The Unexpected Costs of The Party Wall etc. Act 1996

Courtesy of our Party Wall surveyors at Davis Brown..

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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 Overspilled 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.

“When you’re tired of London you’re tired of life”

plaque3

And how very true this quote is – even in modern times.  If you didn’t already know, it was Dr Samuel Johnson who spoke these wise words back in the eighteenth century.

Johnson was born in Lichfield in 1709 to bookseller parents, and from a young age he became very interested in the English language and literature.  He studied briefly at Pembroke College, Oxford, but this was short-lived as his parents were unable to pay the fees.  He ploughed on through with his fighting spirit and set up a school, which failed miserably, but not letting that get him down, he took one of his ex-students – David Garrick (who was to become star of the London stage) under his wing and they walked to London to seek fame and fortune.  Exciting times ensued…

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) on engraving from the 1800s. English author who made lasting contributions to English literature as a poet, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer, editor and lexicographer. Engraved by W.Holl and published in London by A.Frillarton & Co.

Johnson was a prolific writer and became well-known for his poems, biographies, essays, literary criticisms and more, in fact he is the second most quoted English man to date, with the most famous quote being the one I have already mentioned.  However, he really hit the big time when in 1746 he was commissioned to write the English Dictionary (anyone remember the Black Adder episode?!).  Following this he received a pension from George III in 1962, this allowed him to travel extensively and give talks on his favoured subject.  He was a social chap and gained many friends and fans along the way, and to this day he inspires many writers.

Dr. Johnsons House

Being Estate Agents in Fitzrovia, we at Davis Brown know only too well that London is full of fabulous snippets of history everywhere you turn; walking along the old streets of the City of London for example, you can really feel what life might have been like for city folk in bygone days.  For anyone who fancies being close by to some history, we currently have a rare opportunity to acquire a freehold Grade II Listed office building in the City of London which is adjacent to Dr Johnson House.  Dr Johnson House is a charming 300-year-old grade I listed building, and this is where he resided and wrote his great Dictionary of the English Language in the middle of the eighteenth century.  Tempted?….. If so, please call Georgina on 020 7637 1066 for more information.

Tips From A First Time Landlady

real estate rent concept - old key with tag

Being Estate & Letting Agents in W1, we deal with Landlords/ladies on a regular basis.  Our Director and Head of Residential Lettings in Fitzrovia, Emma How, caught up with one of Davis Brown’s newest Landladies who recently developed a flat and became a landlady for the first time. We were keen to get an insight in to her experience in both developing and letting her property for the first time and hope this provides some useful tips for those who are also just starting out.

What made you decide you wanted to develop a property?

I owned a garage called the Coach House which had a redundant room above it. It had no heating or electricity and for years I had wanted to develop it into a flat, however, this was a scary prospect as I’d had very little experience! I decided to jump in feet first, and decided if nothing else, it would be a learning experience!

How did you go about developing the Coach House?

I was recommended an architect who drew up plans and submitted them to the council. The building is Grade II listed so there were a few obstacles to satisfy the planners. I needed Planning Permission and Listed Building Consent.   I then sent the plans to four building contractors. I was amazed at the difference in price when all the quotes came in. I decided to go with the middle quote as I had a good feeling about the team and felt they would listen to my suggestions and we could work well together.

Portrait woman hands presenting small model of house, isolated grey wall background. Real estate, mortgage, home ownership concept. Safety, strong family idea. Insurance, protection

What bit did you enjoy the most?

The fun part of the project was choosing kitchens, bathrooms, tiles and time management with the builders. I wanted to rent the flat on an unfurnished basis so I chose some pretty neutral tones so it was a completely blank canvas for future tenants.

What was the biggest thing you learnt?

Nothing goes to plan and costs can quickly increase!   We had to dig down much further than we anticipated as the local planners would not pass this stage of the project off before we could move on.   The original quote moved quite a lot as I up graded the heating system to make it more efficient and I spent more on the kitchen than planned as this is one of the most important rooms in house.  Make sure you choose a building team you can trust and listen to them.

