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  • FIRST POST
    • walshy252
    • By walshy252 16th Jun 17, 10:33 PM
    • 17Posts
    • 6Thanks
    walshy252
    Neighbour has removed chimney breasts without notice!
    • #1
    • 16th Jun 17, 10:33 PM
    Neighbour has removed chimney breasts without notice! 16th Jun 17 at 10:33 PM
    Hi everyone

    Hoping for some help here to what is quite a heated issue at the moment.

    Today I noted serious drilling and banging to our party wall (semi detached house) which led to a large amount of debris and bricks falling in to our open fireplace. I knocked on the neighbours door and found two builders removing the chimney breasts in both downstairs and upstairs rooms. Alarmed I asked them why they were doing the work and the response was that they had been asked to remove them. On further questioning they confirmed that no building regulations approval had been made as they were not required. I was alarmed to look down the open chimney flue to see daylight coming in from my fireplace. I advised them that on my side of the wall one room had an open fire and one had a gas fireplace. They said there would be no issue as they would plaster and render the flue to ensure all gases and smoke would leave as normal. NOT CONVINCED, I rang Building Control at the council who made it clear that building regs were required and had not been approved. The advisor was so concerned about the potential gas safety impact that he sent an inspector around immediately to assess the situation.

    The inspector demanded that work stop immediately due to the safety concern and lack of approval. He also advised us that the work will have caused damage to our flues which would need to be investigated further and that in the meantime we should not use either gas or open fireplace (lucky we are in the summer) for fear of smoke/carbon monoxide. He had to make a second demand for work to stop as the first was not heeded and then on leaving the builders continued and ignored our protest.

    So there is an obvious breach of party wall act here, plus the potential for damages and repairs to property, but most concerning is the potential safety implications as these cowboys have just knocked out the chimney breasts and dont appear to have supported the stack at all. They had absolutely no interest in the potential safety issue despite debris falling down the flue in to the back our of gas fireplace.

    We are intending to write to them tomorrow to outline our concerns and highlight the party wall breach. I'd really appreciate some advice and comments on the issue and where we should go next. I intend to call our home insurer for legal advice (cover included) though I am loath to inform them due to potential of impacting our buildings cover!

    many thanks!
Page 1
    • moneyistooshorttomention
    • By moneyistooshorttomention 16th Jun 17, 10:41 PM
    • 13,173 Posts
    • 36,054 Thanks
    moneyistooshorttomention
    • #2
    • 16th Jun 17, 10:41 PM
    • #2
    • 16th Jun 17, 10:41 PM
    Best to get onto your home insurers legal helpline asap imo (like first thing tomorrow morning).

    You've done what you can to date by the sound of it and I'm wondering whether you might be best served by asking your legal helpline re the possibility of getting an injunction against the neighbours and that might do the trick of getting them to stop work on this.

    Meanwhile - keep records/take photos/etc.
    ploughing my own furrow...

    No-one can make you feel inferior without your consent.
    • Davesnave
    • By Davesnave 16th Jun 17, 11:22 PM
    • 22,925 Posts
    • 88,082 Thanks
    Davesnave
    • #3
    • 16th Jun 17, 11:22 PM
    • #3
    • 16th Jun 17, 11:22 PM
    if you have a mortgage, you should also inform your lender, from whom more assistance might also be forthcoming, as they have an interest in the structural integrity of the building.
    'A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they'll never sit in.'
    • I have spoken
    • By I have spoken 17th Jun 17, 7:12 PM
    • 4,903 Posts
    • 9,597 Thanks
    I have spoken
    • #4
    • 17th Jun 17, 7:12 PM
    • #4
    • 17th Jun 17, 7:12 PM
    Sounds like the neighbours have got complete cowboys in

    Do you know the neighbours to speak to or is a BTL?

    You may need to ring around some 'no win, no fee' solicitors who can lodge a party wall injunction to begin with
    • Rosemary7391
    • By Rosemary7391 17th Jun 17, 7:30 PM
    • 1,836 Posts
    • 3,186 Thanks
    Rosemary7391
    • #5
    • 17th Jun 17, 7:30 PM
    • #5
    • 17th Jun 17, 7:30 PM
    Scratch not contacting the insurers - sounds like there is damage to your building. Worth considering claiming for it through them and letting them sort the neighbour out. With their approved tradesfolk, not your neighbour's ! TBH with something this important I'd probably get as many different folks involved as I could in the hope that one of them might make something stick...
    Me escondo detras de mi lengua... tengo miedo de que me entiendas... pero me gustara que me entendases ¡Ayudame!
    • George Michael
    • By George Michael 17th Jun 17, 8:57 PM
    • 2,810 Posts
    • 3,808 Thanks
    George Michael
    • #6
    • 17th Jun 17, 8:57 PM
    • #6
    • 17th Jun 17, 8:57 PM
    You may need to ring around some 'no win, no fee' solicitors who can lodge a party wall injunction to begin with
    Originally posted by I have spoken
    I wouldn't have thought that this is the sort of thing that would interest a NWNF solicitor as these normally get their fees out of any compensation or directly from the losing party.

