Reinstatement Cost Assessments – are you correctly insured

As a Landlord is your building correctly insured?  When did you last have the reinstatement cost of your building assessed?  Was it within the last 3 years?  If the answer is no to the last question then a reinstatement cost assessment may be required.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) recommend that the reinstatement values of all buildings are recalculated every 3 years to ensure they are accurate.  In line with RICS advice the reinstatement costs of a building should be reviewed as a desktop exercise annually to ensure there are no significant changes to the building or the potential reinstatement costs.  In most cases the desktop review prior to renewing the building insurance will confirm that there is little change to the property and placing an index linked uplift on the buildings’ reinstatement figure is appropriate.  If the building has changed and the changes have a potential impact on the reinstatement costs of the property then the reinstatement costs should be recalculated.

Whilst applying an index linked uplift is standard practice the RICS advise that reinstatement costs of every building should be should be recalculated every 3 years to ensure they reflect current costs.  Index linking the reinstatement value year on year can over time distort the reinstatement value so it can lead to the sum insured being inaccurate and not correctly reflecting the true reinstatement value.  This in turn could cause issues in the event an insurance claim is made so it is important to review and carry out reinstatement costs assessments to ensure buildings are suitably insured.

We have experience in undertaking inspections and preparing reinstatement cost assessments on all building types to include commercial properties ranging from small retail units to large office and industrial properties to residential blocks.  We work with our clients to ensure that we provide clear information on what is included in the reinstatement costs allowing our clients to obtain the most appropriate insurance cover for their building.

 

 

Client care – understanding the services you require

All to often we receive enquiries from clients who ask for a quotation for a service because someone, possibly an agent or their solicitor has told them they need one.  In many situations we find that the client may not actually know or understand what they are asking for but are simply following up on the advise they received.

We pride ourselves in ensuring we deliver the services our clients need and take time to make sure we understand our clients position and advise them of what they actually need.  We have no desire to sell a client a service just because they ask us for it when we know it is not what they require or will not be of value to them.  Clients do not appreciate receiving a bill for a service they instructed that they subsequently realise they did not need.

We recently received an enquiry from a client looking to take a sub-lease of a office suite from the existing tenant and who was told by the agents dealing with the transaction that they needed a schedule of condition prepared on the office.  The agents had provided a quote to prepare a schedule of condition and the client approached us for an alternative price.  We sought to understand the purpose of the schedule of condition which, as we had expected, we were told was to limit their future end of lease dilapidation’s liabilities.  This was understood but further questioning relating to those potential liabilities uncovered the fact that the terms  of the proposed sub-lease included that the client was liable for a percentage of the dilapidation’s claim made on the tenant from the freeholder of the building at the end of the head lease.   We highlighted the fact that if they were agreeing to pay a percentage of a claim made on the tenant, then that would potentially negate the benefit or value of a schedule of condition as it would not have a bearing on the cost that they would liable for.  Although we may have advised our client out of giving us an instruction  there is no desire to prepare a schedule of condition that we could not see may not be of benefit to our client.  Our client was very appreciative of our honesty and advice and went to discuss this further with their solicitor.

Providing our clients with clear information and guidance is critical for them to understand which services they actually need whilst ensuring we deliver the correct and appropriate professional advice. We are always happy to discuss clients instructions to ensure the high quality service we deliver is one which our clients need, expect and deserve.

Party Wall Instruction – Peacehaven

I am delighted to have been received an appointment to act as the Adjoining Owners’ Surveyor in accordance with the Party Wall etc Act 1996 in Peacehaven, East Sussex

At Tim Greenwoods and Associates we have extensive party wall experience acting on behalf of both building owners undertaking the proposed party wall works, and the adjoining owners.  Our experience includes party wall instructions dealing with both commercial and residential buildings.

The party wall legislation covers works being undertaken on party walls and also those works where excavations are required adjacent to a neighbours property.  The party wall legislation sets out the rights and duties of each party and the timescales that need to be adhered to for agreeing the party wall matters prior to the proposed building works commencing.

