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A 'what would you do in this situation' question

Yes. Many surveyors stick a probe in plaster and say "suspected" rising damp. Usually bollocks, it's internal humidity. If plaster had a high iron content, they'd condemn building as uninhabitable due to damp

Remember, they're protecting themselves above being open & honest to you

Google Jeff Howell
Damp meters are a dangerous weapon in the hands of someone who doesn't know what they're doing. Not just because the two sharp points can inflict a nasty injury but because the readings that they display can't be trusted. It's not the fault of the meter, it's the plaster. You have to bear in mind that the meters were originally intended for timber. Plaster differs in that the particles that they are made from have very different properties to wood and it's not just a simple case of having a different scale. Different plasters have different properties so rather than reading the meter and declaring the moisture content shown, you need to take several readings in several areas daily or twice/thrice daily over an extended period (while recording the weather and humidity) and see how the results change. That tells you when to take a sample for determination of the moisture content.

A feature of many plasters is that repeated wetting and drying (as you would get as a result of rain/no rain) causes the release of waterproof salts which the meter indicates as dryness. Or the plaster may be electrically conductive, in which case the meter shows wetness.

It's like the old fable of the mechanic who got a siezed engine running by hitting it with a hammer and was asked to submit a detailed invoice - Tapping the engine with a hammer: £10. Knowing where to hit the engine with a hammer: £490.
 
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Dumbas

Swinger
Jammy66,

First piece of advice, don't take advice from people on the Internet whom you've never met:)

Secondly, I am both the Freeholder and Leaseholder of property on long-leases eg. Flats. I would recommend that when thinking of buying a flat, keep in the front of your mind you are actually buying a lease, not a flat. The flat can be fantastic, but if the lease is defective, you have a major problem. It's not the same as a house, which you own and there's no superior landlord above you. (The flat will have a lease and a "Freeholder", who is your landlord).

If there is a problem with the lease, it will become apparent when you talk to the other flat-owners and/or see the most recent Service Charge demands. If you see legal fees for collecting arrears of Service Charge demands or disputes with the owners over costs, perhaps walk away. Ideally, the freehold will be held by a company and each of the owners hold equal shares in that company. That means the owners control the property. This is sometimes called "Share of Freehold" and I reckon it's a big plus as those who live in block, control the block and share the costs.

Seeing the Service Charges will also show if there's a Reserve Fund or Sinking Fund. If there is, then that is good as the major costs of replacing a roof or foundations have been shared over all the owners, over all the years. If there's not a Reserve Fund, if you buy and then you learn the roof needs replacing, the cost falls to the current owners and if they don't have the available cash, a major sh!t fight will occur.

Be a bit careful with any flat with less than 100 years left on the lease and be very careful with any lease with less than 90. Whilst it's not a problem for you, it might be a problem for the person you sell to. Whilst the law says you can force an extension to the lease, the costs can be very high.

It can be hard to see the previous Service Charge demands without involving a solicitor. but the Estate Agent can ask the vendor. If the vendor is keen and has nothing to hide, you should get the Demands/invoices very quickly and at no cost.

I would also recommend ringing the doorbell of your prospective neighbours in the block. If they are owner-occupiers (not tenants), they should be able to give you good gen and they should be keen to help their new neighbour.:)

Look before you leap and good luck with whatever you decide.
 

Joshua Slocum

LE
Book Reviewer
With old victoriana terraces, things to watch out for
Chancel liability
Obscure covenants
Shared drainage
Poorly segregated attics
Dry rot
Too many alterations ie doors and windows being moved or blocked up
Old lead electrical supply cables
Problems with flashing around chimneys
Old pipework for external toilets poorly sealed
Rats moving between properties under floors
Carlite browning or similar plasters used against brickwork leading to salt crystals on the surface
External render cracking or patched
 

Jammy66

War Hero
Jammy66,

First piece of advice, don't take advice from people on the Internet whom you've never met:)

Secondly, I am both the Freeholder and Leaseholder of property on long-leases eg. Flats. I would recommend that when thinking of buying a flat, keep in the front of your mind you are actually buying a lease, not a flat. The flat can be fantastic, but if the lease is defective, you have a major problem.

I had a nightmare with my last place - a flat - and learnt pretty much all there is to know about how things can go wrong. I had a battle between an ******** freeholder and a nutty neighbour which dragged me and another neighbour into a 5 year nightmare that even a tribunal ruling didn't resolve.