When did you instruct a Lettings Agent?

I knew nothing about the Landlord/Tenant business and I therefore had to be guided through the procedures and processes that are required of me as a Landlady. I asked a handful of Agents to see the flat 2-3 weeks before completion.

I chose Davis Brown who guided me through every step of way and gave me the confidence to deal with any problems that might occur.  There is so much to understand and to deal with and it was so important to be able to speak to a company that knew all the ropes as I was completely out of my comfort zone.

What did you learn?

Again, Davis Brown were a huge help here and helped me learn all the ropes of being a Landlady.  All the appliances were new and needed to be registered and guaranteed in my name in case they broke down.  A six-week deposit needed to be taken and registered formally with a deposit scheme. The gas safety certificate needs to be checked yearly. The list goes on…

I really understood the importance of an inventory report prepared with photographs, and I asked the tenants to sign so we were both covered in case of damage.

On their arrival, I had to test the fire alarms to show the tenants they were all working sufficiently and once again, I got a signature from the tenants.

As a personal touch, I gave the new tenants a welcome guide with information such as where the bins are kept, rubbish collection and what access they had.

I learnt very quickly that the relationship between tenant and landlady has to be completely transparent and both parties know they are responsible for the property – me maintaining it to the correct standard and the tenants respecting the space.

Once all the paper work was done – everyone knew exactly where they stood, this makes for a smooth relationship between landlady and tenant, and I am most grateful that Davis Brown were here to guide me through it all!   I am now looking forward to my next project with the confidence I have gained to take me forward.

What Does The Future Hold For Our High Streets?

Salisbury, UK - September 4th 2016: Tourists and shoppers are walking through Salisbury City centre on a Sunday afternoon. Some are sitting down enjoying refreshments and food at tables in the street.

 

Over the course of 2017 we saw the closure of a number main high street chains, most notably BHS. This has continued into 2018 with the recent closure of Toys r Us and Maplin, whilst other big names are reporting that it will be a financially difficult year ahead.

Many of these retailers reported a severe drop in sales over the Christmas period, and the most significant cause of this is thought to be movement off the high street to shopping online. This, along with increased additional costs such as business rates, particularly in central London, has made it difficult for many stores to make a profit.

London, UK - September 13, 2014: view down Carnaby Street with shoppers in London, UK. It is an iconic fashion street in the Soho district famous in the 1960s for mods and hippies.

One of the first signs that the internet was taking services away from the high street was the drop in the number of banks, travel agents and similar services, which originally dominated local high streets. As the amount of on-line shopping continues to increase, the scaremongers out there are already shouting that this is the end of the beloved high street and we will just be left with rows of vacant shop fronts and no activity.

The alternative is that we will see a change in type of retailer, which will evolve further away from the traditional shop. The first part of this high street evolution is already apparent as the number of coffee shops, hairdressers and beauty salons, restaurants and gyms is increasing. This indicates that the high street moving away from being a location to do your weekly shopping and becoming more of an activity based, leisure destination.

Davis Brown Commercial Agents have been marketing several retail units on Kentish Town Road, which is becoming an increasingly popular location. The variety of interest has been broad ranging from restaurants to gym use, whereas interest has not been as high for a more traditional shop use. One new arrival to Kentish Town is Gail’s Bakery, which indicates that the area is becoming increasingly fashionable. It was vital that Gail’s attained planning permission for part A3 (restaurant) use, allowing them to attract more customers into the store. This is now not uncommon as the high street is now starting to attract a different type of shopper.

As larger retail units, often old banking premises, become vacant many have been considered opportunities for setting up fitness centres, health spas and such like. Historically, this has not been the case, but maybe this is the direction many high streets will take in the future?