We are able to offer clear information on the process, which for many unfamiliar with the party wall process and its terminology, can be confusing.

Once appointed by either the building owner or adjoining owner in accordance with the Party Wall etc Act 1996, we act impartially.  When appointed by the building owner we review the proposed works and prepare and serve party wall notices on the neighbouring owners in accordance with the party wall act.  Following the service of notices we prepare the schedules of condition of the neighbours property and agree party wall awards as required.  Our role when appointed by the adjoining owner is to check the party wall notices, agree the party wall award and schedule of condition with the building owners’ surveyor.

The party wall process can be a daunting one and is often viewed as an unnecessary additional cost to the building owner.  The legislation is designed to protect the party wall when works are being undertaken.  The party wall act also offers the respective owners protection in the event that works cause any damage thus reducing the risk of disputes between neighbours.  We have the expertise to deal with party wall matters and provide the advice required to ensure compliance with the Party Wall etc Act 1996.

Acoustic Advice – noise nuisance between flats

We have recently been approached to advise on a long running problem of noise nuisance between 2 flats in London.  The flats are within a period terraced property which was converted some decades ago and the flats were formed one above the other.  The upper flat installed timber floor coverings in recent years and since then the flat below has reported that footsteps, movement and general noise was audible from the flat above.

Noise complaints and problems between flats is common especially when buildings were constructed or converted before general building practices considered noise transfer in the construction.  In addition to sometimes poor acoustic attenuation between dwellings, the fashion for hard flooring in homes generally increases noise transfer and nuisance between flats creating neighbourly disputes.

We undertake instructions for owners and property managers on a number of residential mansion blocks, purpose build flats and properties converted into flats and are able with our acoustic partners to advise on acoustic issues and complaints in flats.  We are able to arrange appropriate testing of floors and walls as required to advise on the acoustic performance of floors and walls and provide advice in relations to compliance with building regulations and specific lease provisions as applicable.

Acoustic issues commonly arise when owners refurbish their flats.  We work with property managers and provide advice on Licences for Alterations for refurbishment works.  Within those licences we ensure the works are planned and undertaken in accordance with lease, building regulations and best practice requirements.  As part of this we carefully consider acoustic issues to ensure the works do not create a future noise nuisance or potential dispute with neighbours.

We work with both landlords and tenants to ensure that any Licence for Alternations proposals are acceptable.  We also inspect refurbishment works whilst builders are on site to ensure the carefully considered and approved works are constructed correctly.  Poor installation and failure to construct details correctly can lead to a reduction of acoustic performance which could fail to achieve the required standard.

We have experience in working with Clients offering advice and technical support on acoustic issues in residential blocks and are able to ensure all parties are clear on the issues and how they can be resolved.

 

Party Wall Notices – when should they be served?

The Party Wall etc Act 1996 places a requirement on building owners undertaking work on a party wall or excavating within the vicinity of the party wall, to serve party wall notices on the respective adjoining owners.  If is often the case that whilst building owners understand that they need to obtain planning and building control consents they are unfamiliar with the party wall process and do not appreciate that it is a statutory requirement and not an optional one.

The Party Wall process can often take longer than building owners anticipate and in some cases can delay the start of works on site.  Whilst the Party Wall etc Act 1996 prescribes that notice for working on the party wall must be served a minimum of 2 months before those works commence and any excavations 1 month prior to starting, these timescales are often not long enough to deal with the party wall matters.  It is therefore recommended that party wall advice is sought early on to prevent delays to the works on site.

The party wall legislation requires a building owner to appoint a surveyor to act on their behalf if the works being undertaken fall within those prescribed in The Party Wall etc Act 1996.   Once notices are served adjoining owners have 2 weeks to respond and if they decide to dissent to the works they have the option of agreeing the appointment of the building owners surveyor or appointing their own surveyor to act on their behalf.  The building owner undertaking the works typically pays the fees which are often unwelcome however the process is a statutory requirement so cannot be ignored.

