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Green Building Bible, Fourth Edition
Green Building Bible, fourth edition (both books)
These two books are the perfect starting place to help you get to grips with one of the most vitally important aspects of our society - our homes and living environment.

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    • CommentAuthorRex
    • CommentTimeSep 20th 2018
     
    What ho one and all,

    I own a 1st floor maisonette, that prior to building our house, we lived in. Over the past X years, the elderly widow below has had sewerage problems, and it was revealed that there is a 'belly' in the pipe between her inspection chamber and mine.

    Thames Water were going to fix the problem a few years ago but opted out because it was not 'essential' work. However, over the past few weeks, because of general drainage issues, they contracted to line all the sewerage pipes for the adjoining blocks and as a result, caused a collapse in the pitch fiber pipe, upstream pipe. TW accept responsibility and are in the process of initial organization to do the repair.

    Today, I had a visit from a structural engineer who is producing a 'Schedule of Condition.' He advised that I get TW to set up a Party Wall Act agreement since the sewerage pipe ( therefore,the reapir excavation) runs parallel to the building, about 2m from the exterior wall and is around 2m deep. He also said, he believes that TW ALWAYS advise anyone that asks, that they have a Party Wall Act exception, because he knows cases where the customer has been told that they cannot invoke the Party Wall Act. But he does not know if TW do or don't have exception. He feels that it cannot be legal or correct, but has no actual knowledge.

    My question; does anyone know if Thames Water have exception form the Party Wall Act?

    Thanks and toodle pip

    Rex
    •  
      CommentAuthordjh
    • CommentTimeSep 20th 2018
     
    Posted By: RexMy question; does anyone know if Thames Water have exception form the Party Wall Act?

    They're not proposing to build a wall though are they? And they're not modifying an existing wall, especially a party wall? So what is the relevance of the Party Wall Act?

    I expect that Thames Water have the right to carry out whatever repairs to sewers they believe are necessary; it would be a very strange world if people could prevent them!

    I also expect that Thames Water are liable to make good any damage caused by a public sewer or by them working on a sewer.

    But I expect there are a few wrinkles in the details, and possibly the odd outrageous result. I also believe that it is not possible to contract out of the Party Wall Act, but it is the owner of the [putative] party wall that is responsible, not a contractor.
    • CommentAuthorCWatters
    • CommentTimeSep 20th 2018 edited
     
    They're not proposing to build a wall though are they? And they're not modifying an existing wall, especially a party wall? So what is the relevance of the Party Wall Act?


    The party wall act doesn't just cover walls. It also covers digging close to neighbours buildings. It's very relevant.
    • CommentAuthorCWatters
    • CommentTimeSep 20th 2018 edited
     
    • CommentAuthorCWatters
    • CommentTimeSep 20th 2018 edited
     
    about 2m from the exterior wall and is around 2m deep.


    Ok so the guide says (on page 19) that the PWA applies if they are digging within 3m (check) and will go deeper than your foundations.

    I suspect your foundations might not be 2m deep so I would suggest the act applies.

    Edit: See below. The act applies between two land owners, not between the person digging and a land owner.
    • CommentAuthorCWatters
    • CommentTimeSep 20th 2018
     
    Do read the guide because it's easy for them to comply if you agree to the work. If you don't agree then things get more difficult. They might have to pay for your party wall surveyor to represent your interests.
    • CommentAuthorCWatters
    • CommentTimeSep 20th 2018
     
    OK I think I have the answer about an exemption...

    The PWA applies between two adjoining property owners. It's irrelevant if a third party actually does the digging for one of the owners.

    So will they be digging in her garden or on adjacent land owned by someone else ?

    If the land they are digging on belongs to someone else then the PWA may apply between that person and the elderly lady.

    If it's her land they are digging on the PWA _might_ apply between her and you but I can't be sure.

    So either way I don't think the water co actually needs to comply with the PWA or needs an exemption - unless they happen to own the land they are digging on.
    •  
      CommentAuthordjh
    • CommentTimeSep 20th 2018
     
    Posted By: CWattersSo will they be digging in her garden or on adjacent land owned by someone else ?

    Presumably, since Rex's maisonette is above the old lady's, there is a freeholder somewhere who owns the wall.