The BHS flagship store on Oxford Street closed last year, leaving 36,000 square feet of vacant retail space! Plans are now for it to be converted into the biggest food hall in London. This is to include 25 restaurants, 4 bars, numerous food stalls, event space and even a demo kitchen! Could this be a glimpse into the future of how revitalisation of the high street will cater to a new generation whose hard-earned cash is better spent on activities and time with friends rather than on material goods (which are now often cheaper and easier to purchase online)?

“Lease”ten to me, p”lease” !

jack russell boss or business dog listening with one ear very carefully

For a nation that once effectively dominated the world, we seem to occasionally be caught off-guard by something as trivial as an extended cold snap and a bit of snow!

Our office is still dealing with the fallout after the recent “Beast from the East” weather phenomenon affected some properties in our portfolio.

Our management team try to live by the motto “the impossible we do immediately – miracles take a little longer (but not much)”.  Instead we found that little problems quickly became serious issues due to the inability of our maintenance contractors to get to some of our managed properties.

Something as simple as a frozen basin drain outlet quickly evolved into a full blown insurance claim for damages due to water backing up.  A boiler failing (as they always seem to do on Friday afternoons after 17H00!) becomes much more than a temporary inconvenience.

We were going to launch into some inane and well-recycled advice on precautions to take before freezing weather strikes, but it has already been force-fed to us by the media and frankly we are all sentient beings who should be able to figure most things out for ourselves!

Lease agreement document with keys and pen

One thing that struck us as our property management team worked through the various challenges that the weather presented, was the question of who was responsible for what.  We deal with some fairly complicated matters and both our tenants and our clients often make certain assumptions that are not necessarily based on fact.

Our portfolio is a mixture of residential blocks, commercial properties and assured shorthold tenancy (AST) management.  As a company, Davis Brown offer a wide range of services and some serious expertise.  We like to think of our team as the glue that binds all this together. Where things often come unstuck (yes I really went there) is when people don’t read their leases.

A lease is after all a document containing the rules which govern the relationship between a landlord and a tenant. It is easy to forget though, as property professionals, how hard it might be for someone not in the profession to understand the implications of their lease covenants.

Some guidelines on what to look out for are irrespective of whether you are a landlord or a tenant are as follows:

  • Make sure you understand the tenant /landlord relationship in the lease – for example is it a straightforward landlord and tenant relationship, or in the case of the residential block, is there perhaps a “Right to Manage Company” involved or have the lessees collectively purchased the freehold?
  • Take the time to carefully read the description of the premises described in the lease. Usually this defines where the flat/office/leased unit starts and begins.  Pay particular attention to whether things like the windows and doors are part of the premises (and therefore your responsibility) or not.  Does the property you rent include the roof space or the void below the floor?
  • Check the rent is correct and when it is due – this can be quite a contentious issue and the rents may be due on unusual dates.
  • Check what you are responsible for, and if unsure speak to your managing agent or landlord to clarify this. Leases often contain sweeping clauses like “the lessee shall keep the interior of the property in good order and repair including all fixtures….”  An innocuous looking clause like this has serious implications, and forewarned is forearmed as they say.
  • Take the time to understand the service charge provisions if these are applicable to your lease. Usually there is a landlord responsibility to provide services and maintain the common parts and retained parts by way of a service charge.

Above all else you should feel free to speak to us if you have any queries about your lease – we are very happy to “leaseten” to you and help wherever possible!

Take Heed for the next Big Freeze.

While the ‘Beast from the East’ has now ceased, our building surveyors in W1 share some  common building defects to be aware of in time for the next big freeze…

Snow on street in Broadwater. Worthing. Sussex. England

Blown Brick Faces

Typically found on areas of brickwork with high exposure and/or older bricks which have not been well maintained or re-pointed when required. This occurs when water saturates an area of brickwork before freezing where it expands by 9% within the brickwork, causing the faces of the bricks to flake off and crumble away. A common cause of this problem is where a wall has been re-pointed using the wrong type of pointing. If a wall was originally pointed with a lime mortar and is re-pointed using a stronger, more rigid and less porous cement based mortar, then water within the brickwork is unable to escape and more likely to freeze internally.

