Flats from a landlord's point of view
carrying out alterations and
improvements or not?
We are surveyors that are used to dealing with all types of property related work and are happy to help you with property problems. Some of us are landlords and therefore have direct experience dealing with property issues from a landlord's point of view.
We carry out tailor made reports to help clarify property issues and also help you communicate these to any tenants that you have in the properties. We have over the years carried reports on almost all property issues everything from dampness, rising damp, lateral damp, penetrating damp, on black mould, condensation, thermal bridging together with all sorts of roof problems from flat to pitched roofs and structural problems amongst many other issues.
We can also offer independent Expert Witness reports where a situation may become a legal issue and we also help with negotiations between landlords and tenants.
Call us on free phone 0800 298 5424 for a friendly chat about your property issues.
Free phone 0800 298 5424
Carrying out work within your flat
If you are a landlord reading this article who owns and manages a block of flats you may not appreciate a tenant carrying out alterations to your property. We have dealt with landlords who have almost despair over their tenants lack of understanding of the lease that they have signed. We once had a landlord who advised us that if you had a car and did not like the colour you would not re-paint it or if you did not like the location of the seats you would not re-position them. However it seems almost normal for tenants to carry out work without approval.
Managing a block of flats
From a landlord's viewpoint and indeed most other property professionals you do not want unauthorised alterations carried out in a block of flats where they could affect the structure as a whole.
Unapproved wall removal caused damage to property above – a costly mistake by the tenant
The worst case that we have come across with regard to unauthorised alterations is where a wall was taken out within a block of flats which meant that the support that the wall was giving to the floor above was also removed! No thought was given to getting advice on the structure of the property or adding in a lintel or indeed even speaking to the people that lived directly below them.
The wall was removed and the floor deflected causing problems with showers leaking and damage to floor tiles. What was worse was that the tenant who was carrying out the work decided to go on holiday during the course of the work and leave his builders to carry out the alterations. In one way we could see the sense in this as you are away when the alterations are being carried out however it also meant that you are not contactable with the builders very unhappy to stop work as they knew they would not be paid for not doing any work and equally they were unhappy to carry out any additional work such as propping the ceiling and walls to help with support. The property had leaking water from the flat above which took the plaster off the ceiling and walls!
Landlord's understand your building
Buildings that are owned for investment purposes can take many forms. These can range from traditionally constructed buildings which were large converted houses to purpose built properties such as those with concrete frames. As such the way the buildings can be altered changes considerably with each type of property.
Problems landlord's have with older properties
Problems landlord's have with older properties can range anything from chimneys being removed at low ground floor level without the chimneys being adequately supported to dampness problems being caused by structure which has got cold/thermal bridging. Also problems arise with the occupier's lifestyle where they shower and bath without using an extract fan and also cook without the use of the extract fan and dry clothes in the property during the winter months.
What can a landlord do in older properties?
A landlord could simply add large humidity controlled extract fans which turn themselves on and off and therefore the landlord will not have to rely on tenants doing this or it could be as difficult as having to negotiate the loss of garden space to incorporate a bin store and the building of a drying room. Ultimately these actions can save landlord's money limiting condensation and black mould problems.
Dampness to corner of room
Dampness to wall
Noise also seems to be a problem particularly with the popularity of floor tiles in bathrooms and laminate boarding.
The hard floor coverings allow the transfer of noise from one floor to the next.
Landlord's problems in purpose built properties
Since the War Years we have also had purpose built flats and apartments constructed which were often originally built by Local Authorities for social housing and these often use different types of construction to typical residential buildings. These properties are more aligned in some circumstances to commercial buildings with structural frames and in some cases they are also semi-experimental where Local Authorities and Housing Associations built them.
Problems in these properties can range from difficulties carrying out work at high level as these buildings tend to be higher than traditional buildings and often goes above five storeys. We have dealt with very high purpose built blocks of flats where there is everything from lifts to consider to fire regulations and of course security.
For example do you know that most Fire Brigades can only gain access to a property up to eleven storeys high.
Alterations that are carried out for example where tenants use outside space and block fire exits can be disastrous.
Who owns the roof space?
The other area of contention that can be a problem is who owns the roof space? It tends to be thought by the tenant that the property that gives access to the roof space has the rights to the roof space and tends to take this area over. We have seen a case where the tenant converted the roof space (unauthorised by the landlord) which had caused all sorts of problems when the tenant came to leave the property.
