Apart from very minor work you will always need drawings. 
 
I received a telephone call a few weeks ago from a guy who wanted to know how much it would costs to ‘sort out a party wall agreement with the neighbour’. 
I started to ask some questions to establish what exactly he wanted me to do and it turns out he was the builder and specialised in basements. 
 
He was about to start excavating under the house of his client but was concerned that the neighbour was a lawyer and he wanted to make sure he did not fall foul of the Party Wall etc. Act 1996. 
 
Excavating basements involves underpinning the outer walls of the property along with the party wall. This is major work that can end in utter catastrophe if not done properly. 
 
As I always do so that I can assess the work, I asked him to email me pdf copies of the drawings to which he replied ‘I haven’t got any drawings’. I asked him how he was going to construct the basement without them to which he replied ‘we never have drawings’. 
 
I pointed that he would need drawings/plans and calculations for building control approval and that I couldn’t serve a notice under the Act without drawings and sections as it would be invalid. He then persisted that he had built a dozen or so basements within the last year and he never needed drawings for any of them. 
 
At this point I thought it was a wind up but no, he was quite genuine. I attempted to tell him how the Act worked and what is required of him, but he seemed to dismiss what I was saying and instead preferred his take on what the law requires. In the end I had to cut him short as quite clearly, he wasn’t going to be enlightened. 
 
I got to thinking. If he had in fact built several basements and underpinned buildings without drawings of any kind, he must have always done the work unlawfully. He must have taken on design liability for the work and no doubt he would not have any valid insurance if things went wrong. If the worst did happen and he collapsed next doors property, they could be left with no-one to recover from. 
 
And what clients would have, in their right mind, contracted with a builder to simply ‘construct a basement’ without any form of contract documents that set out what they were getting for their money. I just can’t believe that there exists in the South Manchester area a dozen homeowners who have had basement constructions in the last 12 months or so and done so not knowing if they are living with a time bomb, one way or another. 
 
As a minimum there should be design drawings, structural drawings, structural calculations, temporary works design, method statements and just as importantly, the contractor should be insured with a fully paid up policy which covers the work he is doing. There should also be in place, planning permission, building regulation approval and of course consent or an Award under the Party wall etc. Act 1996. 
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