Party wall surveyors / Struct engineers – am I being had?

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  • Party wall surveyors / Struct engineers – am I being had?
  • Hi all –
    I’ll try and keep this shortish – but would really appreciate some advice 🙂

    Just had an interim invoice from party wall surveyor after already spending close to 3k on the party wall award in order to protect 2 structures whose rebuild cost is probably half of that already spent on the party wall act.

    History,
    Party wall notices served mid December, award finally awarded early March – neighbour was very awkward (about this and absolutely everything else with this build).

    We are renovating – knocked down existing garage/extension and in its place building 2 story extension – most properties on street have done this (including neighbour) . The party wall award is in place to protect 2 walls – a garden wall (2.5m long * 2.1 high) and adjacent to this garden wall is a return archway wall (2.5m long) with gate in it which he had mortared to the side of our house and then connects to the neighbours house.

    It transpires when we excavated that they are 2 separate structures sitting on separate foundations.

    During excavating for our foundations and after the archway wall had been disconnected from our wall a crack appeared in the crown of the arch (3mm wide). This appeared the day after the excavation and occurred despite there being support put in place for the arch from our side.
    The archway has no keystone and is of a poor construction. And the foundations look like ::

    ie 2 concrete blocks with a line of concrete over them.

    Crack is:

    The garden wall remained undamaged and has adequate foundation – assessed by SE (the contractors cleaned up the foundation of this wall as per method statement prob taking off 3-4cm of it from my land and dug out our foundations from underneath then relaid our foundations.

    We then had a structural engineer give a report on how best to support the garden wall (essentially pouring concrete up to dpc level between my new wall and the garden wall and a few metal ties).

    The neighbour was unhappy with the engineers report and the adjoining owners surveyor requested this “engineering calcs to return the wall to its original condition, factor of safety employed and loads assumed given worst condition loading”.

    We then hired another SE to provide calculations. It seems that this garden wall would always have potentially failed under positive wind loading (fall onto my side). However following the engineers report it would be better than before.

    Again the neighbour has come back via his Party wall surveyor that he wants to see the calculations involved in coming up with the factor of safety.

    To remediate the archway wall the SE recommended crack stitching (about 800 quid) but it may be cheaper to rebuild the arch.

    Anyway I had quite a long discussion with my surveyor arguing the following

    1: Unreasonable for us to be providing all these calculations – the original engineers report should be trusted for what is a garden wall.
    2: The damage to the arch may have been unavoidable on what is a potentially dangerous structure anyway owing to the foundations.
    3: Owing to the neighbour being difficult I was assured that he wouldn’t be involved and it would be up to the surveyors to decide the route of action – this hasn’t happened and has caused us delays and costs.

    He then wrote an email after this conversation saying that “as damage has occurred I am raising an interim invoice”. In all phone calls and communication since ‘damage’ 30 days previously he had not mentioned charging me once until that email. He hasn’t responded to my email querying this invoice or replied to a couple of phone calls.

    An interim invoice arrived a couple of weeks later I then requested, from the company a break down of time spent by my surveyor since damage occurred. 3 weeks later I had the breakdown which was 10 hours work but charging for 6.

    So I now have another bill to pay (PWS aren’t cheap) – and there is no end in sight to the problem. This is at the other end of the scale to a basement extension.

    Should I be liable for PWS time spent on the undamaged garden wall?
    Is it reasonable to request all these calculations when the structures aren’t exactly compliant with any standards to start with, the neighbour obviously didn’t do much in the way of calcs when he built the archway wall.
    If the archway wall was of inadequate and potentially unsafe construction prior to the crack appearing at the crown should I be liable for complete cost of repair to that wall.
    If my surveyor gave me no warning that he would be charging at the time of the ‘damage’ – only 30 days later (even though it was in a terms and conditions form he sent out October 2016 reading “In the unlikely event of damage you’ll be charged xxxx”). Is it fair for him to backdate work done. Obviously I would shorten any communication etc with him had I known he’d be charging.

    I feel like I’m being sh***fted with no way out.

    Quick bump for the evening crowd?

    Premier Icon twistedpencil
    Subscriber

    Won’t get into the legal aspects of the party wall act as its a pain in the arse. But from a structural perspective it’s not easy to retrospectively design a diy masonry arch and justify it. Suspect it would bear up to much scrutiny by numbers.

    Instead of paying for pointless calcs and going back and forth via the party wall act can you not come to an agreement to take it done and rebuild off decent foundations? I would suggest this is likely to be far cheaper and a better final result than to try and protect, monitor and make good during and after your build. Your neighbour should not have tied it to the party wall without getting a party wall agreement so should be amenable to you doing things by the book, but it sounds like they are being miserable sods.

    Can only wish you good luck!

    redmex
    Member

    Neighbours archway should never have been allowed to be connected to your property. That is one bad bit of workmanship not worthy of being called an arch.As for the surveyors fee everyone’s time has to be paid for, probably £80/hr but a lot less than a solicitor

    Thanks for the replies. Its an incredibly frustrating piece of legislation whereby it seems, in this case at least, that it can be used as a tool to frustrate the build process if the adjoining owner so wishes.

    Thus far my contractors / designer and structural engineer can’t believe the costs and hassle that this is causing.

    maccyb
    Member

    ‘Allow’ the arch to collapse accidentally and then rebuild it when you’re done?

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