As part of my practice’s Quality Assurance procedure I always request feedback from my clients. Your kind comments and of course constructive criticisms are always helpful and appreciated. Even the occasional moan is welcome as it shows where I can seek improvement. I thank you. You are most kind.
A client of mine rang up this week. ‘You did a survey on my house in 2001 and we have found some recent wetness on the carpet in the hallway at the base of the stairs. ‘
OMG. Had I missed something? I did not think so as I maintain a pretty tight QA system in my inspections and comprehensive note taking and photographs. Nobody was pointing the finger at me but I defy any building surveyor not to feel slight loosening of the lower digestive track when he or she hears those words.
Well 8 years is a long time for conditions to change in a property and the client could not satisfactorily describe his problem over the phone, so I arranged to make a visit to see if I could help. Fortunately the property was only local to the office so off I went.
The property is a modern traditionally built house built around 1998 with cavity walls and solid concrete floors. There is an estate full of them. And quite pleasant too.
Well the hall carpet was indeed wet at the bottom of the stairs. I peeled the carpet back and the black asphalt below was visibly wet. The stair base and adjacent timber skirting was discoloured having absorbed dampness. I looked further around the hallway and found the door frame bases to the cloakroom and kitchen doors discoloured and showing signs of swelling. The doorways are set in the usual lightweight modern partitions common in modern speculative house construction. The client’s wife was naturally upset and had quite rightly suggested in no uncertain terms her husband had better get it sorted.
Well I set about and looked for the usual suspects. Were there any outside defects? Any signs of flooding or rainwater runoff, bridged damp proof course, piled earth, raised paving levels leaking waste or rainwater pipes. No, nothing, not a thing out of order.
So back to the inside. Anything amiss? Were there any leaking radiators or adjacent central heating pipes. No. What about hot and cold water service pipework in the bulkhead cupboard upstairs; had water tracked down inside the partition? I had a panel off upstairs. No ,dry as a bone. Could not get into base of stairs as builder had partitioned off base of stairs to create a cupboard off kitchen. ( which was helpful!)
What about condensation? Mmm,so why just locally and to the inner warm part of the house?
Any leaking pipes in the cloakroom? No. Curious. A leaking dog? No.
Expanded the inspection to adjacent kitchen. What have we got here? A sink, a built in washing machine. Any immediate signs of leakage? Well none to the sink position. Then I noticed some swelling to a kitchen unit plinth base.
‘Do you mind if I pull this off?’ ‘No’ said desperate client fearing the wife’s vocal retribution if it matters were not sorted .
‘Bingo’ said I. ( enigmatically with some smug superiority)
Under the fitted kitchen units I found a lake of standing water as the picture shows ( well a big puddle actually). The washing machine had been seriously incontinent for some time and water had flowed all round the kitchen under the units. Upon close inspection you could just see seepage under the plinth board onto the floor tiling to base of the units. Turns out the client had been wiping up the dampness thinking it was spillage by wife, kids etc or condensation. You know how it is in a busy household. I am always kicking the dog’s water bowl over in mine.
But how was it spreading internally across 2 to 3 metres without leaving a track? Well the kitchen has a ceramic tiled finish and the hall a carpet on gripper rod edges. The reason for spread? Capillary action. Water in the kitchen base cupboard was leaking into cracks and gaps to the edges of the black asphalt and was being drawn by capillary action in the gap between asphalt and concrete floor slab; asphalt screeds are not not generally bonded but are separated by glass fibre membrane. Well water spreads below the asphalt and then becomes manifest at any break in the membrane; the edges , adjacent partitions and walls and nail or screw fixings ie the carpet gripper rods and carpet door strips. ( Always insist on adhesive fixing for this reason. There are some pretty sticky adhesives available to carpet fitters these days)
What to do? Seems like an insurance claim to me. Curing the leak is no problem but repairing and replacing and damp isolation will be hellish difficult. Water and dampness will remain trapped in perpetuity ( forever!) unless the screed is removed and floor surface allowed to dry.
Anyway that’s another story and hopefully not mine. I would not fancy suggesting full fitment strip out and break up of screed and finishes and partition base renewals to the client’s wife!
Turns out the client is an insurance broker! Handy.
Job done, defect diagnosed. The charge for these services? None, but if the Client ever reads this and feels so disposed a donation to the Local Hospice might be appropriate. An hour of professional time has got to be worth something these days.
