Q&A Facebook page

We are pleased to announce the new interactive NACE Q&A Facebook page which can be accessed here.

You are invited to use this facility for technical, legal, mechanical, fire risk and/or safety, installation or document interpretation advice.

The NACE Facebook page has been designed for the professional and for those who require further technical and mechanical advice.

Please use the new NACE Q&A system. Although not a forum, you are more than welcome to leave constructive comments on the page or email to facebook@nace.org.uk should you feel these are necessary. We will certainly consider all responses carefully.

Samples of recent posts:

UNDERWRITERS / LOSS ADJUSTERS – THE COMPUTOR SAY ‘NO’ When we take out buildings insurance on one of the most valuable assets we are ever likely to own we think we are doing the right thing, in fact few can afford not to do so, therefore when we need to claim for damage or failure to our prized possession we assume that the benign insurers who sold us our policy through mountains of slick spiel will of course recognise and meet our expectations when such claims are made, ‘WRONG’!!!Very few if any property owner insuring their home for the very first time or reinsuring will bother to read policy documentation in detail, even fewer will understand the relationship between insurance underwriter and loss adjuster should a claim be necessary, in such matters insurance brokers do not have a specific role other than to do the bidding of the underwriter acting as ‘middle men’, one area that appears to be of growing concern is the innocuous masonry chimney! In a very recent claim dismissal case surrounding party wall damage to a masonry chimney and to roof structures straddling two Victorian built properties (part of a terrace of elven such dwellings) two owners have been left fuming at their underwriter and appointed loss adjuster for leaving them picking up a very expensive reinstatement bill. Investigating this case for both parties it has come to light that neither party nor their respective underwriters referred directly to the shared chimney in question before it collapsed, its purpose and/or use within the renewal documentation or the structural/thermal condition of the chimney when the policies were at the point of being renewed. Having read through both policy documents it is obvious that masonry chimneys their upkeep, maintenance and in some instances abuse by third party contractors do not appear to be of any concern to either underwriter who, having been advised of a collapse during a heavy storm some months ago refused a joint party wall claim for damage on the flimsy excuse that such damage and failure was in accordance with ‘wear & tear’ activity!! a rather pathetic excuse for ‘I don’t really know how to deal with this’Arguably, having failed to have organised a separate inspection of this complex structural area before policies were issued (or at least recognised and thus encouraged some understanding of controlled services) the underwriters in this instance (as no doubt with many other similar claims) found it necessary on the say-so of inexperienced loss adjusters to deny what amounted to a legitimate claim simply on the basis those involved have been unable to demonstrate the expertise necessary to interpret correctly these types of claim in a technically competent manner. What does appear to be most disturbing is the mandatory requirement that claims surrounding chimney structures be dealt with by teams of ‘damage limitation’ experts who readily assume in a complex area that ‘wear & tear’ is a suitable substitute for ‘why’ and ‘how’.It beggars belief that in every case we have advised upon where these have involved policy holder claims surrounding controlled services damage underwriters have simply passed such claims to their selected loss adjuster who, in turn with even less knowledge than the underwriters themselves will appoint either a general builder or would be expert with of course the usual kindergarten level of knowledge. In this particular instance the inspection or more to the point the lighting of a peanut sized smoke match in lieu of a competent investigation was undertaken by unknown source with membership to a few schemes and associations (thus the outcome virtually predictable) resulting in the type of four line moronic offering that loss adjusters appear happy to accept as an excuse for a technically competent response. These events can, depending upon status, have a ‘life changing affect’ upon the policy holder, several insignificant and unintelligible lines on letterheaded paper therefore are not an excuse or a substitute for a balanced and technically knowledgeable report laid out in a logical fashion with a ‘beginning, middle and end’ and issued by a recognised expert. It also brings into question why underwriters continue to offer policy protection in an area they know little if anything about and then find every excuse under the sun to discount, belittle and deny genuine claims within this expert arena! Surly, it would make better sense to appoint knowledgeable expertise supported with competent documentation before domestic building insurance is offered thus avoiding these mismanaged and farcical activates from occurring, these do sadly appear to be growing in numbers.It would also make logical sense for underwriters and their loss adjusters to appoint those with suitable and proven experience in such matters who do not have a conflict of interest involvement with either membership scheme and/or association both parties and their members continuing to assume a role of imaginary importance in an expert field. Faced with this type of one-sided bully boy tactic the consumer/policy holder should be seriously asking why their insurer is insuring them in the very first place if not to, under honest circumstances, cover out of pocket costs against genuine damage claims, if the underwriter gets to ‘pick & choose’ the claims they want to accept on behalf of what amounts to evident ignorance the system is left fully open to abuse and remains quite frankly manipulative with one hand clearly not giving a damn what the other is doing with the