be able to meet all the Chinese zodiac animals and the Lucky Money God (who doesn’t want to meet him/her?).  And of course there will be plenty of tasty festive treats on offer in the many restaurants.  I know it was only a month ago since we celebrated New Year, but who wouldn’t love the opportunity to do it all over again, but this time in the Chinese way!

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An Interview With A Graduate Surveyor – John Eden

Hi John – what is your role at Davis Brown?

My primary role is assisting the directors within the commercial team. This work explores a wide range of disciplines which includes valuations, agency, lease renewal and rent review negotiations, and has helped me develop a broad range of skills quickly, assisting me in passing my APC to become a chartered surveyor.

What does a typical day entail at DB?  And what are you favourite and least favourite parts of the day?

For me there isn’t really a typical day as it varies depending on what projects I am working on and what is required. Time out of the office is always going to be the most enjoyable whether I am inspecting a site for valuation work or showing people around a property for an agency instruction. The worst part of my day is always the early morning, however once I have had a strong coffee I am ready to go.

What do you like best about working in Fitzrovia?

Fitzrovia is a great place to be based as provides excellent places to go to lunch or to have fun in the evenings after work. The majority of my friends are based in the West End so being based at 1 Margaret Street puts me in a really central location with easy access to them.

What is your favourite part of London, and why?

Since I have moved to Westbourne Park I have become particularly fond of Notting Hill, especially around Portobello Road, during the weekend market, you can always pick up something unique! 

What is the most important thing you’ve learnt so far working at DB?

As the work within the commercial team is so varied I have learnt to expect anything. This is great for my training, but also one of the reasons why my life at Davis Brown is so enjoyable. 

If you could be locked in a building overnight what would it be?

The Tate Modern, so I can have fun in the enormous Turbine Hall. The views are pretty spectacular too!

Making The Most Of Tricky Spaces (in your home.)

Every home has its own design challenges. Small studios, narrow corridors, sloping ceilings, awkward corners… and the list goes on! But don’t despair – with a little spatial planning we can turn these spaces around. Here at Davis Brown Estate Agents we have put together a few ways in which to transform those neglected nooks and crannies.

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Awkward Spaces

If you are faced with odd angles, corners or slanted ceilings, then curved shapes such as round tables tend to fit better here – you could even consider a round bed like this contemporary one below! Custom built storage units are an ideal way of using every inch of space, but if you are on a tight budget it may be more realistic to max out on part of the space – for example by fitting a shelf to use as a desk.                

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Small Spaces

If you are short on space and cannot fit a desk, you could use wall-mounted shelves as an alternative storage area or a quirky fold out desk as seen below. Small-scale furniture is also a must – as comfy as a huge sofa might be, it’s probably not practical if it takes up the whole room! Glass furniture will create a visual effect of more space even in a small room and mirrors can do the same*.

We all get sentimental about certain ornaments but too many can make a space look cluttered and overcrowded – try to just have a few sleek pieces – minimalism can often be the way forward! Also don’t be afraid to buy multi-purpose items – coffee tables or ottoman storage boxes that double up as seating can be just the answer when you have friends and family over. Lastly, don’t let vertical space go to waste – remember a room has 8 corners not just 4 – so set your curtains high and embrace those tall storage units!

Windows

If you have a room that lacks windows it is worth investing in thin curtains which draw back beyond the window to maximise light – blinds can do this too. Lights are also important as poor lighting can make a room look much smaller than it is. If you are the other extreme and have too many windows/doors to place furniture on the edge of the room, you could pull your furniture forward and create a snug conversation area, using the space behind as a walkway.

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5 New Year’s Resolutions For Your Home

Do you ever have the feeling that you’re not making the most of your home? It’s easily done, neglecting the cleaning, ignoring the odd touch up jobs needed on the walls, cupboards full to the brim… we are all guilty!  Here at Davis Brown, our estate agents, chartered surveyors and property managers have discussed our worst home habits, and come up with a short list of Five Property New Year’s Resolutions.  Maybe we will stick to them this year!

