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Mika
07-12-2011, 12:21 PM
Hello

I have recently starting renting my flat out after failing to sell it, and am now renting a house with my family.

The tenants are complaining about damp and mould around the windows and the bottom of the walls of the two front facing rooms, which are north facing and therefore colder. They think damp may be coming from bushes outside the property. They said they are ventilating as much as they can.

We lived there for years before we moved and we did have to deal with mould and damp, and we had someone out to look at the property early on who told us it was to do with condensation and that we needed to ventilate etc, which we did and we managed to keep on top of it by cleaning with mould killer, painting over and ventilating. Before we moved we redecorated and painted the antifungal stuff on, and used anti mould wallpaper paste and wipe clean paint.

However, the agents have contacted our management agents for the flat, who have sent us a letter saying that they will send a building surveyor out to look at it but if it turns out that it is condensation or anything which is our responsibility then £250+VAT will be added to our service charge.

What can I do about this? I do not want to (and can't really afford to) pay this cost when I think that it will likely be put down to condensation, but I don't want to lose our tenants. Can this cost be passed onto them if it turns out it is condensation?

At the same time in the house we rent I am having to keep windows open all morning in the freezing cold, and wipe down the windows every day and the agents are regularly on our case about it so it doesn't seem fair!

Any advice appreciated.

Snorkerz
07-12-2011, 12:31 PM
Your agent is NOT in a position to tell you they will send a surveyor and bill it to you. Sure, they can 'advise' but they ae there to carry out your instructions - that's why you pay them.

An email or phone call, followed by confirmation in writing confirming that you are aware of the problem and will take relevant steps but that they are NOT to send in the surveyor.

mariner
07-12-2011, 12:33 PM
I would suggest to Ts that you agree to inspection by ind qual building surveyor but if mold is attributed to condensation (T resp) then T pays for inspection.
T could ask council EHO/housing to inspect at min cost or free.
Given your knowledge of property I would suggest you are present during inspection.
Just read Snorkrz's reply and concur.

Mika
07-12-2011, 12:45 PM
Thanks for your replies. Ok so I will let the agents know that I can send a building surveyor but if the problem is caused by tenants then they would need to pay the cost of the surveyor. But how can I hold them to this? Will I need to get them to sign something, or is this for the agents to take responsibility? As in - could they verbally agree and then not pay the cost of the surveyor a bit further down the line?

Snorkerz
07-12-2011, 12:53 PM
I am sorry, I have to disagree slightly with Mariners post as I don't believe you can make the tenants liable for the fees.

Having re-read your post, it is not your agents who are pushing for the surveyor, it is the managing agents of the building. Therefore, what thay are saying is - if it is your fault (and that includes your tenants) then you pay, if it is a structural issue (which will be the management companies issue) then they pay.

Their stance is reasonable as they have a responsibility to maintain the building for ALL the leaseholders, I can see that enforcing getting it identified and fixed asap is in the interest of other leaseholders.

So far as your own tenants are concerned, there is obviously an issue, you are responsible for the structure of the building. If it is their fault, you can certainly bill them for the cost of fixing, but you have a legal responsibility to fix (probably via the managemet company) and you can only effectively do so if you find out what is the cause - and I think that's your responsibility.

Mika
07-12-2011, 13:36 PM
If it is their fault, you can certainly bill them for the cost of fixing

Thanks again for your advice. So would this not include billing them for my costs incurred should it turn out to be condensation? As, having had someone from the managing agency come out before (albeit about 5 years ago) as mentioned in my previous post, I think this is what they are likely to say.

It doesn't seem fair that I should have to pay around £300 for someone to tell me that it is the tenants fault. And if it isn't their fault then neither of us would have to pay for the survey.

MrJohnnyB
07-12-2011, 13:54 PM
Usually the cause of damp is pretty obvious. If the bushes are touching exposed brickwork then this could undoubtedly be the cause, even if it wasn't I would recommend them being cut back as bricks are porous as are most building materials.

mariner
07-12-2011, 16:13 PM
I also was confused by number & designation of agents involved.
Condensation can be caused by many things, not all T caused.
cavity walls normally prevent penetrating damp unless bridged by sloppy building or post-construction insulation filling. Poor window replacement or metal frames.
The main reason close bushes and trees cause problems is the foliage prevents wind ciculating & drying the external bricks so that part of the building cannot 'breathe' properly.
Another indicator to it not being T problem is OP states property only recently rented out and actual experience of earlier condensation problems.
I would trim back foliage well clear of any wall before inspection.
OP should realise he would have still incurred the cost or inc service charge even if he was still living there without rental income and as LL he has stat liabilities for repair.
As for Ts paying for inspection/repair...consider blocked sewer pipe.
LL resp to determine cause & repair. If shown to be caused by blocked nappy etc and not normal sludge build up or broken pipe, then IMO full cost of repair can be applied to T as a debt for immediate or deferred repayment.

Mika
07-12-2011, 16:28 PM
My main concern is that the managing agents of the block of flats will come back and say "it's condensation" and then charge us £300 for the privilege, without solving anything. This is what happened before when we called them out.

The bushes have always been there and they do come right up to the wall, but the maintenance of the grounds of the flats is the responsibility of the managing agents, and surely trimming them back would actually work against me as if it is to do with the bushes then they can't blame it on me/the tenants. But, like I say, they didn't attribute the damp to the bushes last time they sent a surveyor in.

Could I take up the issue of the bushes with them without getting a costly surveyor in? Or buy a dehumidifier? I want to solve the problem but not throw money at the managing agents for little gain. Or would I be better to get someone independent in? Will the council do this for free?

midlandslandlord
08-12-2011, 07:21 AM
Could I take up the issue of the bushes with them without getting a costly surveyor in? Or buy a dehumidifier? I want to solve the problem but not throw money at the managing agents for little gain. Or would I be better to get someone independent in? Will the council do this for free?

The bushes may be beating about the bush, or not - depending on wind and weather direction etc.

For £300 you are close to being able to install a plumbed in dehumidifier or forced ventilation fan.

ML

Mika
08-12-2011, 13:20 PM
That's useful to know midlandsLL, I didn't even know you could get plumbed in dehumidifiers. I'd much rather spend the money on something like that!

I went had a look at the bushes today, they are well trimmed and not touching the property, they are lower than the window sill and not too thick. They may even offer some protection, certainly against snow fall etc. The windows to the flat weren't open even a little bit. This makes me think even more that it is a ventilation issue. Also, there was no damp or mould when the flat was empty last winter, save for a little bit round the windows.

Bel
09-12-2011, 13:14 PM
Likely to be they are not prepared to pay for adequate heating and ventilation and dry their clothes indoors.

Ask them if they would use a dehumdifier (cost of electric and having to empty collecting tank on a regular basis)

If answer is yes; you can get one for around £150

You also need to get them to clean off all the mould with residual actingmould killer and treat it as it arises.

Give regular inspections.