insured consumer likely to loose out!Insurers and their appointed loss adjusters should be held accountable, otherwise what is the value of a ‘bricks and mortar’ policy if what amounts to a genuine claim can simply be ‘null & voided’ on the basis of a ‘wear and tear’ excuse ,what other mildly difficult claim in an expert area is simultaneously attracting the very same response. Let’s face it, whoever heard of a chimney structure suffering from wear and tear? The mere existence of a structural chimney denotes that it must at all times suffer from ‘wear & tear’ for this is the nature of such structures. Insurance providers should therefore know the condition of chimney structures and of the appliances fitted to them before insuring/renewing policies, their appointed loss adjusters must also make more of an effort to recognise they and their masters are in desperate need of better training and a better understanding of controlled services therefore the reasoning behind why such structures fail. Both parties would then be in a better position to insure and advise correctly against known standards resulting one would hope in claims of this nature being properly investigated, competently interpreted and thus reported upon. Oddly, this approach would appear to be somewhat alien to the underwriting fraternity, however, it would save the insurance industry many £millions in claims having employed a ‘close the barn doors before the horse bolts’ mentality beforehand, far too much one would assume to hope for given the legitimate insurance claim denials we deal with on a regular basis. Anyone acting in a private manner irrespective of assumed authority or membership status in party wall matter in particular shared chimney structure failure will have to be appropriately insured and proved to be technically competent in this field of endeavour otherwise the uninitiated contractor may find themselves under severe legal scrutiny and challenged technically as will the insurance underwriter/loss adjuster with nearly all complaints of this nature going before the Insurance Ombudsman.CPD and technical guidance in this and other complex areas can be accessed through the NACE membership portal. ...
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PARTY WALL DISPUTES – ‘NO GROUNDS FOR A PARTY’Domestic Party Wall incidents are growing, this is an undesirable and undeniable fact, unfortunately there doesn’t appear to be any formal training in this area or much in the way of knowledge available for the average contractor/service provider certainly not when it comes to controlled services and of the complexities thus interaction with the Party Wall Act.In many of the cases we are given we find that controlled services have been penetrated, built over and/or left in a potentially lethal condition post completion, in these instances the act appears to have been overlooked and completely misinterpreted if not ignored by service providers/contractors, insurance underwriters, domestic insurance brokers, loss adjusters and those sub-contracted to provide technically competent answers to what is a very complex and highly skilled environment, the results we see are anything but competent.It must be accepted that when a Party Wall incident takes place it is normal for one if not both parties to completely ignore any pre-requisite direction with regard to the act, in fact in almost all of the cases NACE has dealt with one party has seen fit to proceed with anything from the relining of a controlled service to a third story extension on a Party Wall without the courtesy of informing the immediate neighbours, consequently a dispute has arisen with local authority distancing themselves from what amounts to a civil dispute. Local authority have no jurisdiction over any Party Wall dispute unless of course failure to have met elements and requirements of the Building Regulations have occurred and only then a cursory interest in such matters. Quite often, local authority will offer retrospective certification rather than investigate the whys and wherefores of either alteration or new build occurring on and to a Party Wall, this does not address Party Wall issues succinctly enough thus leaving the property owner at further future risk. This blasé approach to statutory law and of course the safety and wellbeing of neighbouring property’s and those who reside in them is contemptuous to say the very least, however, when an issue does arise it attracts some of the worst type of DIY attention.In one instance, a neighbour saw fit to carryout extensive building works and thought nothing of their builder using a Party Wall flue system to support load bearing I-Beams for a loft conversion, in fact the holes made during the works were left unattended and were not picked up until quite recently when smoke was physically identified entering a child’s bedroom, when confronted the builder ignored the claim as did the owner of the property.The complainant’s Insurance underwriter in this instance was contacted and in turn as with all such claim applications a loss adjuster appointed. It must be accepted that loss adjusters are not employed generally for the benefit of the policy holder, they are a ‘damage limitation’ tool that underwriters will attempt to use to broker less than favourable settlements if they can get away with it. In this case the loss adjuster with no idea surrounding the complexity of controlled services appointed a building contractor without any evident experience to undertake an investigation into the alleged breach, they themselves knowing even less than the loss adjuster sub-contracted the work to a Gas Safe/Oftec business, it would appear they, having lit a smoke pellet then allegedly having peered up the flue shaft in question confessed to the complainant that in their opinion ‘the flue looked okay’. On this basis alone, the loss adjuster accepted this far from competent method of test and evaluation as verbatim evidence unwilling to accept this was not a competent or knowledgeable method of investigation, no reference to written or photographic evidence to support this randomly inept response was offered other than a one page invoice with six lines of