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rowhouse partywall issues

rowhouse partywall issues

rowhouse partywall issues

I was hired by a homeowner to provide structural "direction" as to how to fix her party wall. She is having trouble finding a contractor who will even do the work due to liability concerns. She told me that she didn't want to pay me $3,000- to provide repair drawings if she couldn't even find a contractor to do the work. So I told her that I would provide a report for $500- which would generally indicate the work involved in the fix. She could send the report to several contractors and gauge interest. Once she finds a contractor that will loosely agree to do the job, then she can pay me to do drawings.

So I go to the house. It is a Baltimore rowhouse whereby the adjacent rowhouse collapsed after a fire. The homeowner is concerned about the parapet wall (which is leaning). Of course this is a concern, but I have many ADDITIONAL concerns:
1) water penetration through the soft clay "party wall" & subsequent freeze-thaw cycles
2) party wall stabilization due to collapse of the floor framing (perhaps we need tie rods)
3) existence of cracks or deterioration of existing party wall that I could not verify/observe on site
4) need to patch the existing joist pockets
5) repoint the entire wall??

On one hand, I know she cannot afford to fix the wall to address all of the concerns listed above. On the other hand, if I do not make note of all of these concerns then I am liable for neglect (I assume).

I am not sure where to go from here. Photos attached.

RE: rowhouse partywall issues

I feel that the prudent thing for you to do is to list all that concerns you in your report. In my opinion, in the absence of some very careful language to the contrary, your only mentioning some things when others are apparent creates the impression that you are in fact not concerned about those other things. And that puts you in a compromised positional legally I think.

Whether it makes business sense or not, I've never been a fan of the "imagine yourself in court" mantra. I prefer to simply do responsible engineering and let the chips fall where they may. Perhaps, over a log enough time horizon, I'll come to feel differently. Here, I think that the responsible approach will be to tell the owner the whole truth as you see it, regardless of whether or not that constitutes very bad news.

It's gracious of you to consider the owner's feelings and financial predicament but, sometimes, you just gotta let other people's problems be other people's problems.

RE: rowhouse partywall issues

I wouldn't even want the $500 out of sympathy. Your client shall first investigate if her house is inhabitable or not, after half of the complete structure is gone. There are local code, legal and insurance implications. Good luck to her, she may need the $500 to make up moving expense.

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