  1. Keep up with the cleaning

We all know it’s a bore, and not something that any of us look forward to however as estate agents, Davis Brown know what a difference a regular clean can make.  In the short term, it keeps your place looking tidy and smelling fresh, and in the long term it avoids decolouration and build up.  Little and often is our motto!

  1. Fix things when they break

…instead of leaving them until you have a list as long as your arm!  It’s very easy to put something that’s broken to the side and promise yourself you’ll do it later.  However, these small bits of DIY soon add up, and before you know it that door knob that needs screwing back on, is followed by tightening a leaky tap…a touch up on the paint work in the hall…replacing a lightbulb.

  1. Clear out your cupboards twice a year

A clear space is a clear mind! There are few things more stressful than opening a cupboard and realising that the thing you need is right at the back, behind other precariously stacked items.  The way to avoid these spontaneous games of Jenga is to clear those overfilled cupboards out twice a year – once in the Spring and once in the Autumn.  Be ruthless and it’ll save you a lot of stress in the long run!

  1. Find a proper home for odd bits…or create a junk drawer!

This follows on from resolution 3 – put things back where they belong.  In a mission to keep our properties looking tidy, it’s very easy to shove things into the nearest cupboard or cubby hole, just to get them out of sight.  However, this is only a temporary solution! The realist is that in no time at all, you’ll be cursing yourself when you can’t find it, or kicking yourself when there’s no room left for the items that actually belong in your temporary hiding place!  Saving you more work in the long run, it’s much easier to put things back in their proper place each and every time you use them.

  1. Utilities – are you being cost effective?

After an expensive time over Christmas, January is a great time to take a good look at your utilities and work out what you’re paying, who to and whether it’s the right amount. Spend some time on comparison websites and seeing what deals are out there to be had.  A great way to try and reduce your energy bills is to sign up to The Big Community Switch.

New Year Resolutions (for your home!)

Do you ever have the feeling that you’re not making the most of your home? It’s easily done, neglecting the cleaning, ignoring the odd touch up jobs needed on the walls, cupboards full to the brim…the list goes on and we are all guilty!  Here at Davis Brown, our Estate Agents, Chartered Surveyors and Property Managers have discussed our worst home habits, and have come up with a short list of Five Property New Year’s Resolutions.  Maybe we will stick to them this year!

  1. Keep up with the cleaning

We all know it’s a bore, and not something that any of us look forward to however as Estate Agents, Davis Brown know what a difference a regular clean can make.  In the short term, it keeps your place looking tidy and smelling fresh, and in the long term it avoids decolouration and build up.  Little and often is our motto!

  1. Fix things when they break

…instead of leaving them until you have a list as long as your arm!  It’s very easy to put something that’s broken to the side and promise yourself you’ll do it later.  However, these small bits of DIY soon add up, and before you know it that door knob that needs screwing back on, is followed by tightening a leaky tap…a touch up on the paint work in the hall…replacing several lightbulbs.

  1. Clear out your cupboards twice a year

A clear space is a clear mind! There are few things more stressful than opening a cupboard and realising that the thing you need is right at the back, behind other precariously stacked items.  The way to avoid these spontaneous games of Jenga is to clear those overfilled cupboards out twice a year – once in the Spring and once in the Autumn.  Be ruthless and it’ll save you a lot of stress in the long run!

  1. Find a proper home for odd bits…or create a junk drawer!

This follows on from resolution 3 – put things back where they belong.  In a mission to keep our properties looking tidy, it’s very easy to shove things into the nearest cupboard or cubby hole, just to get them out of sight.  However, this is only a temporary solution! The reality is that in no time at all, you’ll be cursing yourself when you can’t find it, or kicking yourself when there’s no room left for the items that actually belong in your temporary hiding place!  Saving you more work in the long run, it’s much easier to put things back in their proper place each and every time you use them.

  1. Utilities – are you being cost effective?

After an expensive time over Christmas, January is a great time to take a good look at your utilities and work out what you’re paying, who to and whether it’s the correct amount. It’s often worth spending some time on comparison websites and seeing what deals are out there.  A great way to try and reduce your energy bills is to sign up to The Big Community Switch.   So if you haven’t made any resolutions so far, I hope these might inspire you!

