Case Studies

Our expertise as Chartered Surveyors covers a wide range of knowledge and skills. We make sure our website is up to date with our recent projects, so our potential customers can see what we get up to on a day to day basis. We also provide examples of interesting or unusual cases we have completed for our previous clients. Our case studies cover a range of problems one of which you may be experiencing in your current property. So, take a look below, browse around our website and call us if any questions arise that you wish us to answer.

 

 

japanese knotweed (and other invasive plants)

         how your sale or purchase could be affected

 

 After a cold and long few Winter months, Spring is most definitely here and the garden is starting to burst into colour. As we start to enjoy our gardens over the coming months it provides the ideal opportunity to regularly inspect for signs of invasive plants such as Japanese Knotweed which can wreak havoc in your garden and affect your chances of selling or buying a home. 

 

What is Japanese Knotweed?

Japanese Knotweed (Fallopia Japonica) lies dormant during the Winter months but during late April and May reddish-pink buds start to sprout. Throughout the Summer months it can grow at a rate of 1ft per week and its bamboo-like stems shoot upwards to over 7ft tall, strangling all other garden plants in it’s destructive path. The leaves are heart-shaped – with sprouts having a reddish tinge with “knots” at stem joints, and turning a lime green. In the Summer months they produce clusters of cream flowers. It is most commonly found alongside roads, wasteland including development sites, rivers and railway lines and spreads through underground stems called rhizomes which can lay dormant for up to 20 years. It’s not illegal to grow Knotweed, but it must be kept under tight control to prevent is spreading to neighbouring gardens. To allow the plant to spread is a criminal offence. 

 

Why is it such a problem?

If you have Knotweed in your garden some mortgage lenders will refuse to grant mortgages due to the weed’s destructive ways. This is because its extensive roots can penetrate deep into the ground causing damage to property including foundations, drains and pipework, patios, paths and drives, boundary and retaining walls, outbuildings, conservatories and gardens. A fragment the size of a fingernail is capable of re-growth! 

 

There are several varieties of knotweed out there and identification is important. The RHS have a fantastic guide here.

 

Treatment

There are a number of ways which Japanese Knotweed can be eradicated which include: There are a range of available including: 

  • Chemical treatment
  • Relocation and herbicidal programme 
  • Reduced dig and herbicidal programme
  • In situ capping
  • On site burial 
  • Excavation and removal

Japanese Knotweed can be treated yourselves (though we do not recommend this) and this is best done in June and July when the plant will draw in the chemical treatments the best. Recommendations include cutting the Knotweed back so there is an 8 -12 inch hollow stem above ground height and then dripping a glyphosate-based weed killer inside the stem. This may have to be repeated annually to ensure that the Knotweed is dead.

 

Japanese Knotweed is classed as ‘controlled waste’ under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 so it must be disposed of at a licensed landfill site - do not put it on a compost heap or leave it out for bin collection. Incineration is not a reliable method of disposal. If you prefer, you can call in the experts – the local Environment Agency should be able to provide a list of local contractors who are licensed to get rid of Knotweed. Costs can very from £1500-£3000 depending on the severity of the problem and treatment can involve repeat visits for at least five years. Any professional contractor work should come with an insurance backed guarantee and may also involve the removal of contaminated soil. If Knotweed is spotted on a property survey then a mortgage provider is likely to insist on you hiring a professional to handle the problem before granting you a home loan. 

 

Buying and selling property: The legal position Since 2013, the seller is required to state whether Japanese Knotweed is present at the property through a TA6 form (the property information for used for conveyancing). Ultimately, you must seek legal advice from your solicitor but a summary of your position is here: 

 

Vendors:  You are responsible for checking whether your garden has Japanese Knotweed (bearing in mind that it can die back in winter). The TA6 form asks you to confirm whether your property is affected by Japanese Knotweed and, if it is, to provide a management plan for its eradication from a professional company. 

 

Purchasers: The presence of Japanese Knotweed will be stated in the responses to the TA6 form. This often results in your mortgage lender requiring assurances that it will be eradicated before agreeing the funds. A management plan by a professional eradication company, backed by a transferable guarantee, is usually sufficient. It is most common for this plan to be provided by the seller before the purchase is completed. Whether a buyer or seller, it is also worth being pro-active and checking the property for Japanese Knotweed and other invasive plants. Disputes over the identity of a plant, the failure to disclose its presence, or the lack of a management plan can result in delays, increased costs later in the buying process, or even a possible misrepresentation claim after the sale, so this approach will help avoid problems

 

 

 

leasehold, councils & compulsory purchase

  

I am acting for someone who has a long leasehold on a flat, which was granted in 1992, in Barking, Outer London. The flats are 1960s built, and the local Council have decided the entire block and estate needs updating and renovation, as not all are privately owned and many are still rented from the Council. The Council have indicated they want to buy back the private leasehold flats, so as to carry out the overall scheme, as they could not do so without having all flats in these several blocks. They are currently offering to do so by individual negotiations, but if necessary will take powers for Compulsory Purchase, under the Compulsory Purchase Act 1965,(as amended).