unintelligent gibberish laid out in a grammatically idiotic fashion, this is what the loss adjuster assumed to be a competent response to a complex issue resulting in this instance to a one dimensional activity. Interestingly, the loss adjuster in this matter when looked into had over 390 Trust pilot complaints registered against them, although some of these of course will be ‘sour grapes’ responses to a claim refused others will have more than an element of truth to them especially those who give correct contact information, therefore, not all reviewers can be telling fibs! The building contractor or their sub-contractor in question had no obvious or recognised controlled services experience or could we find any reference to specialisation, nothing whatsoever was alluded to on their website that would give cause to believe these businesses had any experience allowing them to competently interpret the damage in question, yet these businesses were relied upon by the underwriter to provide their client with a balanced response in an area none of them were able to demonstrate the faintest of competence. What has become evident in such cases is a lack of reference to the Party Wall Act no matter what the work entails, it would seem that the consumer has no rights whatsoever and these are of no consequence. The act continues to be completely overlooked by just about everyone concerned with work to and on boundary separation, with ADR often proposed in such instances where a dispute arises as a method of arbitration, however, without expert documentation to support a claim this becomes a pointless exercise confirming this system is not a ‘go-to’ and guaranteed method of resolution. Quite simply, without fundamental audit trail evidence to prove intent ADR is a pointless exercise.The danger here as with many Party Wall disputes is that they are normally brought about by third party ignorance and of course nativity, quite often the fault lies with either the contractor and/or the client both can be held liable in such matters. It does appear to us that mainstream insurers when confronted with controlled services claims are quite happy to downgrade an expert environment surrounding potential ‘life changing events’ to a level of ability requiring no more than a rudimentary ability to repair a rabbit hutch with a dodgy roof with the outcome of no value to the aggrieved party.Party Wall responsibility and therefore its administration should not be taken lightly or undertaken by a contractor without first having demonstrated ‘due diligence’ in this complex and expert area.Access to and on a roof for instance for the purposes of alteration or installation or merely altering a fireplace opening (notifiable works) will require the contractor to advise the client of his/her Party Wall responsibilities, according to the CDM, if this is ignored once the contractor starts work he is then deemed to have accepted liability for the design and thus administration of the works, simply interpreted, this means responsibility for all and any work to or on a boundary wall. If of course a dispute is acknowledge by local authority it may have some after affect upon the sale of a property as these types of dispute are recorded and take some effort to have removed.It is indicative of our far from competent industry that such affairs continue without a thread of regulation to protect the consumer or in fact the service provider, specific knowledge and its delivery remains unimportant as does many aspects of contractual administration, if involved in a Party Wall dispute it would be wise to make sure that contract administration is clear and precise as reliance upon either; insurance company, loss adjuster, building firm, association and/or scheme provider to offer the contractor/service provider a ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ card in such instances would be very foolish.The danger here of course as this case demonstrates is an evident vacuum of knowledge and/or technical competence in an expert environment, the above clearly identifying incompetence at its worst. If consumers are to have faith in the advice given by so called third party experts this level of response should go further than merely the ‘lighting of a smoke pellet’ and the ‘peering up of a flue shaft’ supported with a schoolboy level attempt at written evidence and expect this to be accepted without question or argument!. What remains unpalatable is joint industry disinterest with not one party taking the lead through example, what remains dangerously unacceptable is that this level of incompetence is accepted as ‘normal’ and allowed to continue without challenge.It is in every service provider’s interest when working on or to a shared boundary to acquaint themselves with the rudiments of the Party Wall Act (1995) not simply assume what the requirements are but to read and take on board the responsibilities within, those providing a service are liable contractually and in some instances have been held financially liable, of course this brings the contractor/service provider in to direct conflict with the property owner he/she is working for, this will without doubt cause further legal conundrums to occur.In light of the growing number of Party Wall disputes that continue to blight the consumer horizon NACE continues in the role of appointed expert specifically for the providence of peer recognised investigative services for and on behalf of lawyers and the general public. In this role we have successfully mediated through technically competent interpretation in all but one of 47 cases in the last 10 months, these were resolved cost effectively avoiding a registered dispute and without the need for these cases to be referred through the civil court system, however, these types of dispute haven’t always ‘gone to plan’ with resistance throughout to logical, competent and common sense practice.We therefore off the following salient advice for the home owner and consumer; ‘Caveat Emptor’ for the service provider/contractor; ‘ignorantia juris non excusat’ and for the rest who continue to place misdirected faith in others not worthy of their trust; ‘quae provocatione’ ...