    If all they have to do is to write an injunction letter, there won't be any money coming their way from the neighbours so their work would need to be paid for by the OP.
    • I have spoken
    • By I have spoken 17th Jun 17, 9:39 PM
    • 4,903 Posts
    • 9,597 Thanks
    I have spoken
    • #7
    • 17th Jun 17, 9:39 PM
    • #7
    • 17th Jun 17, 9:39 PM
    >I wouldn't have thought that this is the sort of thing that would interest a NWNF solicitor <

    Just check Google...
    • Annie1960
    • By Annie1960 18th Jun 17, 5:11 PM
    • 2,667 Posts
    • 1,491 Thanks
    Annie1960
    • #8
    • 18th Jun 17, 5:11 PM
    • #8
    • 18th Jun 17, 5:11 PM
    At the risk or repeating myself it really is high time the construction industry was regulated.

    Will your neighbours respect thee Council's order to stop? You say you are going to write to the builders, but it is really the owners of the property you need to write to (or both if you really want to write to the builders).

    As others have said, speak to your insurance company. You are entitled to a party wall agreement via a suitably qualified chartered surveyor, and your neighbour will have to pay your fee for this.

    https://www.gov.uk/guidance/party-wall-etc-act-1996-guidance
    • Aylesbury Duck
    • By Aylesbury Duck 18th Jun 17, 10:16 PM
    • 909 Posts
    • 1,019 Thanks
    Aylesbury Duck
    • #9
    • 18th Jun 17, 10:16 PM
    • #9
    • 18th Jun 17, 10:16 PM
    At the risk or repeating myself it really is high time the construction industry was regulated.
    Originally posted by Annie1960
    Not really a risk, you just have.
    • George Michael
    • By George Michael 18th Jun 17, 10:27 PM
    • 2,810 Posts
    • 3,808 Thanks
    George Michael
    >I wouldn't have thought that this is the sort of thing that would interest a NWNF solicitor <

    Just check Google...
    Originally posted by I have spoken

    Why should I check Google.
    You brought the subject up so it's only fair to give you the chance to respond.
    If a NWNF solicitor writes an injunction letter and the neighbour complies with that letter and stops the work, who is going to pay the solicitor for their work?
    • Phil_L
    • By Phil_L 18th Jun 17, 10:37 PM
    • 113 Posts
    • 97 Thanks
    Phil_L
    I would suggest that the best course of action is to contact the building control officer first thing Monday morning. From you post it would appear that a Prohibition Notice has been issued. If this is the case and it has been ignored the consequences will be severe for the builders.

    A prosecution will help your compensation claim no end.
    • Annie1960
    • By Annie1960 18th Jun 17, 10:56 PM
    • 2,667 Posts
    • 1,491 Thanks
    Annie1960
    Not really a risk, you just have.
    Originally posted by Aylesbury Duck

    Yes, I have, and I will keep on. I'm still surprised that people in the industry who consider themselves to be genuine traders tolerate cowboys, and don't want to see them regulated.

    They are taking business away from good traders, and the reputation of everyone in the industry is tarnished by them.

    It's quite remarkable that there is no impetus from the construction workers who do a good job to clamp down on the cowboys. I can't think of any other industry where this would happen.
    • Doozergirl
    • By Doozergirl 18th Jun 17, 11:10 PM
    • 23,580 Posts
    • 65,742 Thanks
    Doozergirl
    For goodness sake, Annie. No one is going to agree with you when you rub everyone up the wrong way. There's a way of influencing people. Hijacking every thread and metaphorically stomping over the board leaving your own amateur and flawed version of advice, whilst still asking for advice, is not it. Nobody appreciates you accusing us all of being tolerant of cowboys doesn't help either. Not one of us on this board is your builder, so you can stop behaving like we are and putting words in our mouths. We come here to try and be helpful and give the benefit of our experience for free. It is a simple fact that the regulars on this board have helped saved people thousands upon thousands of pounds and also tried to avert disaster before it happens (and also failed). We are not perfect but it is far better than nothing and it is utterly tedious to come here to read accusations every day. It is childish and I will start reporting those posts where I see you doing it again because I find it offensive. I've been here a long time and I'm not easily offended.