I am acting in the negotiations for the owner to agree the price to be paid, which must be at full Market Value under that Act. The council are not entitled to any discount or reduction, although they are the Landlords. Even if the flat is in very poor condition, needing modernisation or badly-maintained, no reduction is permissible, since the point of the purchase Scheme is to make improvements to the whole estate; such arguments are excluded by the Act, and by the "RICS Code on Dilapidations", as well as case law. 

ROOF PROBLEMS


The house front clearly showed a sag in the roof slope, which had concrete tiles fitted to replace slates. Concrete tiles are about three times as heavy as slates (which absorb hardly any water), but concrete tiles are more absorbent and heavier once they are wet, so the roof structure normally has to be strengthened. If not, it is likely to sag, or even collapse if stress is high enough - snow fall can be the last straw to break the camel's back. 



The two roof pictures show the small struts added lower down as an inadequate attempt to strengthen that roof slope, and circled is where the purlin (horizontal timber) has bowed downwards with the weight, causing the sag. The short struts running up from the ceiling level should have been longer and actually bearing on the purlin to support it properly. The cost to do it correctly at the time tiles were fitted was about £200 - cost to put right now is many, many times more and involves jacking up and then supporting the formation without damage!

Dilapidations Claim


"Eyesurvey have recently completed a case concerning a "Schedule of Dilapidations" on a shop unit at Lakeside Shopping Centre, West Thurrock. This is a notification under a commercial lease of breaches of the covenants (promises) to repair or maintain the premises and to keep decorations in good order. The amount of the claim involved, and alleged to be the Landlord's loss, was over £41,000, including the Landlord's surveyors fees.

 

Les Long FRICS, our Principal, inspected the unit, then checked the claim document against the lease. He found that the shop front fitted, various modifications inside the shop, all approved by the Landlord many years ago, had to be returned to the original "shell" state as at entry, when the lease ended. That was around two months after the claim document was served.

 

The items listed in that claim simply amounted to an intimation that those items were to be removed on vacating, and no breaches of the lease were actually involved. The Landlord's surveyor had not prepared the correct form of notification to carry out those works. Consequently, no costs or surveyor's fees could be claimed, if the tenant actually carried out the work as they vacated. The work was completed on time by the tenant's contractors, on the advice of Eyesurvey, saving the client the entire amount of over £41,000, as had been claimed for the Landlord."


Expert Witness Case

 

"Eyesurvey Principal, Leslie J Long FRICS, has just completed a Retrospective Valuation report as at September 2008, as Expert Witness for solicitors concerning a High Court case. Strict Court Rules of Conduct apply to any Expert Witness, even in reporting for the preliminary legal negotiations leading up to a Court Hearing. This all took many hours of careful work to prepare, including finding historic evidence of property values.

 

The case hinged on alleged over-valuation of a property for mortgage purposes, where the lender lost substantial moneys on a re-sale of the mortgaged property following that being re-possessed. They claimed against the original valuer for negligence, and for damages of over £90,000, plus interest. The Claimant had produced a valuation from another surveyor acting as their expert, but on a detailed reading of that report and background research, Les was able to show the original valuation was both reasonable and within a fair margin of "allowable error".

 

In addition, the other "expert report" contained errors of fact, and showed an unbalanced analysis of market evidence of values at the relevant date, so this report was misleading and not proper guidance for the Court to rely upon. We are confident the Court will reject that other report for those reasons, and that the Claim will be withdrawn. Only by considerable attention to detail and checking of facts, which Les had to carry out, can his work be offered to a Court in acting as an "Expert Witness. He is willing to receive similar commissions from any legal advisers with similar requirements."

Cavity Wall Insulation 


Eyesurvey have recently been engaged to advise a property owner in North Essex, as to problems with the cavity wall insulation installed by injection methods around 2004. There were damp areas found inside the property. Inspection showed the injection holes in the outside walls were incorrectly spaced.

 

On removing two bricks in different locations carefully, so as not to disturb the insulation between the skins of the wall, we were able to see that no insulation was visible. Then, by feeling around inside the wall cavity, we found that the cavity had no insulation material inside for some distance from both the openings we had made.