Frozen Water Supply

It is important to ensure that there are no unlagged water pipes externally as the water within would be at risk of freezing which can cause the pipes to burst. It is advisable to lag any exposed pipes so that enough heat is kept within the pipework so that the water remains free flowing. Once a pipe has frozen, which becomes evident when the flow of water from your tap slows or stops, it is important to attempt to thaw the affected area as soon as possible before it bursts and potentially damages your property.

Icicles hanging from the gutter, and snow on the roof causing drainage problems for an old building in winter.

Moisture Ingress through Roofs

If there is a build-up of snow present on a roof, the internal heat of the building can cause the snow present on the roof tiles to melt and run to the outside edges of the roof, the coldest part of the roof. The water can then re-freeze at the edges of the roof and create an ice dam which causes a build-up of snow behind it, once this snow melts it can cause water to pass underneath the roof tiles close to the perimeter of the roof.

Heavy Loading from Snow

More prevalent on flat roofs, an excessive build-up of snow can cause the roof to be over-stressed which in turn can cause it to sag and/or leak. This problem can be exacerbated if it is an older roof with poor drainage. It is important to contact a structural engineer or surveyor to take a look at your roof in the event that you notice additional sagging during or after a heavy snowfall.

Detail of mold, dirt and water drops on the window

Condensation

Where you have a pitched roof, within the attic space, ensure that there are no gaps within the insulation of the floor space, particularly if there is a build-up of snow present on the roof. If there is a gap where warm air from the level below can pass through then this can cause condensation to occur on the underside of the ceiling within the attic. A dramatic build up in condensation can lead to mould and rot occurring to the timbers of the roof. It is also advisable to ensure there is adequate ventilation to avoid a build-up of condensation.

Beat That Beast From The East!

house insulation concept. copy space

With this week being the coldest week in over 5 years with temperatures lower than the North Pole – time to put the kettle on and hunker down!

The cold weather can make everything a lot more uncomfortable for each of us, however when it comes to finding your new home there are several key factors to look out for to help you avoid turning home into an igloo.

While looking for your next abode, be sure to check those windows. Double glazed windows are nowadays the norm with the majority of properties, especially new builds and there is a very good reason why – it keeps in the heat. Without proper insulted windows your home could lose up to 10% of its heat, not to mention up to 10% of your bank balance.

Have you ever walked around a new property and all of a sudden felt a horrid draft but don’t know where it’s coming from? No, it’s not the ghost of tenants past, chances are it’s because there could be a window that doesn’t close properly, it could be that there is a gap in the window where the hinge will not pull the sash in. Always ensure you take a good thorough look around the property, preferably during sunlight and be sure to check out each and every window.

Cozy home. Candles, book and cup of tea

Bear in mind if the property that you are interested in is in a protected area or if it listed, those beautiful vintage widows that can come with the property are likely to be single glazed. It may be worth checking if they have or can have secondary glazing installed.

Insulation is also one the best things that can help keep your flat warm, like a strong winter coat. When it comes to heat, around 25% is lost through the roof. This can be easily reduced by installing insulation throughout the loft. It’s also worth seeing what’s going on in your walls, as around a third of the heat in an uninsulated home is lost this way. Your EPC should provide you with this information, not just the energy performance of the property.

Are you familiar with those old boilers that are being kept together by duct tape and look like a mummy from ancient Egypt is going to pop out of it any second and scare the life out of you? Well, you guessed it, stay away from those!  There is a much higher chance of it breaking down in the bitter months and leaving you without heat.  Instead, always try to secure a property that has either a newly fitted boiler or at least a combi boiler and remember, like a well looked after car, your boiler will need to be serviced on a regular basis to ensure smooth running and minimise those pipes from freezing and bursting.

Finally, as the famous saying goes ‘heat rises’. Apartments on ground and lower ground levels tend to be a lot cooler than those above the first floor. Those top floor apartments of course come at a slight premium, however you will be saving money in the long run and best of all you are getting ‘free heat’ from the flats below!