Unauthorised extensions such as these which a roof conversion is require Building Regulations or possibly Planning Permissions which looks at the property.
Do landlords have to give reasonable permission for alterations?
It really depends upon the terms of the lease that is in place, there are of course reasons why you may not be able to give a tenant permission which could range from the need for Listed Buildings consent on older properties or the requirement for Building Regulations, Planning Permission or Party Wall Approval.
Building Regulations Approval Defined
To ensure the building works are carried out to a standard and safely.
Planning Permission Defined
To ensure the look and aesthetics are appropriate for use.
Party Wall Act etc 1996
With flats you will often be dealing with The Party Wall etc Act where you will be required to advise neighbours what you are doing and when you are to carry out building works.
Landlords with professional representatives
More frequently we come across landlords that actually have a Surveyor appointed to manage the process and double check that the tenants have Planning Permission, Building Regulations Approval and Party Wall Notices in place and that the tenant has gone to a reputable builder.
Whilst Surveyor should not take the role of project manager they can often with their experience give valuable advice however there is a fine line to tread.
Letting other occupiers know
As the landlord ultimately we believe it is best if you let user groups know about the building works within the property and double check that the tenant carrying out the alterations has got everyone's agreement and approval talking them through the plans. Some flats will be affected more than others when building works are carried out for example the removal of a chimney may cause movement in the floor above and obviously the tenant in that property may be very concerned if they are not aware of the work being carried out.
Often the first a tenant next door or above another tenant knows of alteration work is when they hear the builders noise!
As a landlord you may end up being an arbitrator with a property problem
A typical property problem that a tenant may come to a landlord with is a leaking roof. The tenant on the top floor is directly affected but other tenants on lower floors may not be aware of the issue.
Equally we regularly come across rising damp and condensation issues which cause problems in the ground floor or basement flat but is not an issue for anyone else and as such gets ignored by everyone else.
Or it can be something as simple as windows not being redecorated where for example the south side of a property gets more sun and the windows deteriorate more quickly. This can seem to the occupier a very simple issue to sort out.
Problems may arise with noise transfer as the floors and ceilings of a flat also form the floors and ceilings of the flats below and above. Without proper insulation your tenant can get some noise transfer, without any insulation at all there could be a lot of noise transfer between flats. This is a problem we have come across many times and often results in neighbourhood disputes.
We have come across some buildings in conservation areas where the occupiers have sorted out the problems by having plastic windows fitted which then causes problems for everyone within the flats.
A good way forward when dealing with problems with flats
A good way forward is to have a Schedule of Condition carried out that is agreed by the landlord and tenants/occupiers as being the condition of the property. Agreement then can take place as to what work is needed and when as well as a procedure to be put in place for any emergency work.
We also like to look with the Schedules of Condition and what is known as Planned Maintenance at such areas as security which can be improving a door entry system to a video entry system or improving the fire alarm system by having one!
Quality at the right price
Often work will be required on a property and there can be all sorts of arguments over the cost of the work and normally the cheapest solution is being considered the best by everyone! The benefit of having a Surveyor involved is that they will generally provide you with the best solution and organise quotations from reputable contractors if so required. What we tend to do is also use any local contacts that the occupiers or landlord may have as well.
Please see our surveying articles on:-
Don't compare apples with Thursdays
Surveyors will also be able to advise whether the quotations you are getting in are of the right quality and price and also whether the solution being suggested is the correct solution. We have recently been dealing with a case where a damp proof course has been inserted and then a waterproof render and a renovating plaster internally which is completely inappropriate for this particular Victorian property. We believe the damp proofing work is now going to make it very costly as it needs to be removed to help solve the problem and make the walls more breathable.
Don't forget the existing owners and occupiers
Equally it is important to have meetings with any property owners groups as these people will have to live through alterations that you have carried out.
We are happy to act for either the landlord or the tenant and can act for both
Free phone us for a friendly chat on 0800 298 5424 about Dilapidations and property management issues. We would also be happy to email you some examples of our tailor made reports, Schedules of Condition, Structural Surveys and Property Reports. We also find that Specific Defect Reports can be use where there is one problem or issue that needs resolving between the landlord and tenant.
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).
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