    We could do all the things that we know are done in practice on the professionalised side of things under regulation and have explained in some detail. But you don't even like what is tried and tested and that is what makes any conversation pointless. It is a tirade, not a conversation.

    I apologise, OP, for the continued hijacking of your thread. I will step down from my soapbox.
    Everything that is supposed to be in heaven is already here on earth.
    • ComicGeek
    • By ComicGeek 19th Jun 17, 9:16 AM
    • 164 Posts
    • 116 Thanks
    ComicGeek
    At the risk or repeating myself it really is high time the construction industry was regulated.
    Originally posted by Annie1960
    And how would regulating the construction industry change this situation? A good builder wouldn't do this, only a cowboy builder and they wouldn't bother with accreditations etc anyway.

    Just think about how long Gas Safe and before that Corgi have been around, and still some people don't check who's playing with their boiler and personal safety. The problem is with individuals, like the OP's neighbour, who don't bother researching - FFS, we've got Google these days people, and while you can't trust 100% of what's on there it will always point you to the right place to ask further questions of a professional!!

    It took the OP a few minutes to ask a question on the phone, why couldn't the OP's neighbour do that before starting on site.
    • Annie1960
    • By Annie1960 19th Jun 17, 10:07 AM
    • 2,667 Posts
    • 1,491 Thanks
    Annie1960
    And how would regulating the construction industry change this situation? A good builder wouldn't do this, only a cowboy builder and they wouldn't bother with accreditations etc anyway.
    Originally posted by ComicGeek
    You're not understanding the concept of licensing.

    If all builders had to be licensed, like a driving license, they would be forced to comply or face criminal action.
    • EssexExile
    • By EssexExile 19th Jun 17, 10:17 AM
    • 2,287 Posts
    • 1,524 Thanks
    EssexExile
    If all builders had to be licensed, like a driving license, they would be forced to comply or face criminal action.
    Originally posted by Annie1960
    Firstly not all drivers have a license, the same would go for builders.
    Secondly, in the case in hand the builders haven't complied with regulations & may well face criminal action.
    Tall, dark & handsome. Well two out of three ain't bad.
    • Annie1960
    • By Annie1960 19th Jun 17, 10:34 AM
    • 2,667 Posts
    • 1,491 Thanks
    Annie1960
    For goodness sake, Annie. No one is going to agree with you when you rub everyone up the wrong way.

    This is an emotional argument you are making. My arguments are not emotional. I am looking at from the point of view of a consumer, and your perspective is different.

    There's a way of influencing people. Hijacking every thread and metaphorically stomping over the board leaving your own amateur and flawed version of advice, whilst still asking for advice, is not it. Nobody appreciates you accusing us all of being tolerant of cowboys doesn't help either. Not one of us on this board is your builder, so you can stop behaving like we are and putting words in our mouths.

    You are again interpreting my arguments as though they are emotional ones, which they are not. I am entitled to express my opinion on this forum, and nobody is forcing you to read my posts. My comments were directed towards the OP, who appears to be fairly new.

    You don't have to read my posts if you don't want to. I seem to recall there is even some way you can block my posts from appearing on your screen if you want,

    I deny that I have ever said anything that could be objectively described as offensive. If you have taken offence maybe you are interpreting my posts in a way that is not intended.

    We come here to try and be helpful and give the benefit of our experience for free. It is a simple fact that the regulars on this board have helped saved people thousands upon thousands of pounds and also tried to avert disaster before it happens (and also failed).

    Interesting claim. How have you calculated the 'thousands upon thousands of pounds'? I would be fascinated to see your calculation - can you provide a link to this?

    We are not perfect but it is far better than nothing and it is utterly tedious to come here to read accusations every day. It is childish and I will start reporting those posts where I see you doing it again because I find it offensive. I've been here a long time and I'm not easily offended.

    I do not consider my posts to be childish. They are usually responding to other consumers who have had similar problems to the one I had. I frequently mention places where consumers can get help (insurance policy legal cover if they have it, or Citizens' Advice consumer helpline. for example). I have been criticised by someone who appears to be in the construction industry for repeating this information before, but many of the posters are new and my responses are addressed to them.

    Feel free to report my posts if you wish, but I can see nothing offensive in them. You appear to want to maintain the status quo in the construction industry, and I want to see changes, How is this childish?

    We could do all the things that we know are done in practice on the professionalised side of things under regulation and have explained in some detail. But you don't even like what is tried and tested and that is what makes any conversation pointless. It is a tirade, not a conversation.

    I have not been trying to have a conversation with you or others who represent the construction industry, as I can see you are very stuck in your ways. I have been addressing other consumers, but I see you don't like this. You don't have to read my posts. You appear to want to censor the points I am making to other consumers as you don't like what I'm saying.

