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Freeholder refusing to replace external render, causing damp problems inside. What are my rights?


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I bought a maisonette in 2016 (part of what was originally a row of TOC terraced houses).  I did a renovation internally, including patching up large areas of damp plasterwork.  The cause of the damp is the cracked external render. The render only goes two thirds of the way up the wall, so rain hitting the top third of the wall runs down, gets behind the render, and then can't escape, except by going inwards, rotting the plaster.

I showed it to the property management company, who agreed to replace the render. However they still haven't done it, in spite of being chased many times. They promised to do it last summer, then this summer, but say they don't have the money because they had to do an emergency roof repair on another part of the block, and because they've had trouble getting service charges from some other leaseholders.

What are my legal rights please?  Morally, I feel entitled to refuse to pay the latest service charge bill, but if I do that, they definitely won't have the money to do the render. Their refusal is causing damage to the property which I will have to pay to rectify, through professional replastering (I only patched it up in 2016, because of the ongoing problem). Am I within my legal rights to get the rendering done myself and deduct it from the service charge? Can I invoice them for the cost of replastering internally? What CAN I do?

Advice appreciated, many thanks.

 

 

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Hi Alex

 

I guess much will depend on what your lease and / or management agreement says as to what rights and remedies you have. The fact that the management company seemed to accept responsibility is an encouraging sign at least, even if they have failed to carry out on their promise.

 

I would check the terms of your lease and also speak to your insurer or check on the cover you have there as well. It could be that the insurance company takes on a case against the freeholder / managing agent.

 

If you did not want to involve the insurance company, then you might have a claim against the freeholder and managing agent, but court claims are costly and time-consuming, so the threat of court action is often better than the reality of it I usually find.

 

I would makes sure you have everything in writing, including them accepting responsibility and then gradual raise the threat of further action to encourage them to act. That all said, it doesn't sound like they have the funds to rectify the situation, so you could be in for a long battle here, sadly.

 

Talking, jotting things down in writing and potentially then escalating through insurers / court would be my suggestion. Withholding service charge might actually put you in breach of the lease, so think carefully about that. You might be able to get them agree to reimburse you for another patch-repair, but that's just a temporary fix as you have already seen, so not my first choice of action.

 

Good luck!

 

Best

Richard

Richard W J Brown a.k.a. The Property Voice

Property Investment Strategist

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Hi Alex

 

Have you looked here? https://www.lease-advice.org/

 

There is a lot of useful advice covering a whole host of issues to do with leasehold property.

 

A more long term option could be to consider the Right to Manage or even Enfranchisement. This would require participation from the other leaseholders as well as proper legal advice before embarking on the process. 

 

Thanks

Matt

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