Property damp problems case study

publication date: Apr 2, 2015
author/source: Kate Faulkner, Property Expert and Author of Which? Property Books

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Members case study on the cost of not getting the right person to sort out damp!

I was in the process of buying my first property, a one bed room maisonette and had just received the survey report. Within the report there was something from the surveyor to say there was serious damp to the timbers. At this time I didn’t really know what that meant but it gave me enough concern to pull out from the purchase. But as agents do, they got in touch with me and told me not to worry and any future problems I face with the property their letting’s team will help me resolve.

Still not entirely convinced I got in touch with a damp specialist local to the area and their report came back with no damp being found within the house. Something wasn’t quite adding up and I still had a bad gut feeling about the property but decided to go ahead with the purchase as I would have a letting agent to advise me if anything were to go wrong with the property.

Fast forward 2 months of the property being let and I received a call from the letting agent to say there was a serious problem with the property. They even told me they needed me to physically visit the property before they would take any further action with regards to letting it out. I asked the agent over the phone what they thought the problem was and they were unsure.

So I went to visit my property with an agent representative and saw the house full of mould from top to bottom. I couldn’t believe how bad it was and I couldn’t believe the agent was unable to provide me with some form of decent advice as to what the problem was. All the agent representative could say was how terrible it was in the house and that they thought it must have been to do with a leak coming from the hallway cupboard that was connected to the outside staircase.

I knew it wasn’t to do with the cupboard as there was no leak there and with the low amount of help I was receiving from the agent I had to find some builders to try and solve the problem. I got in touch with 3 builders and each builder said that it was damp and I ended up going with the lowest quote. Feeling really pleased the problem had gone away and that the property re-let within 2 weeks of being damp-proofed and re-decorated I got a call from the agent to say the mould has re-appeared about a month after of the property being re-let.

This time I spoke to a different representative from the agent and they said that they are still unsure as to what the problem could be but think it could be condensation. They were also working with a specialist company (Envirovent) who may be able to assist. Envirovent did a survey of the house free of charge and provided me with a quote for one of their specialist wall units to solve the problem. At this point I was sceptical of everything, I had lost trust in my letting agent and was down on a lot of money. However, I decided to go with what Envirovent recommended and even though I was being told something different from what 3 builders had told me I still was extremely low in confidence to find a resolution to my problem.

So after a week of having a wall unit in the house the condensation re-appeared but to be fair to Envirovent they did warn me that this could happen. The guy at Envirovent gave me a technical explanation but my explanation is as follows, he said you have the wall unit in the house to improve air flow but the effects of the previous condensation is still lingering in the house so you will need to get it redecorated with a specialist type of paint to fully resolve the problem.

I got the property re-decorated by a builder using the specialist paint and now this property has been renting condensation-free for about 3 years but I am forever vigilant about condensation or damp re-appearing.

Lessons Learnt/ Observations:

You’re on your own, no matter what anyone says, everybody has their own agenda and objectives, it’s down to you to make the right decisions. The sales representative at the agent just wanted to sell the property, the lettings team at the agent don’t want to deal with anything that is not something like a leaking tap or something they have not experienced before. Even your lawyer who manages the contractual elements of your property purchase is only interested in the paperwork side of your property purchase. If it’s complicated and you are new to investing make sure you do your homework, use appropriate specialists to resolve your specific problem reaching out to someone like Kate Faulkner can help.

Not all the paper work is factual no matter what declaration people sign. The previous owners must have been living with those condensation problems but advised they had no problems with the house for the previous 2 years whilst living there.

I am with a new agent now and can still see similarities with my previous agent and what I have noticed is that the letting agents team are small, the majority of the people they employed are far from property investor specialists, they are low skilled and there is usually only one person who seems to know what they are talking about and that’s if you are lucky.

I am not a specialist in air flow of a house, damp or condensation but during my limited research when I was facing my condensation problems the main difference between damp and condensation is that damp will start in any room in the house but will start from the bottom of the room and rise to the top, this could be where the term “rising damp” comes from as I have not come across the term “rising condensation”. I have even read that damp can cause condensation...confusing I know. Condensation on the other hand is relentless and can be in the top corner wall of the kitchen, to the centre of a wall in the living room to the top and bottom of all your walls in your bedroom with no real pattern. However, the effects of damp and condensation are very similar that is the appearance of mould and moisture on the wall.

Have back up money in case things go wrong.

If you have any problems like these, please don't hesitate to contact us so we can make sure you get the right people in!

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