As experienced Chartered Surveyors, we are often asked to act as Expert Witnesses in accordance with the Civil Procedure rules for various issues ranging from defective guttering through to assessment of diminution of value of residential property.
We work in conjunction with a variety of local solicitors and produce detailed reports based on site investigation and aim to provide a high quality professional service in order to help the resolution of disputes.
Case Study One
10 houses where by the external render had become unbonded with the underlying blockwork leaving porous exposed thermalite block, subsequently caused windows to seize and the corrosion of supporting lintels. This also caused excessive levels of internal humidity making the properties extremely prone to black spot mould. The well-known new build insurers refused claims by a number of these property owners as they concluded that there was no “significant damage”.
Colin Cockram attended the development site and took samples of the small area of masonry that still had render attached. The samples were sent for chemical analysis, where it was established that the concrete had become dehydrated when applied to the thermalite type blockwork. This was causing it to fail and thereafter absorbing moisture leading to the lintels and windows deterioration, along with the internal levels of humidity.
Based on Colin’s report outlining the significant damage, in particular in relation to the windows along with doors failing and the structural integrity of the outer skin the Loss Adjusters took the well-known new build insurer to the Ombudsmen. The claim for compensation was successful and the new build insurers were ordered to either compensate individual property owners or reinstate the respected properties.
Case Study Two
At the request of a Loss Adjuster, Colin Cockram travelled to the North of England to inspect a block of 49 flats in a four-story building. Unusually this had a courtyard style parking area accessed via a bridge.
A claim was being prepared after the management company was unable to obtain building reinstatement insurance due to the volume and cost of claims. These claims were in relation to water ingression since the block of flats were built, which at the time of our inspection was 9 years previous.
A market leading new build insurer who had provided the 10-year guarantee, had refused all previous claims and instructed a company of loss adjusters to inspect the building however, then refused to release the report.
Colin was asked to prepare a court compliant expert witness report on the whole building. This was to include the roof and guttering system, upper cladding, communal areas and from within a small number of the flats themselves. In particular, from one on the ground floor and more importantly a third floor flat.
The building was a timber frame construction with a brick outer skin that continued up to the second-floor rise after which the timber frame was clad with rolled zinc. This was viewed with the aid of a cherry picker, where it was established that the zinc work had distorted to such an extent that it was probably allowing water to enter the construction.
Upon inspection of the flat roof it was established that the downpipes to the guttering system were attached to the brickwork but the gutters themselves were attached to the flat roof that was supported on the timber frame. There was no allowance for expansion on the downpipe of the timber frame generally. Research shows that timber frames will shrink up to 10mm per rise and it was discovered that the guttering system at the edge of the roof had been pushed up by between 40mm and 60mm. This meant that the position of the downpipes leading to the gutter system was over topping and hardly any rainwater was able to enter the downpipes.
It was also found that the window cills had tilted backwards and in many cases, particularly on the upper two storeys of the building, would not open at all. This created a hazardous problem of exiting the building in case of a fire as well as allowing water to flow back into the timber frame. It was also discovered there was no contraband fitted under any of the windows to allow for shrinkage between the timber frame and masonry.
The bridge to access to courtyard car park had been constructed from rolled steel joists and concrete blockwork. This was a ridged structure and again as with the flat roof, there had been no allowance for the timber frame. Subsequently, this then caused the door frames either side of the bridge within the smoke lobbies and entrance way into the flats to distort to such an extent that the fire doors and intumescent strips were no longer effective.
A case was recently taken to the Ombudsmen where the claim has been successful. The flats will most likely have to be demolished and reconstructed.