Newly converted flat has 1 inch gaps?

by Property 118

12:00 PM, 18th January 2019
About 7 months ago

Newly converted flat has 1 inch gaps?

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Newly converted flat has 1 inch gaps?

I’m hoping someone may be able to provide some guidance. I purchased a newly converted ground floor flat over a year ago. It was previously a large Victorian house that has been split into a number of flats. Shortly after moving in I noticed a gap between the flooring and skirting board alongside one wall (this isn’t noticeable in other rooms). One neighbour (on first floor) also commented he had the same. When I pointed this out to the freeholder she sent the builder round who said it needs to wait a year for the movement to settle.

It has now been a year and the gap is almost an inch! The builder came round again and said the insurance on his building work no longer applies as it’s been a year. He said that the gap was caused by the timber joists shrinking and best solution is to lower the skirting board to hide the gap and repaint the area. Having spoken to several professionals (timber specialists, carpenter and an architect) they said it is not normal for a gap that large to appear and it could be a structural defect/shoddy workmanship. They advised I should get a structural engineer to take a look.

I also have another issue with one of the window panes. I spoke to the lease advisory service and they said I have no come back as I bought the property as is. The freeholder did not take out NHBC but they are not required to for conversions.

My question is what are my rights? If I pay for the structural engineer and they say there is a defective is the freeholder responsible? I’d like to think I have a good relationship with the FH, but at the same time I know she doesn’t want the hassle of these issues and has been passing me off to the builder. However, I don’t feel I should be the one trying to sort this out with the builder as my contract is with the FH. Also she has retained 3 of the flats and I’m guessing she might have this issue in her flats too. I paid a significant premium for the flat which was advertised as “luxury” so I’m not expecting to see gaps in the flooring!

Before I contact the FH I’d like to know where I stand so if anyone has some legal knowledge I would be very much appreciative for some guidance!

Thanks so much in advance!

Vicki



Comments

Neil Patterson

13:56 PM, 18th January 2019
About 7 months ago

Hi Vicki,

The leasehold advisory service are right in so far as the condition and guarantees that come with the property should have been picked up at the time of purchase by your surveyor, mortgage provider, solicitor etc.

However, I would personally take the advice you have been given to pay for a structural engineer if for no other reason than to put your mind at rest.

If there are big issues with the building then these will need to be fixed by the management company, but the costs are likely to be shared with you.

Paul Shears

18:21 PM, 18th January 2019
About 7 months ago

This is not timber joist shrinkage! If the materials were several years old this would be more likely, but either this is all new material in an otherwise older property or the materials were retained from the old property. In the latter case this would have been sorted during the conversion.
Possibilities:
1. New local subsidence (Unlikely).
2. Whatever is supporting the beams has dropped (Easily rectified).
(I and three of my neighbours have exactly the same problem at the moment in 48 year old properties which we are addressing).

Wyn Burgess

8:55 AM, 19th January 2019
About 7 months ago

I think any remedial works now will be disruptive & expensive as flat below will be fully finished. Builder is not telling the truth, no builder can insure against defective work as not available from insurers as they would quickly go broke. They only have employers, public & third party cover. Perhaps builder is talking about a 12 month guarantee on his work? You could still claim as you did notify during the 12 months but I suspect another reason will be given to avoid liability.
There is specialist non negilence cover available but that is expensive and would not cease after 6 months - this won't have been taken out.
Building control have no liability as they are only liable if something breaks that they have approved and an injury is caused -yes I know what is the point of BC?
My guess is that an existing floor or beam has been overloaded as a result of the conversion and you need an SE to find the cause.
If there was an SE engaged by the builder you may have a claim against him/her as we are the only ones in this situation who are insured. Chances are though builder did the conversion without an SE and did not follow the building control officer's reccomendations because this was too costly.
I guess the remedial work will have to be funded by the lessees, suing the builder is possible but will go insolvent before it gets to court.
Building insurers won't pay (NHBC though would) as only subsidence cover included in most policies.
I'm sorry my assessment isn't more positve.

Paul Shears

9:46 AM, 19th January 2019
About 7 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Wyn Burgess at 19/01/2019 - 08:55
There is always Project Insurance, but it is very hard going to get it.

Christopher Marsden

17:28 PM, 21st January 2019
About 7 months ago

Hi I think that shrinkage is highly unlikely as an explanation to why you have a one inch gap under your skirting. There is not enough info to diagnose but any leaseholder or free holder should want to resolve this issue asap. You and or your Freeholder maybe invalidating any building insurance cover
Who was the contract with the builder between ? The answer is the route for rectification and I would suspect its the builder who is at fault . The Freeholder needs to pursue the builder along these lines. Was notification of the defect put in writing by anyone ? There may be a justifiable claim against buildings insurance but only if the freeholder notified their buildings insurance company.
the gap could be caused by deflection of timbers ' settlement of a floor , settlement of foundation , timbers being wet and then loaded so they distorted , unseasoned timber etc etc.
If you dont have a contractual link to the builder then notify the freeholder asap and then confirm it in writing and ideally by email to and refer to all your conversations with the builder list them with dates and summarise what was said. Send it registered. If freeholder does not respond go and see them and get them to see that you will have to go formal ( solicitors ) . What if you had to sell the property ? This needs sorting.

Ldn2017

17:47 PM, 28th January 2019
About 7 months ago

Thanks all for your replies. I am unable to attach pictures to show you what it looks like. I have since written to the freeholder who is basically reiterating what the builder has said but has referred to them as "professional advisors".

The problem is in the room which is a new extension so they have had to lay down new flooring with the joist timbers. This was the FH's reply:

With regard to the gap between the skirting board and the floor along the south-east corner wall, the structural detailing has been double checked. This is a new element of structure with 2.0m foundations and new brickwork. We believe
that there are no signs of cracking or movement externally. The new internal floor is constructed using traditional suspended floor structure. The floor joists are 200 x 50 c24 tanalised soft wood members. The floor deck is 19mm WBP ply which has been screw fixed. This is a perfectly sound structural make up and is not considered to be defective. My advisors feel that the gap between the bottom of the skirting board and the floor surface is nothing more than natural shrinkage. They do not consider it to be a structural issue. In terms of remedy, if the gap is unsightly, it can either be filled or the skirting board lowered.

I haven't replied yet but it certainly cannot be filled because at the start of my investigations that was the solution I was looking for and the man in the DIY shop happened to be a timber specialist and when I showed him the photos he basically said there was something else going on and no filler would fill that gap! My brother being an architect thinks it is movement in the joists and despite the SE drawings looking all good it's likely to be defective building work. I suppose my best course of action is to raise this with the FH again and highlight the seriousness of this and ask that she investigates further? The contract with the builder is with the FH. She retains 3 of the flats in the builder and I already know of 2 other leaseholders having the same issue.

Thanks again

Ldn2017

18:12 PM, 28th January 2019
About 7 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Christopher Marsden at 21/01/2019 - 17:28
I've just measured the gap that I can get access to and the measurement to be more exact is 1.7cm so not quite an inch but there are other parts of the wall I can't get to where the gap does look slightly bigger. Do you know how much is normal timber shrinkage?


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