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Dressing The Christmas Table

The tree’s looking pretty, the presents are wrapped, the food and booze has all been bought – now you can put your feet up and relax with a festive glass of sherry and a mince pie….that is if you haven’t skipped thinking about the Christmas table decorations!  We eat from our table most days of the year so dressing it up in the spirit of Christmas is what makes lunch on the 25th December special!    Whatever your taste, there are endless ways to make your table shiny and bright & here are just a couple..

Festive Forest Feast!

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Some people love to go foraging for holly and berries, tree bark, twigs and pine cones – bringing the outside in – and with a bit of glitter and silver or gold spray paint it can give the table a really special feel.  You can get really creative with these materials that nature gave us, and the more over the top you go, the more magical your table will look!  Red or green ribbon tied onto twigs is another easy and effective way to Christmas-up your table. If you don’t live near somewhere that you can go foraging, you can buy plastic alternatives that do just as good a job. 

Scandi Chic Supper!

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A less frenetic style than the above, Scandi chic is all about the white and the silver and the monochrome, and is still holding it’s own in the style stakes.  A crisp white napkin with your guests’ initials embroidered into it using a silver thread, some antler horn style candle stick holders, icicles and snowflakes doted around the table, and even a pine cone or two sprayed white, silver chargers under a large white dinner plate will give you a sophisticated Scandi table.

The Minimalist’s Meal!

If you’re a fan of “less is more”, there’s no reason why you can’t go down the minimal route on Christmas day!  A subtle accent here and there around the table is sometimes all you need.  A mason jar with a string of white lights inside can be an attractive centrepiece, or a large red pillar candle can bring the warmth and cosiness every festive table shouldn’t be without.

Another top tip that I love to use is to get yourself an electric diffuser (Muji does a great one) and some seasonally-scented essential oils (cinnamon, pine, orange) and put that on first thing in the morning to give your home that beautiful scent of Christmas!

However you choose to dress your Christmas table an absolute must to include is the crackers! The history behind the cracker goes like this… they were first created by a London sweet maker Tom Smith around 1845.  He was inspired by the pretty wrapped almonds that the French would give, so he decided  to try and sell similar sweets wrapped up with a riddle or joke – this however, wasn’t to be a success story!  This didn’t damped Tom’s spirits, and one night while sitting in front of the fire watching it spark and crackle he had his eureka moment – what fun it would be if his sweets and toys were to be opened with a bang when their fancy wrappers were pulled in half!   And the rest is history!

The Three Ps for AirBnB

With today’s technology, gadgets and gismos, we are in an era where we can list our home on an online marketplace in all of about 5 minutes and make a quick buck or two which might pay for some of that Christmas excess we’ve spent!

Founded in 2008, Air BNB has given us opportunity to advertise and book accommodation around the globe from your computer, mobile or tablet.  Air BNB has become a popular platform – it is easy to use, guest and hosts have profiles with scanned identification and reviews, payment transactions are taken through Air BNB and hosts are protected with up to £600,000 guarantee! Sounds pretty ideal right?  Right, however there are three important ‘permissions’ you must think about BEFORE you list your property on Air BNB.   

  1. Permission from your freeholder

If you own your property under a long lease, ownership of your home will be subject to the terms in the lease.  Most leases will include a clause requiring you to get permission before you can sublet your property.  Some leases may even prohibit short lets

  1. Permission from your lender

If you have a mortgage against your property, you will have a contractual obligation to inform your lender if you want to let your property out on a short term basis. Failure to do so is a breach in the contract.

  1. Permission from the council

As Estate Agents in the boroughs of Westminster and Camden, we cover properties in Fitzrovia, Bloomsbury, Marylebone, Covent Garden and Soho amongst more.  You will need planning permission if let your property where the cumulative total of all short-term lets of your property exceeds 90 nights in the same calendar year (i.e. 1 January to 31 December).

Davis Brown – as Chartered Surveyors and Estate Agents in London, we are able to offer you a unique service where we will let and manage your property on Air BNB so long as you have these important permissions granted! If you are considering letting your property on a short let basis, please contact us to discuss your options.

