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Survey problems with a Victorian flat

(8 Posts)
tuliphouse Wed 29-Jul-15 21:48:52


My DP and I are currently in the process of buying our first home together and have been left pretty despondent over the home buyers survey results that came back today. As Mumsnet has been very educational for me so far (but only as a lurker, this is my first post!) I wondered if anyone had any words of reassurance over some of the things that have been mentioned in the survey. We have really fallen in love with the flat, but I am aware that we shouldn't let this cloud our judgement if the survey is really as bad as it seems!

Just to set the scene, the flat is a one bed garden flat in the middle of a Victorian Terrace in East London, and has a basement. It is one of the old two up two down style houses, which has been extended into the back garden and has been split into 2 flats. The front of the house is also pebble dashed.

The report highlighted 3 'red' traffic lights, 2 of which we are particularly concerned about. The first one was the roof. According to the results the 'roof should now be stripped and replaced with a new artificial slate roof covering... The fillets should be replaced with stepped lead flashings. The rear bay roof is clad with zinc sheet in very poor condition. Stripping and re-cladding in lead sheet is now recommended. There are cement mortar fillets to the ridge which should be replaced in lead'. Is this pretty standard for a Victorian property or is this worse than the standard 'roof could do with replacing' comments?

The second traffic light is the one we are most concerned over. Accordingly to the survey 'There is differential movement between the front bay and main front wall with internal and external cracking to the junction between the two sections of the structure. The rear wall is part rendered with rusticated stucco to the ground floor. There is a vertical crack under the back addition rear first floor window which has occurred since the back addition was repointed. Lateral movement was noted to the flank wall of the back addition. Distortion was noted to the rear bay. Buddleia growing in the rear wall should be removed. The walls have been previously repaired but the recent cracking suggests that the movement has reoccurred. This shows that the previous work has been unsuccessful. You should ask your legal adviser to check if any warranties or guarantees cover this work. If the answer is yes you should approach the guarantor and ask them to resolve the matter' (sorry for not putting that into my own words, I don't really understand it and so don't want to miss something out crucial!). Is this disastrous? We were thinking of instructing a structural engineer to come in. Do people have experience of this?

The final red was that there is some rising damp to the front and back of the flat. When we viewed the flat, the EA told us that there had been a damp problem previously but that the current owners had a damp proofing course done 5 years ago which has a 30 year guarantee, so hopefully this one should be ok?

If anyone has any experience on any of these things it would be greatly appreciated? Being first time buyers it is all pretty new to us and quite scary!

Thank you!

IrenetheQuaint Wed 29-Jul-15 21:58:13

Well, I'm not an expert at all, but I do live in a Victorian garden flat in London and had a long and scary survey.

If you're really keen on the flat I'd suggest a full structural survey as well as the homebuyers. Go round with the surveyor if you can.

Point 2 sounds like a major concern and yes you should speak to your solicitor (get them to ask the vendors' solicitor about any work done and guarantees) and get an opinion from a structural engineer.

Point 3 - damp proofing is not a great solution for Victorian houses as far as I can tell. You need to find out where the damp is coming from (is the outside ground level too high? is there inadequate ventilation?) and sort that. This may not be a massive issue (I've had rising damp for years - it looks ugly but is not getting any worse) but if you have a builder you can trust it would be worth getting them round to have a look.

As I say, I'm not an expert at all so don't take my comments as gospel!

tuliphouse Wed 29-Jul-15 22:11:03

Thank you IrenetheQuaint, that is really helpful information, especially about the rising damp. I agree, it is definitely a good idea for us to get a full structural survey considering point 2.

Thank you for replying so quickly!

wowfudge Wed 29-Jul-15 23:26:30

The second issue sounds worrying and there's quite a bit of detail in the report. Sounds as though it goes right through the building. It could be subsidence to do with trees in the garden or a near neighbour's garden or caused by a collapsed drain.

tvlover1234 Wed 29-Jul-15 23:32:08

Second issue very worrying and they're asking you to get the sellers to repair so would be pretty costly. And you could have a bit of a fight on your hands with getting them to repair or alternitvaly knocking down the price of the house

CloserToFiftyThanTwenty Wed 29-Jul-15 23:34:49

All survey reports make the property sound like a complete dump! I think it's to cover themselves, but I remember almost crying over the first one we saw, I couldn't' believe the lovely place we were buying was such a shit hole!

However, even putting that to one side, the first point might not be your problem - check who is responsible for external maintenance - or might not be something that needs doing immediately. The third point might be easily remedied when you find the cause. The second sounds potentially very serious, I'm afraid

tuliphouse Thu 30-Jul-15 07:29:42

Thank you all for your replies. We have asked our solicitor to investigate, but like you all said, it is such a worrying (and potentially huge) issue I am starting to think that this maybe this is not the one for us.

Thank you all again for being so helpful, I knew Mumsnet would help me out smile

Cedar03 Thu 30-Jul-15 14:28:41

The key issue with a flat is who owns the freehold and what plans (if any) there are for things like a roof needs replacing sooner rather than later.
There are a couple of options:
Freeholder is absent and/or doesn't care. Therefore will be slow at handling issues with roof as not there to actually see it.
Freeholder is brilliant and has a plan for repairs in place. Has got quotes, etc and given notification for work.
Leaseholders each own a share of freehold and therefore roof/repairs are collective responsiblity. You then get some say over repairs but there may not be any immediate plans to look at the roof.

Whichever way you'd have to look at what costs you'd be expected to contribute towards the repairs. And this will depend on what is counted as part of your maintenance payments. In my experience, even when you all own the leasehold there can be differing opinions about what should be counted in the ongoing running costs and what else might need to be paid on top.
These issues should be considered for every leasehold.

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