The inestimable investigative skills and deductive reasoning of the expert Chartered Building Surveyor win again.
Sadly Andy Murray in the semis at Wimbledon the next day did not. Still ‘£212500 compensation aint bad boy.’
WOW (Words of wisdom)
Household appliances including washing machines and dishwashers can leak. Check them regularly and always investigate unexplained dampness or puddles.
Tenants often sign up to leases of premises and never have any contact from their landlords except to receive rent and insurance demands or participate in rent reviews.
How many Landlords conduct periodic inspections during the Lease to make sure their Tenants are complying with their obligations to repair and decorate.
Properly drafted leases usually oblige the Tenant to keep the premises in repair and to decorate periodically. So why let the Tenant get in arrears in respect of repairs and decorations.
Redecoration particulary externally is preventative maintenance and stops corrosion or wet rot decay developing to the point where replacements are necessary.
Electrical installations should be periodically inspected , tested and certified.( Usually every 5 years in the case of older installations). Gas installations should be annually inspected and tested and certified. How many Landlords ask to see these during the currency of the lease?
No usually what happens is the condition of the premises is not on the Landlord’s agenda until lease end. Then a Surveyor is sent in and lo and behold the premises have years of backlog maintenance and repairs outstanding. Decorations have been neglected for years .The cumulative costs of these arrears can be eye watering to a Tenant. In times of economic downturn the solvency of the Tenant can be questionable.
Landlords check your leases and more than likely there will be provision for the Landlord to gain access for periodic inspections to review the state of repair and decoration of the premises. If the Tenant is in default of obligations serve an interim repairs and decorations notice requiring the Tenant to take corrective action.
Try to ensure the final inspection is about 12 months before lease end so a Notice can be served and the Tenant has adequate time to sort matters out. The Landlord’s requirements for any reinstatement matters can be spelt out to the Tenant who then cannot rely on defence of insufficient notice.
The need for weighty dilapidations claim ( and ensuing dispute) will be much reduced. The risks of the Tenant going belly up and leaving the Landlord to pick up the tab is limited to a maximum of 12 months neglect
So to recap Landlords protect your position by:
Periodic check inspections of the premises during the currency of the lease
Use Repair and Decorations Notices to make sure the Tenant does not store up arrears
Arrange for last periodic inspection to coincide with last 12 months of the lease term
Arrange for terminal schedule of dilapidations to be served on the Tenant in last 3 months of the lease term.
This should protect your position.
A bespoke drafted lease at the outset is helpful and I shall discuss this in some future post.
WOW ( words of wisdom):
Never let out so much of the rope you are holding as you are prepared to lose.
Ok ladies and gentlemen take this short test to find out whether your sex life is putting your health at risk. How much do you really know about safe sex practices?
What ?I thought this was about surveying !!!
I apologise for the hook but I have your attention and the analogy is true.
Lease and wealth self-assessment for the tenant.
Take this short test to find out whether your lease is putting your wealth at risk. How much do you really know about safe leasing practices?
1.OK you have just lined up a hot sexy date. ( Found some attractive premises to rent)
1. Have you any idea what the risks are and just what nasty STDs you can catch? (Have you any idea what your lease requires you to do in respect of repairs, decorations and reinstatement. )
2. Did anyone explain to you just exactly what you might be exposing yourself to?
3. Ok you are just about to jump into bed ( sign a lease)with a complete stranger the mistress or toyboy( The Landlord).You think this is going to be free of liabilities once the coupling is done( lease term). Are you sure you are not going to catch something nasty and unexpected as a result? A LTD! (Lease Transmitted Disaster)
4.The mistress or toyboy (Landlord) can be very seductive and entice you into that bed with all sorts of charming and alluring behaviour and promises ( rent free period )
5. Bang the deed is done. The lease is signed.( less than 30 seconds)You have had unprotected exposure. ( You have signed to the lease and you are contractually bound by seemingly innocuous clauses in a bewildering legal document). Have you done this?
6.The LTD might not show for years but when it does it was all because you engaged in fumbled hurried unprotected leasing. Don’t you just feel stupid? (Your wealth is going to be seriously affected.)
OK. STOP NOW!! Do not become another victim of ignorance. Practise safe leasing and take precautions.
As an expert dilapidations surveyor I have worked for some of the largest and most successful businesses and commercial property managers in the NorthWest. ( Iotech Group Ltd, Stax plc, James Hall & Co Spar Stores).