You will understand my reluctance to buy another flat, but, living in outer London and with a fairly limited budget my options for a house are few and far between. I know that 'most' people who live in flats don't have problems but I know how bad it can be when things do go south.

The flat I'm considering has a 93 yr lease left, which is shorter than I'd like, as it will either need to be extended within 5 years or it will affect the saleability of the flat. It's a conversion in a 'block' of 4. It appears well kept and there is a management company in place, and service charges are actually quite low. The main draw for it is the location in a nice area with lots of greenery around (and a lovely pub just around the corner!).

I need to make a decision about the house tomorrow. I'm wondering if I'm daft to let the chance to buy a house slip away, even with the work needed. At least I do things at my pace and not when a management company decides. The risk is that I run out of money and face an ever increasing list of things that need doing!

I don't think I can afford to make the wrong choice, emotionally or mentally speaking, after what I've been through the past 5 years.
 

Joshua Slocum

LE
Book Reviewer
I am decorating a flat this week and next for a client
2nd floor ex F.O. place
he bought it when her first got married and money was tight, its local to most things and was near his work at the F.O.
he then bought a pretty derelict house and renovated it over a year I did the rewire, a mate did the plumbing another mate did the plastering and he decorated it and did all the other little jobs
the flat has been rented out for 5 years now as they live in the house
he said its a nice earner and if things ever got tight they could easily sell the house and move back to the flat
 
Food for thought definitely......
He's just angling to be your defence lawyer

It's not worth it, you won't have a leg to stand on...
 

Jammy66

War Hero
I've had a good think about likely costs for the work needed on the house. Spoke to the agent and told them I'd need a drop of £8K to make it viable and await the vendors response.

Still going to be a bit of a leap of faith if they say yes but probably worth a go. If they say no or counter offer I'm ready to walk away and look at the other options.

My previous really shitty experience of a flat has scarred me for life. But it may yet come to that again!
 
a tool called a quirk
How could she help?
Unknown.jpeg
 
House needing unknowable long-term work, tight deadline for response . . . Fishy smell?

I bought a Dutch version of the 'apartment-owners-are-the-freeholders' system and it is going well. The block is post WW2 and very well maintained. There is a funded long-term maintenance plan and an emergencies-fund, with regular meetings to sort out anything reported to the hired facilities-company. Fabric insurance is covered by the owners-organisation (ie. in the monthly subs) too, so there are no owners letting their apartment exterior or services fall to bits due to money problems. We voted to change the facilities-company six years ago and it was a very smooth process, which surprised me, and the new one is more pro-active than it's predecessor. Surely there are such organisations in the UK too?? Not needing a mortgage means that you can save and plan for whatever seems the wise next step.
 

Jammy66

War Hero
Well after several sleepless nights I pulled out of the house. I do wonder if I've missed out on a bargain as there's nothing else available (house) at the price but it did need another £20K spending to bring it up to scratch, which makes it still less than others available at the moment but there is the hassle factor and chance of further issues coming to light when you start pulling things apart. I was getting nervious of ending up running out of funds with ever more jobs to do to the place.

I'm now thinking of just renting for 6 months and seeing how things go as we head into winter/new year.... the flat is still available as is another place which is a shared freehold that I like. Damn hard knowing what is best to do.
 

Jammy66

War Hero
House needing unknowable long-term work, tight deadline for response . . . Fishy smell?

I bought a Dutch version of the 'apartment-owners-are-the-freeholders' system and it is going well. The block is post WW2 and very well maintained. There is a funded long-term maintenance plan and an emergencies-fund, with regular meetings to sort out anything reported to the hired facilities-company. Fabric insurance is covered by the owners-organisation (ie. in the monthly subs) too, so there are no owners letting their apartment exterior or services fall to bits due to money problems. We voted to change the facilities-company six years ago and it was a very smooth process, which surprised me, and the new one is more pro-active than it's predecessor. Surely there are such organisations in the UK too?? Not needing a mortgage means that you can save and plan for whatever seems the wise next step.

Thanks. There are similar arrangements in the UK, either 'right to manage' where the leaseholders take over the management of the block or shared freehold where they collectively own the freehold and take care of management (although in both cases the actual work may still be passed to a management company to handle).

Both are better than being controlled by a Landlord who may or may not be reasonable in their dealings and aims for their 'freehold investment'.
 
