Can I make a stand by stop paying ground rent or service charge?

Can I make a stand by stop paying ground rent or service charge?

10:22 AM, 7th January 2022, About 3 weeks ago 12

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Dear all, We bought a leasehold ground floor flat (no basement below) in a mansion block a few months ago. During the conveyancing process, our Home Buyer report highlighted possible rising damp in the flat and suggested us engaging a damp specialist surveyor to carry out an independent Damp and Timber Decay survey, which we did.

The specialist surveyor found no rising damp nor timber decay. He reported that there might have been some penetration damps in the past due to downpipes/drain damage outside the flat, which had already been rectified. His report explained that the high moisture readings from the handheld moisture/conductivity meter were in fact due to the residue salt content left in the walls from previous penetration of water.

Separately, we had also informed the selling agent/vendors about the possible rising damp detected and sought information from them. We were provided some old documents relating to a DPC treatment over a decade ago and were informed that there had been no damp since. Based on the feedback from the vendors and the specialist damp report, we proceeded with exchange.

However, on one of our visit to the flat after our exchange of contract and before the completion, we discovered water ingress in a vacant room where the likely damp had been highlighted in the HomeBuyer report. We alerted the selling agent and enquired again about the history of the damp issue. The response we had was “there has never been leaks whatsoever”. We revisited the flat a couple of days later, the water had all gone and only slight dampness on the carpet, but the agent was adamant that the carpet wasn’t damp. Confusingly, he also mentioned that the vendor had been in the flat the day before to clear away the water.

We proceeded with the completion 10 days later as scheduled and commissioned another specialist damp survey. Below are a few examples of the defects listed in the second specialist’s report :

1. A rain water downpipe right outside the flat’s has come apart halfway from its bracket on the wall. The hopper above no longer feeds rain water from the roof into the downpipe and water from the hopper instead draining downwards over the outside surface of the downpipe and across the elevation. Downpipe need to be fixed properly and hoppers to be checked and unblocked.
2. Masonry pointings immediately above the cementitious skirting at external ground level are failing, some bricks have suffered surface erosion. significantly increase the risk of damp penetration to the interior of the flat on the ground floor.
3. All existing air bricks at the base of the walls outside the building and the air pathways between the vents and the sub floor voids are blocked /obstructed by soil, restricting ventilation of sub-floor voids on the interior of our flat. Air bricks and airways need to be checked and cleared as a matter of urgency.
4. All chimneys should be capped (in conservation area so none in use) to minimise water ingress.

The building is clearly not well maintained and our flat, being on the ground floor, seems to bear the brunt of the many defects found. The second specialist surveyor suggested that once all the listed defects have been rectified, our flat would be dried and have no more problem with damp and condensation. We have communicated the issues to freeholder’s managing agent immediately after completion, requesting them to rectify asap the defects of their responsibilities. The freeholder’s own surveyor visited our flat and confirmed there was damp in the property.

However, several months have gone by, little meaningful repair work has been done despite our numerous emails and phone calls. Only a minor work of ground level reduction outside our flat has been carried out a month ago, with a trench of 150mm wide and 150 deep being formed at the base of the external wall. It is back-filled with gravel to help drain water away. Unfortunately the trench is too narrow and shallow and gravel too small with a significant quantity of grit and sand was included in the free draining material (gravel) causing the material to be easily silt up and ceases to be free draining. So all defects are still outstanding, and our flat is still suffering from damp and condensation.

My questions are:

1. Can I make a stand by not paying ground rent or service charge until the freeholder / his managing agent rectify the defects, and we know for sure our flat is safe from possible water ingress / dampness ?
2. Do we have any recourse to the selling agent? Who we feel have not been honest with us?
3. Do we have any recourse to the first Damp specialist surveyor for having failed to spot all the defects of the building that causes the water ingress to our flat?
4. What options do we have to ensure freeholder fulfil his responsibilities and keep the roof, surface and underground drainage and sub-flooring ventilation in good repair and in working order?

So far, we have been dealing with freeholder’s managing agent, who is an administrator, doesn’t seem to understand the property management very well. Can we write to the freeholder direct? Surely, with all these risks of continued dampness and condensation to the foundation of the building, it is in freeholder’s interest to get it repaired.

Any advice and suggestions would be most gratefully received. Thank you all very much.

Best wishes to everyone for a very successful 2022 ahead.

Xiaolei



Comments

by BernieWales

9:56 AM, 11th January 2022, About 2 weeks ago

Reply to the comment left by Xiaolei Men at 11/01/2022 - 01:04
The landlord not carrying out the required repairs is a breach of the terms of the lease. You taking the repairs into your own hands - will also be a breach of the lease. Two wrongs do not make a right.

Furthermore, if you undertake works you become liable for the consequences. If anything goes wrong, whether intended or otherwise, you could be held liable. That's not a risk worth taking, in my opinion.

by Xiaolei Men

13:53 PM, 11th January 2022, About 2 weeks ago

@ Bernie Wales.

All well noted, thank you so much.

Best / Xiaolei


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