I have acted for the same and many similar businesses where they are Tenants of commercial properties. Leading NorthWest Solicitor practices regularly refer their clients to me.
I have provided expert defence to end of long lease claims against Tenants of up to £1.3 million ( subsequently agreed in the case 0f the £1.3m claim at £650000.)
I have undertaken dilapidations surveys on behalf of my clients for the past two decades. I understand exactly where Tenants can be most vulnerable to claims at the end of a lease.
I am by experience both a poacher ( for Tenant) and a game keeper.( for Landlord)
If you have neglected to deal with you repair and decorations liabilities, unfortunately the only defence you have available to you at the end of a lease is to engage an Dilapidations Expert like me and hope that the landlord is not going to be too agressive . ( Hopefully the Landlord has also engaged an inexperienced dilapidations surveyor to act for it if you are lucky)
This is damage limitation only: far better not to have put yourself in that situation in the first place.
OK .What is involved in practising safe leasing?
Employ the best specialist Commercial Property Lawyer you can afford( I mean seriously experienced and not the sadly all to often generalist solicitor regurgitating or cut and pasting old leases-come on guys who really gives credibility to ‘ye shall whitewash distemper marble and paint’)
Employ the best specialist Dilapidations Building Surveyor you can afford to carry out a pre-lease inspection of the premises and prepare a comprehensive Ingoing Tenant’s Schedule of Condition.This will be in written photographic ( including elevated birds eye ) and increasingly HD Video format and preferably a combination of all three. ( It is if I carry it out.)
Ask your Dilapidations Surveyor togive you an executive summary and advice as to just what are the major issues as to current repair and decorative liabilities and liabilities to be addressed at lease end.
Negotiate with the Landlord for the Landlord to correct existing defects or give rent free period monetary equivalent for you to keep ( and to put) and the premises in good tenantable repair. But do not then forget to sort matters out.
Or if the Landlord will nor put hand in pocket to repair ( despite possible healthy cash injection from previous sucker tenant) seek to agree to limit your liabilities to repair and surrender the premises at end of lease in no better or worse condition than an agreed attached Ingoing Tenant’s Schedule of Condition. (And it better be very comprehensive! The landlord can seek to attack you with the ferocity of a rabid pitbull.)
Maintain repair and decorate during the lease term and certainly well before lease end. It far cheaper for you to commission these works. If you have altered the premises or added to the same without landlord’s consent reinstate the premises. Why give yourself a problem and the Landlord a chance to go for that handy cash injection?
Engage a Dilapidations Surveyor to examine the lease and check over the premises and see where you might be exposed to claims for repairs and decorations and plan backwards from date of the end of the lease and implement a programme of remedial works.
I am an Expert Dilapidations Surveyor with over 25 years experience. If you need help contact me.
I have recently provided safe leasing precautions by preparing a comprehensive schedule of condition of the whole of a multi-hectare site with significant and complex industrial buildings. ( Multiple written schedules, 8 CDRoms of Photos and 2 hours HD DVD Video).
No LTDs for that Tenant!!! ( provided of course they reasonably maintain and decorate to prevent deterioration from recorded condition)
WOW (words of wisdom)
Simple isn’t it?
The prescription: Take sensible precautions and enjoy safe leasing to your heart’s content.
Reviewed an overstated Landlord’s claim today for terminal dilapidations (wants of repair and decoration) at end of commercial lease on industrial premises. My client ,the former tenant, is naturally worried by the staggering amount claimed. ( A third the capital value of the premises)
Moral of tale
1.Take professional advice from experienced Building Surveyor before Lease on the condition of premises and by commissioning and attaching a schedule of condition to the Lease.
Limit liability to yield up the premises in no better or worse condition than evidenced by the Schedule
Too late you didn’t do this?
2. Put your house ( or rather the premises ) in order whilest you are still in occupation. Listen to your Surveyor and act on his advice with regard to reducing your potential exposure to eye watering claim
Too late you didn’t do this?
3. Come and see me and I will see what I can do to reduce the scope and amount of claim ,but be prepared to contribute to your former landlord’s bank balance to greater extent than would have been necessary.
Next time do not be a fool and blind to your potential liabilities.
Obtain the best solicitor’s and surveyor’s advice and guidance you can afford before signing that Lease.
I think in the current case I can help and negotiate the claim down. There are certainly some aspects of the claim not covered by the lease covenants and others are clearly overstated and exaggerated.
WOW( words of wisdom)
As you know prevention is always better than a cure.