    I apologise, OP, for the continued hijacking of your thread. I will step down from my soapbox.
    Originally posted by Doozergirl
    So what advice or help have you tried to provide to the OP on this thread? I have provided a link to factual information regarding the Party Wall Act which I hope the OP finds useful. I know about this from my perspective as a consumer and home owner. I can see no constructive suggestion from you, but please correct me if I am wrong.
    • teneighty
    • By teneighty 19th Jun 17, 1:13 PM
    • 975 Posts
    • 673 Thanks
    teneighty
    Before this thread gets completely hijacked I will try to offer some advice.

    It depends what stage the work is at now.

    As the OP posted at 10.30 on Friday it could well be that the work is now complete so the Party Wall Act ship has already sailed and the OP has missed that opportunity. It will be up to the OP to prove that damage has occurred as a result of the work and make a civil claim against the neighbour.

    If the work was stopped then the OP needs to get in touch with a local party wall surveyor URGENTLY, like in the next 10 minutes.
    The procedures under the Act can only really be started by the person doing the work but a good party wall surveyor appointed by the OP/adjoining owner should be able to put the fear of god and the threat of eye wateringly expensive court injunctions and legal expenses to the building owner which should concentrate their mind and get the work halted and the necessary notices served.

    The RICS has a consumer helpline which gives access to 30 minutes of free advice regarding party wall issues from a local chartered surveyor Tel 02476 868 555. I haven't tried it but at least it is free. Although really it will probably be better to phone around the local experts and just see who is available immediately.
    • walshy252
    • By walshy252 19th Jun 17, 10:47 PM
    • 17 Posts
    • 6 Thanks
    walshy252
    Before this thread gets completely hijacked I will try to offer some advice.

    It depends what stage the work is at now.

    As the OP posted at 10.30 on Friday it could well be that the work is now complete so the Party Wall Act ship has already sailed and the OP has missed that opportunity. It will be up to the OP to prove that damage has occurred as a result of the work and make a civil claim against the neighbour.

    If the work was stopped then the OP needs to get in touch with a local party wall surveyor URGENTLY, like in the next 10 minutes.
    The procedures under the Act can only really be started by the person doing the work but a good party wall surveyor appointed by the OP/adjoining owner should be able to put the fear of god and the threat of eye wateringly expensive court injunctions and legal expenses to the building owner which should concentrate their mind and get the work halted and the necessary notices served.

    The RICS has a consumer helpline which gives access to 30 minutes of free advice regarding party wall issues from a local chartered surveyor Tel 02476 868 555. I haven't tried it but at least it is free. Although really it will probably be better to phone around the local experts and just see who is available immediately.
    Originally posted by teneighty
    Thanks for the advice all.

    Work continued through the weekend but not today despite the council officer demanding it to stop on Friday. I had an update from the building control officer today who has advised that they are happy with the structural safety but they have ordered our flue to be sealed, with the caveat that they cannot guarantee its gas/smoke safety. The best way to be sure of safety is for the flues to be lined. Worth noting that building control have attempted to contact the owner today but have not had any response.

    I emailed the owner on Saturday morning (fed up of talking in circles by phone and wanted something more formal) to ask that work cease until building control had issued their report. I also asked for an explanation as to why he had totally disregarded the party wall act, and for his acceptance that a surveyor should be appointed to review the work and recommend actions. So far I have heard nothing despite chasing by text message today.

    Our legal rep has said that we have a case to pursue damages and repair costs (e.g. the liners) but a settlement would be the best way to go. Party Wall act can be started retrospectively but the onus is on the owner and not enforceable. Unless he agrees to a party wall surveyor, it looks like I will have to get somebody on my side to make a best guess on what repairs are required to make the fireplaces safe, and then pursue for the cost.

    So while he is simply ignoring my messages and also not responding to the council I'm unsure where to go. I can't appoint a surveyor if they cannot access the property to assess the work.

    The plot thickens and my blood pressure rises. Must be the heat!
    • teneighty
    • By teneighty 20th Jun 17, 8:23 AM
    • 975 Posts
    • 673 Thanks
    teneighty
    So your next step is to pay for a camera survey and smoke tests on the affected flues. If it shows the flues are damaged then you will have to approach your neighbour to recover the cost of re-lining the flues. If necessary taking them to court, probably within the small claims/money claim route.

    You only have to show by balance of probability that the neighbour caused the damage and if you can show they blatantly ignored their responsibilities under the Party Wall Act it will massively work in your favour.

    Good Luck
    Last edited by teneighty; 20-06-2017 at 9:23 AM.
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