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NACE 'NAIL' ANOTHER DOMESTIC SMOKE NUISANCE COMPLAINT NACE continue to lead by example in this expert area, having been court appointed single/joint experts in a number of compliance and smoke related cases throughout 2020 as well as officially appointed experts for and on behalf of over 29 borough council environmental health departments and public health lawyers during this period our record of success exceeded expectation resulting in 100% success.The following is one of many references relating to our expertise in the area of controlled service negligence and smoke related dispute. Dear NACE TechnicalI would like to share my experience of having suffered debilitating smoke pollution ingress from a neighbouring heating appliance and the resolution of the problem thanks to the intervention of NACE Ltd - recommended to me by a Cambridge based environmental public law specialist. I live in a smoke control area (SCA) in the North of England, one of my neighbours installed a wood burner producing thick dark clouds of smoke drifting from their chimney directly over my property and those around me. I had been driven to my wits end with the constant invasion of fumes and dirt into my property, affecting both my health and the enjoyment of my home and garden.In this particular case having spoken at length to the Technical team at NACE I fully understood the depth of knowledge and technical competence required to assess the functioning of heating appliances. I therefore realised that the intervention of NACE could be pivotal in achieving a speedy and effective resolution (without the need to initiate lengthy and expensive legal proceedings) of the smoke nuisance which had and was continuing to cause considerable distress to myself and nearby residents. Before the intervention of NACE and their contribution to senior Environmental Health officials, there had been several weeks of correspondence between myself, the City Council and the stove owners. This dialogue had produced some progress, but I felt it was not going to address the problem in its entirety. Fortunately, a reputable Environmental, Planning and Public Law Firm based in Cambridge helpfully referred us to NACE, and specifically their Technical Director. I felt reassured and very grateful that NACE had the time to deal with the issue. It was explained to me that, besides SCA approved fuel and exempt appliance requirements, it is equally important to verify whether stove and fuel are being used correctly, whether the appliance and chimney system have been correctly installed and thus compliant, and that the installation does not represent either a fire or safety risk to the owners or building; last but not least, the installation must take into account multiple factors such as topography, position and weather conditions prevalent in the area in which I live. I really had no idea of the depth of technical competence required to resolve what could have been a lengthy civil dispute. I came to understand that whilst City Councils can easily check whether an exempt appliance is used and they can verify the usage of approved fuel (although to some extent only, as basically they rely on the simple declaration of the users) the Councils’ intervention becomes problematic when it comes down to checking and verifying the correctness of an appliance installation and/or the operation of a chimney/flue system. This difficulty can be due in part to the lack of the required technical expertise in the field, and in part to the limitations posed by the current legislation on a council’s power of action. For example, I have learned that the installation of an appliance must comply with the Building Regulations, but the process relies in most instances on a self-certification scheme, which gives rise to possible incompetent workmanship issues whenever an unsupervised installation takes place, or where the installer has not undertaken highly specialised training. By bringing together the different regulatory strands in their arguments, and thanks to unmatched technical expertise, commitment and frankness, NACE successfully engaged in lengthy talks with the City Council and the owner of the stove. As a result, I am delighted to say that no smoke nuisance has occurred since, and it is very likely that the appliance will no longer be used. NACE performs an important range of activities. I have been impressed by their professionalism and by seeing that their mission is driven by an insight that installation and operation of a domestic burning appliance are very serious and complex matters. This message is very important given the high number of domestic appliances being installed over the last twenty or so years, with Governmental data showing that wood and coal burning stoves are the largest source of internal domestic (harmful) particulate matter emission in the UK. I understand that the anticipated amendment of the Clean Air Act 1993 is expected to address some of these issues by giving more power to Local Authorities to tackle directly smoke emissions from domestic burning in SCAs. However, even then, the application of possible margins of tolerance or the likely difficulty in providing supporting evidence may not guarantee total protection from smoke nuisances occurring through uncaring and incompetent installation work carried out merely on the far too simplistic belief that a few components bolted together represent consumer wellbeing and safety. What is most dreadful of all is that certificates are being issued that clearly do not represent application to or of the building regulations, given these contain numerous waivers the public remain dangerously at risk.David O’Neill BSc MPhil MRSC ...