The Best of London’s Christmas Markets; North, South, East & West

It’s that time of the year again and Christmas is just around the corner.  The decorations are up, the festive songs are on and the presents are sitting under the tree.  If like us however, you’ve been too busy to even think about Christmas yet, here are the perfect markets in London to get you in the mood.

NORTH

Islington Green is one of our favourite Christmas markets.  Each year it charms us and gets us right into the festive spirit.  With over 60 stalls to peruse, it’s great place to meet family and friends alike and with Santa’s Grotto featuring this year, your kids will never want to leave!

Camden is playing host to a more grown up style of Christmas market and we like it!  Every Thursday until 9pm, Camden market will have stalls, live music, hot cider and mulled wine on offer and with a different theme each week, who could say no?!

SOUTH

The Tate Modern is playing host to a huge market along the river, with a bevy of stalls selling all sorts of goodies.  A Victorian Carousel features and it adds the perfect amount of whimsical charm to this wonderful market.  If the Tate doesn’t quite satisfy your Christmas cravings, then head to the Southbank Centre afterwards for an indoor market with even more stalls of festive fancies!

EAST

To get your Eastern dose of festive fun, head over to Shoreditch.  Located at the Red Market in Old Street, The Shoreditch Christmas Crafts Market will be home to a variety of stalls showcasing local talent.  The focus is on celebrating the artistic skills of independent designers in the area and so you will definitely see more than just your average Christmas market gubbins on sale – think handmade handbags and jewellery workshops!

WEST

Leicester Square has outdone itself this year, and has installed a huge speilgetent (a big velvety tent!) which will be surrounded by traditional wooden huts and Christmas market stalls.  Not only is there plenty of shopping to be done, but the speilgetent will be hosting performances by La Soirée amongst other exciting acts.  If you are looking for Christmas market to make an evening of, this is the one!

 

 

 

Interior Trend Set To Take 2017 By Storm

Christmas is now over and we are into the year and so it’s time to start looking forward!  The summer is coming and with it a wave of new interiors colours and fashions – dusky pinks and navy blues are so 2016.  As estate agents and managing agents in central London, we like to keep our fingers firmly on the interior trends pulse.  To make it nice and easy for you, we have outlined the key trends for 2017.

  1. Terracotta

Think terracotta tiles are just for cottages in the country? Think again! Clinical white it out, and warm, welcoming terracotta is in.  For an instant update, this earthy, neutral tone is a perfect statement colour for a hallway.  For those of you with a little more time and money, replace your white, gloss metro tiles with large, matte terracotta ones to warm your kitchen up and bring it into 2017.

  1. Dark Green

Velvet and velour looks to set to stay at the top of our trend list in 2017, but the colours are getting an update.  Gone is the navy and enter dark green!  A deep, moody emerald green is exactly what we are talking about in rich velour.  This colour and fabric works best when used to re-cover a vintage sofa, but if that’s too daring for you, a couple of new cushions will do the trick!

  1. Cork

Oh so 70’s!  Epitomising the general trend of earthy colours and textures this year, cork is making a comeback.  Think a cork wall, teamed with dramatic black and scandi-style accents – not only a practical way to display notes and cards but also bang on trend!  Quick and easy update instead?  Buy a cheap cork pin board and paint the rim black!

  1. Primary Colours

Red, yellow and blue – basics are back!  This is a tricky one to get right, but done well and the effect will be amazing.  Don’t block a whole wall, instead block small areas – primary colours are dominating – you want to aim for dramatic hints instead of a tidal wave! Another idea is patterned wallpaper – a red and white basic repeat pattern print for example.

  1. Bringing the outside, in

House plants are EVERYWHERE.  Whether you’re a fan of leafy palms, chunky succulents or delicate ferns, this is one trend that everyone can do with ease.  The shops are filled with unique ways to display your plants…in a vintage apothecary jar or hanging from the ceiling in a black wire basket – however you want to do it, in this case more is more.  Mix different textures and colours and to get all the senses going, plant up herbs and spices aswell.