Georgie spills the beans on working at Davis Brown..

georgiepic

Hi Georgie – what is your job title & what does it entail?

I’m the administrator for both the residential and commercial departments.  I look after the teams as a PA/Secretary, diary management, drafting and distributing property particulars, liaising with clients and tenants, drafting Heads of Terms, AST Agreements, obtaining references, dealing with solicitors, sending out the invoices, you name it really.  I also liaise within Davis Brown with the accounts team, property management team, the works really.  And yes, I’m always welcomed back with open arms (as well as a long list of things to do) after I’ve been away on holiday.

How long have you been working at Davis Brown?

God, that’s giving my age away! It’s got to be 12/13 years now.

So you’re part of the furniture then!  You must have seen many changes over the years, what has been the most significant change for you?

Yes, very much so.  The biggest change is trying to become a paperless office – far easier with the younger team members – the older chaps, not so much so.

Where were you working before Davis Brown & what drew you into the property sector?

I worked for 10 years in the hotel industry in reservations & sales.  To be honest, it’s not that different.  If you can book the right conference room for 500 sales reps, you can find the perfect office for your client.  Same with residential, matching the right flat with the right tenant is very similar to booking the right bedroom for your guest.

Can you tell us a little about how the processes for residential and commercial properties differ?

The process is very different.  On the commercial side, once the boys have negotiated the deal and we have sent out the Heads of Terms to solicitors, you can relax slightly, they do all the legal paperwork.  My main job, once terms have been agreed is chasing both sides and making sure the deal completes.  On the residential side, it is much more personal, you get more involved with matching the right tenant to the right landlord/property.  We also deal with all of the paperwork and contracts ourselves, no passing the buck on this one.

What is it about Davis Brown that’s kept you here for so long?

Apart from my Directors chaining me to my desk you mean?  No, seriously, it’s the people.  We have a fantastic team, not just the residential and commercial guys, all of us work hard to ensure a really good working environment and everyone takes pride in what they do.  Also, having Bertie (our office dog) greet you of a morning always puts a smile on your face; plus being estate agents in Fitzrovia, we have plenty of lovely restaurants and shops in the vicinity to keep us entertained at lunchtime!

Bertie

Tell me about what makes Davis Brown the best place to buy and sell property? 

Knowledge.  Without doubt, that comes across in spades.  It may seem like we have a young team, but boy, do they know their stuff.  Some of the older chaps seem to know a bit as well!!!

Tell me what you think Davis Brown has that keeps its clients loyal?

Again, that’s easy.  As we are RICS accredited, our clients know that we have to maintain very high standards.  We are honest and our clients know that.  Being able to offer a “one stop shop” is a great advantage.  You can sell, buy, improve, refurbish, extend, have your party wall dispute with your neighbour dealt with, get a mortgage valuation, building survey report and after all of that, our property management department will look after what is normally the biggest asset you own.  Not bad for a company of under 20 staff.

What are you doing when you’re not at work?

Sleeping……….. No, really, I’m fortunate to have a wide circle of friends who I meet up with often over a glass or two of vino but spending time with my family mostly.  I’ve have 3 sisters (all married with children/step children) and am lucky that both my parents are  fit and well so Sunday lunch with mum and dad is always a good bet.

Being one of the longest standing members of the team, you must have a little secret you can tell us about your boss?!

Well, there was that one time my Director asked me to… No, actually, I’ll leave it there, as previously mentioned, I enjoy working at Davis Brown…!

 

Tenants allowed pets? Whatever next?!

Naughty dog home alone - yellow labrador retriever destroyed the plush toy and made a mess in the apartment

The Labour party have recently proposed that every tenant should have the right to keep a pet in their rented property. It is common practice for many Landlords to forbid pets within a property, and this can lead to eviction if terms are broken in the lease. This could end up being a vote-winning tactic by the Labour Party appealing to ‘the many’ that are unable to own a pet. The question is whether this is actually feasible and what would the actual consequences be if every tenant had the legal right to have a pet in their rented accommodation.