We have extensive experience in dealing with party wall issues and are able to act for either building owners or adjoining owners.  We provide clear advice on the process, setting out owners rights and obligations in accordance with the party wall legislation on all building types which can range from major new build developments, residential alternations and extensions along with minor repairs to the party wall.

 

Dilapidations advice for Tenants

Schedules of Dilapidations are often something of a shock to many tenants who are unaware of their liabilities under their lease.  At the point of agreeing a lease, for many, the financial implications at the end of that lease are generally not considered and tenants often find that the Schedules of Dilapidations at the lease end are seemingly unfair.  It is a common situation to find that Schedules of Dilapidations include defects that existed prior to the lease commencement however if a tenant did not take professional advice on the condition of the building, or limit their repairing obligations formally at the lease commencement, then unfortunately they can find themselves liable for the repairs that pre-dated their lease.

It is always recommended to instruct a Building Survey prior to agreeing a lease to identify the nature and condition of the building so the prospective tenant has an understanding of the issues and condition of the property.  It is advisable to instruct a Building Survey to be undertaken even if the lease is only an internal repairing and insuring one as in most situations whilst the tenant may only be directly liable for the internal areas of their demise they are liable for a share of the service charge which covers the external areas and common parts.  In the event major external works are required such as repairs or replacement of roof coverings or external repairs and redecorations then the costs, or share of them, can be significant.

It is always advisable that any prospective tenant looking to take a lease protects their interest.  In addition to instructing a Building Survey, which may highlight issues with the building, it is imperative that those issues noted are raised and formally recorded within the lease clearly stating that the lessee is not liable for them.  In the event the lessee wants to limit their liability a Schedule of Condition should be prepared to record the condition of the demise at the lease commencement and this would need to be agreed with the landlord and referenced in the lease.

It is common for prospective lessees to dismiss the need for a  Building Survey or professional advice on the nature of the building they are signing up for on the basis that the fees are high and unnecessary.  It is however usual that the advice at this stage pays dividends at the lease end if the lessee has limited their liability and has a good appreciation of the dilapidations they are likely to face which they can plan and be prepared for.

Tim Greenwood and Associates offer a full range of advice to lessees on their dilapidations’  liabilities in accordance with their lease.

Schedule of Condition – Blackburn

We recently received an instruction to undertake an inspection and prepare a Schedule of Condition of an industrial unit in Blackburn, Lancashire.  The enquiry was received with the requirement being that the inspection had to be made on a specific date, within a few days of receiving the instruction, to coincide with a commercial deal that was being undertaken by our Client.

The purpose of the Schedule of Condition was to record the condition of the industrial unit which was owned and occupied by a company which our Client, following the deal, was to have an interest in.  As part of the deal our Client was to take on the liability of the industrial unit and wanted to limit their future liabilities to ensure they were not to be responsible for any pre-existing defects or issues in the building.  The Schedule of Condition set out the nature of each element both externally and internally and recorded their condition and visible defects.

The instruction included both the internal and external elements of the building and although the instruction was given at short notice we were able to arrange for an access hoist to be in attendance to allow us to include a high level inspection of the roof  for inclusion in the Schedule of Condition.

The Schedule of Condition included detailed text describing each element in turn and commentary on their condition and any defects noted.  The report was supplemented with detailed photographs supporting the text.  The completed Schedule of Condition was completed and  issued 3 days after the inspection.

 

 

 

Party Wall Award

We are delighted to have received and number of appointments for us as party wall surveyors under The Party Wall etc Act 1996.

These appointments have been received in recent weeks from a number of sources including referrals from architects both locally and in London.

We have been appointed to act at Building Owners’ Surveyor for an owner undertaking a refurbishment and extension of their house in Cuckfield West Sussex.  We served notice on the Adjoining Owner who appointed us as the Agreed Surveyor and we prepared a schedule of condition of the neighbours property.  This schedule was included that in the party wall award, which set out the details of the proposed works, and the party wall award was issued to both the Building and Adjoining Owners.

