Shared Freehold and Problems
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We have recently come across a problem which is getting more prolific as shared freeholds take place of leasehold properties.
The problem is twofold. Most shared freeholds have an agreement whereby costs are shared. As there are many elements to the property this could relate to the roof, the gutters, the walls, the windows, the foundations and the drains. Problems occur where property issue doesn't specifically affect the shared freehold owner. For example a leaking roof will affect the top floor flat / apartment but wouldn't affect the ground floor flat / apartment, yet they both should pay in theory equally for the repair work. Likewise, and the issue we are going to discuss here, dampness occurring in the ground floor flats / apartments makes it very unpleasant for the owner of the ground floor flats but doesn't affect other flats / apartments at all and you can therefore be left either living with the problem or the entire bill, particularly if on approaching the other shared freeholder / freeholders they simply say that they don't have any money. We have some suggestions on how to overcome this at the latter part of this article.
The second part of the problem is identifying what the problem is and how to remedy it. In the dampness problem in question the shared freeholders have already sought the opinion of several builders who came up with a range of solutions and a range of prices to these solutions.
The shared Freeholders rightly thought that the builders didn't understand the problems and this we find is often the case were the builder is sorting out and resolving the effect of the problem rather than the cause. There is in a worst case scenario, doing what is easiest for them to do rather then what should be done (or are we becoming cynical in our old age!). Other experts have given opinions as well and a range of suggestions (some of which amongst these are the correct answer!).
The shared freeholders are therefore elected to call us in to give an independent opinion. The basis of our reports is to identify the cause of the problem and offer remedial advice. Often there is a choice of ways to resolve the problem, depending upon how much money you wish to spend and how long you wish the repair to last and then we also look at the effect. In this case the owners were looking to move out of the property and rent it, therefore it was moving from being a home to an investment, which means you need to look at the property slightly differently. Let's have a look at what the builders found and what the damp proof specialists would find.
Unless you are getting independent advice you need to be very careful with the advice that you given. A Rising Damp Specialist for example who is BWPDA approved / registered or in the new name for the BWPDA which is the Property Care Association, generally do not look at the full range of solutions but only ones that their companies carry out. Traditionally this is the insertion of a damp proof course to stop rising damp.
What the Rising Damp Company saw!
The insertion of a Damp Proof Course normally goes hand in hand with the requirements to re plaster internally if you want to obtain their guarantee, which unfortunately is being made almost compulsory by Mortgage Companies. We personally have been involved in an instance where the insistence was to have a damp proof course of several thousand pounds, when in fact the problem related to leaking gutters and downpipes. You should be aware that the damp proof specialist will come armed with electronic damp meters which bleep and make all sorts of frightening sounds to confirm their comments. We would refer you to our other article about dampness not necessarily being a bad thing.
What the Builder saw!
The builder didn't come armed with a damp proof meter but they see literally what you can as the owner (i.e. the flaking paint work on the outside, the deteriorating red brick, the fallen off render and the flaking paintwork!).
The solution in their eyes is to sort out the affect which is to re-point the brick work and to fill the deteriorating bricks in with a cement mortar and then to paint over it (we would add In the majority of cases), not having addressed the real problem, which ironically in this case was also the leaking gutters. This is what we term our looks good for three months solution and you will never find the builder again scenario. We would argue that even the worst of the bad builders can make almost any job look good on day one and in fact for a few months after. However as they haven't resolved the cause of the problem but only the affect, the cause will carry on and the affect will re-appear. Of course the builder will have disappeared by three months or not return your calls or suggest something else which will cost you money. In our opinion it is much better to give money away to a good charity than carry on down this route.
Examining the cause and effect
A good report will look at both the cause of the problem and the affect. Looking at the cause of the problem, it will highlight alternative ways or remedying the cause, sometimes with some approximate costing but at times this is simply not possible to do without possibly misleading the owner. It will also identify how to repair the affect once the cause has been resolved. Sometimes the work will be ongoing and will involve a range of work as the cause could be a combination of issues. In this instance the surveyor should work with you and we always work through the least costly option first!
Examples of Dampness Problems that we have Dealt with in the Past
If you need help and advice with regard to dilapidations claims, schedules of condition, Section 18 valuations or any other matters please call 0800 298 5424. Please note we are independent surveyors.
We hope you found the article of use and if you have any experiences that you feel should be added to this article that would benefit others, or you feel that some of the information that we have put is wrong then please do not hesitate to contact us (we are only human!).
Dampness in Buildings - Basics Article
Dampness in Buildings - Technical Article
Resolving Dampness in your Basement
Dampness Defects Report
Please see our section on:
Specific Defects Reports
If you require any information about Dampness in Properties please telephone us for help and advice 0800 298 5424