Every pet owner is aware of the amount of damage that can be caused, however well trained they may be. Taking this into account would the Landlord be able to charge a higher deposit to pet owners to cover the damage? As many may not declare owning a pet prior to moving or acquire one part way through the tenancy would this result in rental deposits increasing for all tenants so the Landlord can cover the damage at the end of the term? If so this could prevent people from moving into a new home as the initial rental costs become too high! If plans come into cap deposits, as has already been proposed, we may end up with some very unpleasant contaminated flea ridden properties. Let’s not forget that not everyone looks after their pet as well as you may do.

Pug dog having a siesta an resting in bed on a pillow on his back , tongue sticking out looking very funny and wrapped with blanket

For people out there who highly allergic to pets you could have a lot of thinking to do. You may have specifically chosen your apartment block or shared accommodation because of a strict ‘No Pets’ policy. Well sadly for you, this could no longer be the case so get prepared to find a new home if a pet owner moved in to the same building!

It is common for many Head leases to prohibit any pets within a block! This means that it is impossible, however hard a Government may try, to force the Landlord of the rental property to give permission for pet access, as they themselves are restricted by the over-riding Head lease. Has this been considered by those who made the proposal?

It can often be the case that tenants who can keep a pet are longer serving tenants, and often people are forced to give away their animals to rescue centres if they move into home where pet ownership is not allowed. Giving all tenants the right to have a pet therefore appears to be a very liberating concept. There are however, so many glaring pot-holes, some of which mentioned above, that this would likely create far more problems than it was actually worth.

 

 

There’s a rat in my kitchen, what am I going to do?

Kitchen pilferers. Now we know who steals meal!

Music is a wonderful thing and thankfully there is  a song for just about every situation.

Up on the 4th floor where all the property management magic happens, we like to keep it light while we scurry around trying to get to everything.  We have a nice team up here and there are moments of banter and hilarity despite the pressure (and probably because of it!).

The song of the week up here is “Rat in my kitchen” by UB40 because unfortunately we are not the only things scurrying about, and lately there have been quite a few reports of rats and mice in some of the properties we manage.

Self-doubt immediately crept in and began gnawing at us (sorry- couldn’t resist!).   Who is responsible  and what can be done?

We turned to one of the pest control companies we use for some facts – knowledge is power after all !

There is a great deal more to effective pest control than meets the eye and it turns out that rats and mice are very versatile creatures capable of causing severe damage to properties including fires from chewed electrical cables, spreading diseases and contaminating furniture and goods.

rat in pot

They are also very good at reproducing, and an occasional sighting can quickly turn into an infestation if immediate action isn’t taken.  Mice are apparently more of a problem than rats because they are drawn to warmth and food sources  and tend to nest in close proximity.  Both need to gnaw on things constantly to keep their incisors short as their teeth grow  constantly.

The general consensus is that poison in appropriate bait boxes is the most effective way to deal with them along with traps, although there are more humane “catch and release” options.

It appears that the best way to combat a mouse or rat problem is to first remove any obvious food sources and then to make sure they do not have easy access to your home by taking measures to cover any holes or gaps in walls and around pipes (apparently steel wool is effective for this). Fixing a bristle strip to the bottom of doors can help too. Follow this with a comprehensive pest control treatment which should be repeated every 6-8 weeks for at least 3 treatments to be sure.

Some of the properties we manage are residential blocks and multi-tenanted commercial buildings and most of our activities in this sphere of property management are limited to the common parts.  Our pest controller’s advice is that sometimes it may be necessary to extend the treatment regime to the tenanted areas  as well as the common parts because the pesky critters will ignore the tasteful bait box in the lobby  and will happily play hide and squeak  and have a “mice” time in the office or flat next door!

Awww rats – that’s enough for now – make sure you read the lease on who is responsible for pest control in tenanted areas but keep an open mind that a wider approach may be necessary and treat the appearance of rats and mice immediately.

Good admice sorry – advice!