    But again, I cannot see that the right of a water company to repair a sewer could be dependent or delayed by the antics of somebody who happened to own a building nearby. It would cause chaos.
    • CommentAuthorRex
    • CommentTimeSep 21st 2018
     
    Thanks for the comments. Yes indeedy, the Act does apply very much since although the centre of the sewerage pipe is around 2 m from the foundations, by the time they have dug a working trench, they will certainly be around 1.5m from the foundations.

    There is no wall involved (apart from the wall of the house!) and I am not trying to stop them doing the work. What concerns me is if in X years time, there is an issue that causes cracks in the flat and it is as a result of them having disturbed the area close to the foundations, neither I nor my insurance company should be liable and any way.

    But the engineer conducting the Schedule of Condition told me that he thinks (?) that TW have a Party Wall Act exemption, but he is not 100% certain and wonders if it is so, is it legal?

    Hence my question, do you know if TW have a PWA exemption?

    TW do say that they cover any structural issues, but the above engineer said that it is only for the duration of the work, not for X years down the line when the backfill has settled. TW do say that they compact the fill so that the restored ground is denser than previously, and hence, there should never be any future structural issues.

    But it is my flat, my investment and my pension so it does concern me a little. They certainly have more legal clout to wiggle out of any future structural issue that they may cause.

    As it happens, I spent X hours trying to see how I get TW involved with the PWA but every department passes me to another department, and no-one seems to have heard of the PWA. TW literature mentions it and to contact their Developer department, but that department knows zilch. Typical large comapny, passing the buck an hoping that I go away!
    •  
      CommentAuthordjh
    • CommentTimeSep 21st 2018
     
    You'll probably have more luck asking on a legal forum than here.
    • CommentAuthorphiledge
    • CommentTimeSep 21st 2018
     
    <blockquote><cite>Posted By: Rex</cite>TW do say that they compact the fill so that the restored ground is denser than previously, and hence, there should never be any future structural issues.</blockquote>

    Id closely supervise the backfilling and compaction if your concerned about future movement. Hole diggers and road repairers generally want to be away on a flyer and compacting properly in several thin layers delays the run home!
    • CommentAuthorRex
    • CommentTimeSep 22nd 2018
     
    When they get around to doing the work, I do intend to monitor it closely. However, it may or may not be a good thing, but the access is tight and I have been told that they will be hand digging. Machine access and the proximity to the building with machinery vibrations, etc.

    2.5m deep in clay. Don't envy them.

    Fortunately, it is not my garden but the couple who do own it, they have just moved in and intend to 'renovate' the garden in due course. For what it is worth, the concrete structure around the inspection chamber is I guess pretty stable, but the surrounding patio has over the years, sunk by around 25 cms.

    But apparently, TW are only planning to repair the collapsed section when it is a known that around 2m downstream, the pipe has a slight dip, and historically, that has been where the blockage occurred. If TW refuse to fix the 'belly' at the same time, I know that it will block again!
    •  
      CommentAuthordjh
    • CommentTimeSep 22nd 2018
     
    Posted By: RexFortunately, it is not my garden but the couple who do own it, they have just moved in and intend to 'renovate' the garden in due course. For what it is worth, the concrete structure around the inspection chamber is I guess pretty stable, but the surrounding patio has over the years, sunk by around 25 cms.

    So if there were a party wall agreement, it would have to be between the couple and you (if you are the freeholder?). But this is presumably a public sewer if Thames are accepting responsibility for it, which illustrates the kind of problems that could occur if the act did apply. What reason would the new couple have to initiate a party wall agreement with you? They'd be putting themselves, and their bank balance, on the line for work over which they have no control nor interest.

    So I still think that the act cannot apply in this circumstance, and that the best place to find an answer (assuming Thames can't be persuaded to give you one) is a legal forum.
    • CommentAuthorRex
    • CommentTimeSep 23rd 2018
     
    I agree that the PWA in some respects, does not apply to me directly, but it was the get doing the Schedule of Condition, on behalf of TW who suggested that I should raise the issue with TW.

    Yes, my maisonette is first floor, but of course, it has to sit on the foundations that are next to the proposed excavation.

    X years ago, I had a subsidence claim (wall cracks) that was found to be a result of neighbouring trees. The ground floor had no cracks. The same could happen in the future this time.

    Essentially, the Act allows me to engage a structural engineer, at TW's expense, to assess the state of the building before the work is done. This is pretty much what the Schedule of Condition covers, but the engineer doing the Schedule told me that it only covers the duration of the work, not any future problems.
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