Special Foundations Or Not?

In Chatuachinda v Fairholme (Sept 2015), the seemingly never ending argument between practitioners about what constitutes a special foundation, necessitating  Adjoining Owner’s consent under the Party Wall etc Act 1996 section 7 (4) was addressed.

Special foundations have become a significant bone of contention in the last decade or so, due to the huge increase in basement construction to terraced houses. An oft held view, has been that if the party wall is extended downwards and the base of that wall, in contact with the subsoil, is to be of concrete containing reinforcement (as is the most practical method), then it comes within the definition of a special foundation in section 20 ‘foundations in which an assemblage of ….rods is employed’.

The need to obtain specific consent from the Adjoining Owner in these circumstances (appointed surveyors have no power to award it), has resulted in Building Owners being held to ransom, or even prevented.

In this case the judge considered that neither where reinforced concrete underpinning had been placed on top of a purposely formed mass concrete ‘rail’ (argued to be a ‘sham’) or where the underpinning is an integral part of a reinforced concrete ‘box’, in which the ‘ground slab’ element carried the loads to the subsoil, could the construction be described as having special foundations.

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