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NACE LAUNCH NL/921 'FIRE & EXPLOSIVE' CPD TRAININGNACE are pleased to announce the addition of a new CPD training opportunity to compliment our current suite of over 121 administrative, compliance, regulatory, legal, technical and business related courses, the NL/921 Investigators 'Fire & Explosion' causation, effect and inspection interpretation CPD course is available from the 1st February this year.The NL/921 represents technical excellence in such areas as; installer negligence, regulatory non-compliance, regulatory contravention and dangerous workmanship surrounding domestic and/or commercial combustion appliance as well as controlled service installation claim, failure and/or contravention that may have led to the occurrence of fire related loss or injury, the fire investigative industry knows little if anything surrounding controlled appliances or controlled service compliance or can they competently interpret the physical element as we well know.In an industry where the issuing of DIY surveys and armchair reporting continues unabated and without guidance or legislation protecting the consumer the NL/921 will assist those wishing to aspire to investigator status with the tools to interpret incompetent and/or negligent workmanship, installation related defects, installer related fire damage, loss and/or injury claim and to properly and confidently provide visual, oral and written evidence to CPR35 standard when dealing with any reporting function.The NL/921 clearly raising standards far beyond anything currently available, this course will provide learning in; expert pre and post fire analyses, defective workmanship and installation, defect claim interpretation and insurer loss adjustment, successful applicants will benefit considerably from this course when retained to provide expert scrutiny. The NACE/LSTA JV will make every effort to support, educate, mentor and market such individuals to local authorities and to related professional organisations as well as the law society so that such expertise is both recognised and properly appreciated. Interested parties should apply for further information to; technical@nace.org.uk ...
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WARNING NOTICES - GET THEM WRONG AT YOUR PERIL!Nace, appointed by Darlington County Court in the role of single/joint expert on a 'Party Wall' dispute surrounding dangerously incompetent interpretation of a supposed chimney and flueing issue witnessed this case being thrown out of court before a hearing could be attended by both parties, the upshot being that the complainant could not support the summons with sufficient evidence, the defendant the subject of incompetent as well as dangerously ill advised opinion.The training that Gas Safe installers receive to our knowledge does not encompass lengthy or in depth training within the fields of; chimney and/or flue system mechanics, principals or design, therefore, when issuing a warning notice on the basis of a) Spillage/smoke from a pellet and b) Smoke from a pellet allegedly exiting from two chimney terminals at the same time it would not be a surprise therefore as a landlord to be issued with a warning notice if of course the information within a tick box document had been correct.In this instance it was not. The gas appliance, an open DFE housed in a metal box with a 9" x 6" flue outlet above had been installed to an existing fireplace opening and then room sealed. The spillage referred to caused by a concrete lintel (see evidence) virtually blocking the flue outlet therefore the result of the spillage! Had the installer bothered to remove the coal effect briquettes and look upward he may have noticed the evident causation, however, this was a quantum leap to far.Furthermore, after lengthy random tests it was established that the installer had mistaken smoke emanating from our clients chimney terminal flowing across the neighbouring terminal assuming what he saw was leakage from two terminals at the same time.. Had the gas installer used coloured smoke pellets and then undertaken random evaluations instead of a single grey smoke pellet test against a very grey sky he may have concluded as we did that there wasn't a breach at all between the flues on the party wall, what he experienced was nothing more than wind direction carrying elements of smoke across an adjacent terminal.The Landlord, having been handed a warning notice on the basis of a) and b) above condemning the lounge flue shaft without any competent interpretation, guidance or help wrongly assumed damage had been done to his property by his neighbour who had recently installed a stove into their fireplace. (this could not be proven) issued a threatening letter that resulted in a similar thoughtless response escalating to the issue of a summons all brought about by incompetence and dangerously inept interpretation of a controlled service.NACE have taken this up with the 'Gas Technical Standards & Incident Manager' and the 'Gas Safe Register'. (Capita)Where day to day work activity comes into contact with chimneys and flues ( controlled services) it is essential, be it a few days that CPD in this specific area of expertise is accepted as a nominal element of any training exercise, NACE already have these CPD's in place for gas technicians. The complex and often litigious nature of consumer complaint is not merely based upon poor workmanship and/or incompetence, dangerous self-opinion leading to a 'Swashbuckling' approach to consumer safety resulting in the issue of warning notices in lieu of technically competent advice and guidance may provide a similar route to catastrophe. Warning notices as we have pointed out are worthless unless the person issuing them sets out remedial methods of correction, the issuing of a warning notice will not therefore waiver personal liability of the issuer merely by the passing of a piece of paper from one person to another in particular, where the circumstances are potentially life changing leaving a consumer to determine what action to take when informed of a defect via a warning notice is morally wrong and a failure to demonstrate due diligence. ...
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