 

 

A Thermal Imaging camera survey was arranged, producing the image shown below. The green areas show good heat retention: red areas show serious heat loss, indicating incomplete insulation. Red areas can be seen above and below the main window. Similar images were found on each of the four walls around that property. This is strong evidence of incomplete insulation.

 

This can cause dampness, due to the cold spots at points of poor insulation which tend to concentrate moisture. That will lead to damp-related mould troubles. These faults have now been reported to CIGA (Cavity Wall Insulation Agency) for remedial work.

Business Rates case

 

Our client ran a shop in Colchester Town centre, which consisted of three small units combined many years ago. He felt the Business Rates (“Non-Domestic Rates”) he was paying were too high, and asked our advice. He had already had two other “Rating Advisers” carry out the same exercise, each without success.

 

The chaotic state of Britain’s business rates system has been revealed by newly-published figures which show that the Government is expecting to pay £4.2bn back to businesses that appeal against their tax bill. This huge figure reflects how concerned businesses are about the burden of the tax – which brings in roughly £25bn for the Treasury every year. Since the latest revaluation of business rates was enforced in 2010, there have been appeals on 590,850 of the 1.8m commercial properties in the UK eligible to pay business rates. Businesses have appealed their rates bill on one in three commercial properties in the UK.

 

We carefully measured and calculated floor areas, then compared them to the Rateable Value calculations shown in the Rates Assessment on the Valuation Office website. We found the figures they had used were incorrect, due to mistakes in “zoning” the shops, from changes in floor levels caused by the slope along the street, and by incorrectly classifying certain areas within the shop units. The resulting Rateable Value as assessed was almost £10,000 too high.

 

We negotiated with the Valuation Office and finally, after many months and just before a Rating Tribunal Hearing, agreed a proper re-assessment of the Rateable Value. As the revised assessment corrected errors that had been applied over two “Valuation List” periods our client then received, not only Rates Rebates for almost ten years overpayments, but also Statutory Interest on that overpayment in addition – some £7,000 in all.

 

Rent Reviews

 

Our Estate Agency client had a shop used as their offices in west Colchester, on a side road adjoining a local shopping parade. The Landlord gave them notification of a Rent Review under the Lease, seeking a substantial increase in the rent. The lease did not allow for a rental reduction, only “upward or equal” rents on conclusion of any Reviews. He relied on nearby shops in the parade, arguing the rent should be similar. Evidence showed that the main parade had greater visibility and footfall than the Estate Agency shop had, and that there was reason to consider the existing rent was actually already too high.

 

We were then able to successfully argue for, and to agree, a “Nil Increase” in the rent. The same situation arose three years later, and once again, we successfully negotiated a “Nil increase”.

Can I “Pass-on” my survey or other report?

 

This concerns a buyer who recently lost the house he wanted to purchase due to another buyer making a better offer, after we had carried out a survey of the property for him. He wanted to “sell” the report on to the new buyer, and asked us if that was all right. That would let him recover most of the fee he had paid.

 

Actually, it can’t simply be handed on in return for a payment between the two persons, as the second one has no “contractual relationship” with the surveyor. He has no possible claim on the surveyor, or the surveyor’s work.

 

That relationship must be created, or the surveyor’s Terms and Conditions of Engagement will exclude or prevent the second person making use of that report.

 

For reasons especially of Professional Indemnity insurance, he will have inserted a term to say that “is only for use by only the named person [ie, the first client] and no third/ other party can use, reproduce, rely” or make use for other purposes, such as in a mortgage application, in the case of a valuation report.

 

The Insurance Company involved will not allow that or any report to be used “by the world and his wife”. The report has to be limited as to who can use it. The surveyor will ask the new person to agree his original Terms of Engagement, and who must accept them in writing, as well as agreeing that no fresh inspection of the property will be made. The report could then be transferred.

 

The surveyor can make a reasonable charge for giving his WRITTEN consent to the second person, allowing the first client to pass-on the report, and the second can then use it, just as the first client would have done.


LAND COMPENSATION


The Highways Agency carried out a new lighting installation scheme on part of the A12 main road at Stanway. The method of supporting the light standards caused increased road noise to be experienced by residents in nearby houses and bungalows. As a result, the Market Values of their properties were reduced, giving rise to claims for compensation under the Land Compensation Act 1963.

 

A group of the residents instructed us to act in negotiations with the Highways Agency, who were then represented by the Valuation Office.

 

Following long negotiations, over more than two years, this finally resulted in nearly forty of our property owner clients near that scheme on the A12 receiving compensation payments varying from £1,500 to almost £12,000.