Apr 16, 2013 11:11 pm
I live in a row of terrace houses in Inner Sydney.
My neighbour got her DA approved by Council for a 2 storey extension, got a structural engineer's certificate and got her Construction Certificate based on her structural engineer's report. I found out later the structural engineer's inspection was not done properly and he had NOT done an underfloor inspection of our common wall foundations and 25 year old remedial underpinnings which as of today, I found out had a severe crack.
Council requires all applicants to get a pre-construction dilapidation report. The dilapidation engineer turned up today and as part of the inspection did an underfloor check and found that the 25 year old remedial concrete underpinning wall supporting the internal party wall between my neighbour was sinking and has developed a 14mm wide crack running the full height of the 30cm high underpinning wall. The engineer suggested this was due to the neighbour not replacing a rusted out downpipe (which is one metre from the sinking underpinning wall) a few years ago and with the recent heavy rains, hundreds on litres of rainwater would have poured off the gutters super-saturating the soil underfloor leading to subsidence.
The neighbour is scheduled to start the demolition and renovations next week and the dilapidation engineer recommended the work not go ahead until the crack and underpinning is repaired. Council tells there is nothing they can do as they issued the Construction Certificate in good faith and knowledge of the structural engineer. Council said that if I have a complaint I should report the structural engineer to the Australian Institute of Engineers!
The neighbour is stating that the crack has been there for years I should contact my insurance company to get it repaired.
Given that the additional weight of a second storey will further the damage of the underpinnings I was wondering if anybody can suggest how I can get some resolution to this.
Re: Problematic Structural Engineers Report2
Apr 17, 2013 8:13 am
Wow! what a problem you have, you must be very angry at the council, I know I would be
Look, If I was in your shoes, I would put my complaint in writing to the council & voice my concern, & tell them that the construction certificate should not have been issued under these circumstances. You should also express your fears, & tell them that they will be held responsible if anything should happen to your house as a result of this. I would also cc your local member, or at least talk to him, because the council is there to protect your rights as well as your neighbours. Talk to the dept of fair trading & see if they can point you in the right direction .
Keep us posted how you go, I wish you the best of luck.
Re: Problematic Structural Engineers Report3
Apr 17, 2013 8:38 am
Thanks for your reply. This is the response I got from Council....
"Thank you for your enquiry relating to xxxxxxxxxxx, xxxxxxxxxx
Council relies on a qualified practising certified structural engineer to assess the existing footings and party walls to ensure they are capable of safely supporting the design loadings for the proposed alterations and additions.
The qualified practising certified structural engineer has provided a report stating that the existing footings and walls including party walls are capable of safely supporting the design loadings for the proposed alterations and additions.
The qualified practising certified structural engineer and not Council, is responsible to assess the existing footings and party walls.
If the inspection of the party wall/s was not carried out in a proper manner by the qualified practising certified structural engineer, then the qualified engineer is responsible for his certification.
The engineer should have been aware of the construction work to be carried out, this is the basis for his design and his certification.
Council cannot make the assumption that the engineer did not carry out the inspection in a proper manner.
A dilapidation report is to be carried out prior to commencement of demolition and/or excavation work, the report should identify any structural damage to the existing walls including party walls.
A second dilapidation report is to be carried out on completion of construction demolition/excavation works, the report should identify damage, if any, caused to existing walls including party walls.
Any damage caused by the works carried out should be rectified by the applicant/builder.
The above reports must be submitted to the Principal Certifying Authority (PCA) - prior to commencement of works.
At this point in time Council is not aware of the appointment of a PCA ( Council or private accredited certifier).
Hope this answers your questions.
Building Approvals Unit
XXXXXX XXXXXXX Council
Phone: XXXX XXXX"
Re: Problematic Structural Engineers Report4
Apr 17, 2013 10:06 am
Ok, so they're basically saying if you have any problems with the decision, don't call us call the structural engineers. I think you need to get proper legal advice & these structural engineers must be accountable to someone. Maybe like you stated earlier, you should call the institute of Engineers or even contact Master Builders Association ( www.mbansw.asn.au) & explain your situation & ask if they can point you in the right direction....I know if it was me I would do that.
Re: Problematic Structural Engineers Report5
Apr 17, 2013 11:58 am
I have just spoken to a couple of law firms and they said it will cost between $5,000 to $15,000 to get Council to order a new structural engineering report or get a court injunction to stop the neighbours demolishing until the underpinning is repaired.
I'm going to try the Macquarie Legal Centre to see what they say
Re: Problematic Structural Engineers Report6
Apr 17, 2013 12:31 pm
I would try contacting the original structural engineers and express your concerns to them.
They may be prepared to review their original report. (It will be cheaper for them to revise the report, if they are in error, rather than deal with the fallout if the development goes ahead and your property is damaged)
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Re: Problematic Structural Engineers Report7
Apr 17, 2013 2:35 pm
re "I would try contacting the original structural engineers and express your concerns to them. "
Under FOI, I'm being allowed to view the plans, details of the certification etc this afternoon. I'll find out the name of the original structural engineers then and maybe contact them tomorrow but I'm guessing they won't be that helpful but you never know.
I also contacted the NSW Ombudsman on the advice of the Inner City Legal Service and the Ombudsman advised that I email the Council's General Manager and put the word "Complaint" in the subject line. I did email her and asked that the DA and Construction Certificate be amended to force the neighbour to repair the structural crack before doing anything else. I'll have to wait and see what happens next.
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