Both are better than being controlled by a Landlord who may or may not be reasonable in their dealings and aims for their 'freehold investment'.
Doesn't that depend on the wording of the contract? At least with a landlord, the tenants have a collective bargaining angle. If a joint freeholder decides not to play ball, I could imagine lengthy and costly arguments preceding any necessary works to communal areas.
 

Jammy66

War Hero
Doesn't that depend on the wording of the contract? At least with a landlord, the tenants have a collective bargaining angle. If a joint freeholder decides not to play ball, I could imagine lengthy and costly arguments preceding any necessary works to communal areas.

No, because the lease is what matters in this case. The lease may state, for example, that the building must be repainted every 5 years. The freeholder (whether an individual or collective) is obliged to ensure that the terms of the lease are adhered to. The work would be carried out and the (objectionable) leaseholder charged for the work.

This is why shared freeholds often still use a management company, so that it's not the neighbours enforcing the terms on other neighbours but the management company.

Obviously there is legal process one can take if the work is deemed unnecessary or too costly but having been involved in that I can advise anyone you really really should try to resolve any disputes amongst yourselves.
 
Obviously there is legal process one can take if the work is deemed unnecessary or too costly but having been involved in that I can advise anyone you really really should try to resolve any disputes amongst yourselves.

I don't necessarily disagree with the premise but follow the scenario:
A three storey block of flats, 2 flats per floor. The handrail falls off on the stairs between 1st and 2nd floor. The people on the top floor deem this as needing an urgent repair. Those on the ground and 1st floors don't consider it urgent, they never see it, let alone use it and believe it fell off because of abuse by the people on the top floor.

If there is a landlord, the tenants present a united front quoting a safety hazard and the landlord fixes it. At least, he should if he is liable for communal areas.

If the occupiers are shared freeholders, unless the handrail is specifically included in the contract, there's a possibility of dispute as some may not view a remote (to them) area as communal.
 

Jammy66

War Hero
I don't necessarily disagree with the premise but follow the scenario:
A three storey block of flats, 2 flats per floor. The handrail falls off on the stairs between 1st and 2nd floor. The people on the top floor deem this as needing an urgent repair. Those on the ground and 1st floors don't consider it urgent, they never see it, let alone use it and believe it fell off because of abuse by the people on the top floor.

If there is a landlord, the tenants present a united front quoting a safety hazard and the landlord fixes it. At least, he should if he is liable for communal areas.

If the occupiers are shared freeholders, unless the handrail is specifically included in the contract, there's a possibility of dispute as some may not view a remote (to them) area as communal.

No, it was there and was broken and needs to be reinstated. The lease requires that the freeholder/s keep the building and communal areas in good order and a missing handrail would surely be a health and safety factor as well.

The work would be carried out and the cost recouped from the service charge. An individual leaseholder can take the freeholder to a property tribunal if they disagree but the lease will usually also include a clause to say that the freeholder can recoup their legal costs for any such action via the service charge, so the leaseholder could 'win' the argument but save a few hundred and have to pay a few thousand in additional fees.

At tribunal the leaseholder would have to proved that the work was unecessary, too expensive or outside the terms of the lease to win. Reinstating a broken handrail on a staircase would not be unecessary or outside the terms of the lease so it would then come down to cost, but if you want legal representation at a tribunal you're looking at a bill of about £15K (I was quoted) so it needs to be something a bit more significant to make it worthwhile.

Trust me I spent 5 years trying to resolve issues between a freeholder and neighbours and the power of individual leasholders is very very little.

If they don't pay the service charge they risk forfieting the lease - i.e. losing their home.
 
I haven't any experience of any of the situations under discussion so I'm playing devil's advocate. Notably, I've been using the term "joint freeholder" but I notice that you've included the term "leaseholder". I'd imagine that it would be more difficult to oust a joint freeholder, especially if, to come back to the scenario, 4 of the 6 joint freeholders didn't want to pay for the works.
 

Sexton Blake

War Hero
Jammy,

Just my twopence worth but so far ‘location’ has hardly been mentioned.

Whether you are living in your ‘TBC‘ new gaff short or long term please remember the adage ‘buy the worst house (or flat) in the best area and never the other way around’.

That may have some bearing on your final decision. Once an area goes into decline your quality of life there or success at selling on decline too.
 

Sexton Blake

War Hero
Alternatively, as in any ‘what would you do in this situation’ moment simply let your military training kick in.

That should sort everything out!
 
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