Why do we neglect the condition of our biggest investment?
START a conversation with people who live in flats and it won’t be long before they’re complaining about the high service charges and escalating maintenance costs.
They want to enjoy the benefit of shared facilities and not having to deal with things themselves, but they simply will not accept that costs go up and are often many times more than just a few years ago.
There is an acceptance that building insurance premiums may have increased and that the upkeep of gardens, lifts, window cleaning and lighting communal areas all cost more than in previous years but there is a strong reluctance to dig deeper into the pockets to pay for it.
You’ll soon hear the inevitable, woeful exclamation: “If I lived in my own house, I wouldn’t have to pay all these expenses and, even if I did have to pay some of them, I’d be in control of them any way.”
Then there’s the killer blow that crops up whenever some major building works need to be carried out. There’s never enough cash in the sinking fund so an additional, emergency levy has to be raised on all residents.
In those cases where reserves have been built up over many years, there are grounds for the added complaint from flat owners who are just about to sell their apartments that they have been making contributions for years and now that they’re moving out they’re getting nothing back in return.
They choose to overlook the fact that a well-maintained building makes for a more desirable and valuable property which should be easier to sell.
At the end of the day, this is one of the compromises that has to be made when you choose to live in a more communal environment with joint facilities shared with your neighbours. Individual stand-alone home owners do not have to face this issue but all too often simply ignore problems that occur in the building where they live.
Ignoring a small remedial maintenance job can mean a much bigger and far more expensive repair a few years down the line. This particularly applies to a roof, gutters and fall pipes, lead flashings and wooden window frames.
As a nation, we respond so quickly and generously to support the repair and saving of old buildings. Just think of the vast number of church repair appeals, the campaigns to save seaside piers, railway stations, windmills and open-air lido swimming pools and you will soon see how ironic it is that at times we are loath to do the same for our own homes. Too often we assume that a roof should last at least a hundred years.
If it’s looked after properly, it may well do so, but if it is neglected, however well-built in the first place, it simply won’t last that long. Strangely, it’s common practice to have an annual inspection and maintenance contract for a central heating boiler, a burglar alarm, a washing machine and a host of other appliances but very rarely the building in which they are fitted.
If there was ever an opportunity for professional surveyors to provide a valuable service, then this is it! After all, a survey is seen as a sensible measure before buying a property so doesn’t it make sense to have a building’s condition reviewed at appropriate intervals after you’ve forked out all that money when you own it? When your car is three years old, by law it needs to pass an MOT inspection and, these days, a list of recommendations for future repairs accompanies the certificate that is issued when the vehicle passes.
Quite frankly, it’s bewildering that for most people, their biggest and most personal purchase doesn’t merit a similar check, to help protect such a massive investment and at the same time, avoid the inconvenience of something going wrong in the very place called home.