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Is it risky to buy a flat now?
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Fixitfelicity · 05/09/2020 11:09

Viewed a flat I like which was built in 2004. I'm a cash buyer. There's a car park on the ground floor with 4 stories above. It's brick with no cladding but I think some flats have small balconies. The day I viewed it, I read about the ESW1 certificates on here and now I'm worried that if I needed to sell the flat it would be very difficult and also that I could be liable for additional costs for the ESW1 certificate and the works required if recommendations are made. It seems that all flats have now been brought into scope and not just those over 18m or with cladding. I'm in such a quandary. Although I'm a cash buyer, I'm not well off and can't afford to make a huge mistake. All purchases carry some risk of course, but is it very risky to buy a flat now?

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OneRingToRuleThemAll · 05/09/2020 11:17

I would buy a flat that is a converted house, but not one in a block. The steep service charges put me off before all this. The ESW1 is just another thing to make the flats a liability.

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Fixitfelicity · 05/09/2020 11:40

Thanks one thing. It is in a large block and the service charges and ground rent is 1600 pa. It's a tiny 2 bed but I think the charges aren't excessive (a couple of other flats I looked at had charges of over £2000 and they were built around the same time.

It's a very frustrating situation because I don't think buildings without cladding were meant to require a EWS1. From what I've read here, it seems that there are calls for clarification but that could take quite some time.

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NastyBlouse · 05/09/2020 11:45

re service charges -- check whether the company that controls the service charge has the right and power to increase it, and for what reason. The flat I'm renting at the moment is in a development that has expanded over time, and some of the longer term residents in the initial phase of buildings have just seen their service charge go up from about £1,200 a year to almost £5,000 a year. Excuse given was the development is bigger now, with more buildings and common areas etc, so it costs a lot more to administer and manage. But the people who own in the older blocks had virtually no input or say into the increases.

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WombatChocolate · 05/09/2020 11:57

I know it doesn't apply here and won't be relevant if you've got your heart set on this flat...but bear in mind that maisonette flats often don't have service charges becaue they don t have communal areas. If service charges can be £2k per year, even over just 5 years you're looking at saving £10k....and although you will need to spend some money in external decoration etc, it is unlikely to be £10k.

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Fixitfelicity · 05/09/2020 12:05

Thank you nasty and wombat, that is very useful information.

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JoJoSM2 · 05/09/2020 12:15

I’ll go against the grain here. If I was buying a flat, I’d go for a larger, well managed block, ideally share of freehold. Service charge legally needs to reflect the cost of maintenance and the management company needs to get different quotes for bigger jobs. Share of freehold is better in that the residents will have annual meetings and can vote on any upgrades etc They appoint the management company too.
It’s just a case of finding the right block that’s clearly well looked after + checking sinking funds and schedule of works.

Personally, I’m not a fan of conversions or purpose built maisonettes when you’ve got 1-2 other owners to liaise with re costly roof repairs, reprinting of brickwork or damp treatment etc. If there’s no one managing, it also gets done on an ad hoc basis and people might be unable/unwilling to stamp up 5 or 10k.

The certificates are another worry but I imagine the rules will get ironed out especially if there’s no cladding. Having said that, flat prices probably aren’t going anywhere so you could as well wait a few months for any updates on the rules.

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Bluntness100 · 05/09/2020 12:19

Honestly? Until the situation on esw 1 is cleared up I would not buy a flat. It really is a gamble right now.

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Fixitfelicity · 05/09/2020 13:55

It's a leasehold unfortunately.

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JoJoSM2 · 05/09/2020 14:01

Even if it’s leasehold, the company can’t just charge any amount. It need to reflect the work done and they need to prepare annual statements and demonstrate quotes etc.

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sunshinesupermum · 05/09/2020 15:45

JoJo is correct.

I live in a block of flats that was converted from a police section house and a new block built on the same plot in 2002. I've just checked with the residents association as there is some cladding on both buildings. The managing agents have been proactive and are already sounding out quotes for an ESW1 and we will then be given the information on the cost. Which yes, we'll have to pay but at least we will be ina osotion to sell on. We are leasehold as are most flats except those converted from houses. I would not like to live in one of those in case I didn't get along with my neighbour!

OP if you love this flat and plan to stay for 5+ years I wouldn't let an ESW1 put you off. But your solicitor should definitely be asking questions before you sign any contract to find out if the freeholders/managing agents are being proactive about the ESW1 situation.

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