We are acting as Building Owners’ Surveyor for a similar residential project in Godalming.  Party wall notices have been served on the Adjoining Owner and their response is yet to be received.

We received another appointment from a developer in Dorking to act as Building Owners’ Surveyor.  On this occasion the Adjoining Owner appointed their own surveyor who we met on site to agree the schedule of condition and the party wall award is currently being negotiated.

We were appointed by the owner of mews house in London to act as Adjoining Owners’ Surveyor when they received notice from their neighbour that they proposed to undertake works to the party wall.  The schedule of condition has been completed and details of the works are awaited to agree the party wall award.

We are experienced party wall surveyors and are able to provide information and advice on the Party Wall etc Act 1996 and the implications of it on building projects that may include works on party walls or works to foundations in the vicinity of a neighbours property.  Party wall awards can take some time to complete and therefore we always advise that sufficient time is allowed to ensure compliance with the party wall legislation and to prevent there being delays to works on site.  We are able to advise both Building Owners and Adjoining Owners of their rights and duties to ensure legal compliance.

Commercial Building Survey – Southend on sea, Essex

We were pleased to receive instructions to undertake a commercial building survey of retail unit in the High Street in Southend on sea.  The instruction was referred to us from solicitors on behalf of their Client who was purchasing the freehold interest of an occupied retail unit.  Our Client was looking to acquiring the retail unit for investment purposes.  The property was occupied by a national retailer who had a long lease and the tenant was to remain in occupation thought the acquisition.

The freehold of the retail unit was being sold by auction and the instruction was time critical for the transaction to progress. The building survey of the retail unit was completed within a week of receiving instructions and the commercial building survey report issued a week later.

The commercial building survey was undertaken with the tenant in occupation and the inspection included an inspection and review of all the accessible areas.  These areas included the numerous roof areas, external walls and other external elements, and the internal structure and finishes.  Some of the internal finishes were obscured by the tenants fixtures and fittings and stock items at the time of the inspection.  The inspection also included a review of all the tenants servicing and maintenance documentation to understand and comment upon the tenants maintenance regime.

The commercial building survey report set out the nature and condition of the building.  The building survey report continues by making commentary on the on the defects and also the issues that may have implications on our Client in both the short and long terms following the acquisition of the freehold interest.  These issues raised included physical defects and in addition we also made commentary on the legislation that our Client that would impact his ownership should he successfully acquire the freehold interest of the retail unit.

 

 

 

Commercial Building Survey Report Winchester

Our Client was looking to take the lease of a small retail unit in Winchester High Street.  The propose demised formed the ground floor of a period building which had a separately accessed maisonette above which did not form part of our Clients’ proposed demise.  Due to the age of the building our Client had concerns over their potential liabilities and instructed us to prepare a building survey report to advise on the building, its condition and their potential liabilities.  This instruction was subject to a tight timescale and the inspection was undertaken 2 working days following the confirmation of the instruction and the building survey report issued 3 days after the site survey.

The inspection was undertaken and a number of issues were highlighted to the Client in the building survey report.  These issues included the fact that the period building had been subject to previous structural movement and repair.  Our Clients’ lease was internally repairing and insuring only however we recommended they checked to confirm not only the extent of their demise which would impact on their dilapidations’ obligations under their lease, but also their service charge liabilities.  Leases in multi-let properties often include a service charge to cover the cost of repairs and maintenance of common parts.  Those elements outside of the demised areas are typically managed and repaired by the landlord with the cost of those repairs typically borne by the tenants through their service charge contributions.

The building survey report set out the nature of the demise and in addition to the structural defects also noted areas of damp and fire separation issues between the retail unit and the maisonette above.  In addition to the more critical defects general items of disrepair were highlighted that our Client would need to resolve as part of their shop fit out.

The building survey report enabled our Client to negotiate with the landlord as part of their re-acquisition discussions to limit their future liabilities with regards the pre-existing defects.