Block of flats falling apart – what can we do?Make Text Bigger
Well, not quite but close…
I own a leasehold flat in an 18 unit block in Halifax. All units are owned by investors. About a year ago we took over the management, using the RTM Process. Myself and one of the other owners are now directors of the Right To Manage (RTM) company and we have a managing agent in place. The freehold is owned by a third party.
On the 19/2/2013 the building was inspected by an independent surveyor who wrote a report. The reason for the inspection is the poor condition of the concrete walkways. We bring you here the relevant sections of the report so that you can get an understanding of the situation.
Description & Background:
KC comprises a residential complex of flats constructed over three levels and provides accommodation within 18 units. We would estimate that the complex is 50-60 years old and is constructed of cavity brickwork external walls with a pitched clay and concrete tile covered roof. The intermediate floors, balconies and external access stairs are constructed of reinforced concrete, which appears to be case in situ.
We understand that render has been reported as spalling from the underside of the external walkways which serve the first and second floor levels of the building. The purpose of the inspection was to determine the cause of the defect, set out an appropriate course of action for further investigation and propose longer term remedial measures.
We have also been requested to make any relevant general observations with regard to the premises and highlight matters of particular health and safety risk.
The building was inspected by Bond Bryan Building Surveying Ltd on 19th February 2013.
A brief visual inspection of the property known as KC Halifax was undertaken by Bond Bryan Building Surveying.
The purpose of the inspection was to investigate and comment upon spalling render to the underside of concrete walkways at the rear of the property and other items of disrepair identified during the inspection.
In all situations further investigation and testing of the concrete is necessary however we are able to comment on the overall condition and make recommendations as to the most appropriate courses of action.
We would describe the condition of the external walkways as very poor. The spalling of the cement render coating to the soffits of the walkways is attributable to the significant deterioration of the reinforced concrete.
The reinforcement bars embedded within the concrete slabs have corroded significantly. The bars have expanded through corrosion which has caused cracking and spalling of the concrete.
In our opinion the concrete slabs of the walkways have deteriorated beyond economic repair and it is our recommendation that they are removed and replaced with a steelwork structure.
Our challenge is:
We are told by the managing agent that if we don’t take the next step – which is have the concrete tested – they wouldn’t feel uncomfortable managing the site.
As far as we are concerned, no-one knows how long the concrete will last. It could be 5-10-20-30 years. All a test would supply us is with the state of the concrete at the moment and an opinion as to how long it would last.
Myself and the other director went to inspect the site with an experienced builder who explained that he would be able to make good the exposed areas of the walkways so that there is no danger of falling concrete.
We would much rather make good the exposed areas than going through the test which will, possibly, force us to go through a very very expensive repair process (the report speaks of more than £300K to replace the walkways with a steel structure). The flats are currently worth £40K each and there is no way any of the owners could afford to pay more than £16,000 for such a job.
Our questions are:
1. What can we do in this situation which would protect us as directors from being negligent while finding a practical and cost effective solution to this problem?
2. What are we required to do by law?
3. What is the responsibility and obligation of the freeholder in this situation?
We would appreciate any information or advice you may have.
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