Look af­ter your listed prop­erty or you could pay dearly

Main­te­nance should be the num­ber one pri­or­ity for the own­ers of listed and his­toric prop­erty, ac­cord­ing to David Hornsby, who re­veals that they could also be un­der-in­sured.

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY -

WIN­TER pro­vides a timely re­minder that de­fi­cien­cies in a his­toric build­ing, if left unat­tended over a pro­longed pe­riod of time, can re­sult in fu­ture costly re­pairs.

This is prob­a­bly be­cause most own­ers ap­proach re­pairs in a re­ac­tionary way, only un­der­tak­ing re­pairs when it is ab­so­lutely clear that dam­age has caused a par­tic­u­lar prob­lem, rather than tak­ing pre­cau­tion­ary ac­tion.

A few months ago, I looked at a listed house where I vir­tu­ally fell through a tim­ber floor that was rid­dled with dry rot. The floor­boards had be­come sat­u­rated with damp­ness over a pe­riod of time and in this sit­u­a­tion, spores, which are usu­ally dor­mant and found nat­u­rally in wood, come to life at­tack­ing firstly the moist sec­tions then the dry tim­ber – hence the term dry rot.

In­ter­est­ingly, in this case, the pen­e­trat­ing damp­ness to the sub-floor tim­bers had been caused by a de­fec­tive leak­ing gut­ter that had caused wa­ter to drip onto the lower level brick­work. The prob­lem was com­pounded be­cause the owner had even­tu­ally no­ticed a damp spot on the in­ter­nal plas­ter in the room and called in a builder, who ap­plied a sand ce­ment ren­der on the ex­ter­nal side of wall in the mis­taken be­lief that this would stop the pen­e­trat­ing damp­ness.

Un­for­tu­nately, the ren­der ex­tended down to the bot­tom of the house and sucked up wa­ter from the ground to­gether with the drips from the gut­ter which missed the ren­dered bricks.

Sadly, the ap­par­ent need for ren­der and the treat­ment for dry rot could have been avoided by car­ry­ing out very mi­nor and in­ex­pen­sive re­pairs to the gut­ter at an early stage. The ingress of wa­ter over a pro­longed pe­riod of time has the most dam­ag­ing ef­fect on a his­toric prop­erty and very of­ten wa­ter ingress is un­no­ticed un­til it causes some part of the struc­ture to fail.

Roof frame tim­bers can be sus­cep­ti­ble to this type of dam­age and the full im­pact of wa­ter dam­age was brought home to me re­cently when I sur­veyed an old farm­house. I was asked to pre­pare a claim of di­lap­i­da­tions by the owner of the prop­erty fol­low­ing the end of a long term ten­ancy. It was clear that the prop­erty had been poorly main­tained and a num­ber of bricks had eroded in a gable chim­ney stack.

Within my re­port I asked that the stack be taken down and re­built as the dam­age, in my view, was be­yond rea­son­able re­pair. The sur­vey­ors act­ing for the ten­ants sug­gested that my rec­om­men­da­tions to re­build were ex­ces­sive, as the stack was not ob­served to be lean­ing. Within the space of a few weeks, my rec­om­men­da­tions proved to be jus­ti­fied as the stack top­pled, caus­ing sig­nif­i­cant dam­age to the build­ing.

Again, nor­mal main­te­nance re­pair work to the stack in the form of proper re point­ing would have pre­vented this. I would con­trast this sit­u­a­tion to an­other of my cases in­volv­ing a Tudor Grade I listed build­ing, where the mor­tar joints in an elab­o­rate high chim­ney stack had eroded, but by care­ful re­point­ing and stitch­ing of brick­work the prob­lem was caught in time sav­ing my client the need to un­der­take costly re­build­ing.

In the vast ma­jor­ity of cases where dam­age oc­curs, it is usu­ally avoid­able by car­ry­ing out proper rou­tine main­te­nance. The win­ter months are a very good time to see de­fects more clearly. In the sum­mer months, tell-tale signs like damp stained walls are not so ap­par­ent.

I ad­vise own­ers and would-be buy­ers to go out in bad weather to ob­serve how well parts of the prop­erty per­form. Gut­ters and down pipes can be ob­served in ac­tion and in­spec­tions of the roof spa­ces in heavy rain­fall can be ben­e­fi­cial.

Other ar­eas that in­crease the risk of dam­age to prop­er­ties is old and faulty elec­tri­cal wiring, as a large pro­por­tion of fire dam­age to prop­er­ties in the UK is from de­fec­tive electrics. Again pe­ri­odic checks by NICEIC reg­is­tered elec­tri­cians will re­duce any risk.

An in­creas­ingly com­mon prob­lem I come across is the in­ad­e­quacy of re­build­ing in­surance cover for his­toric and pe­riod prop­er­ties. In the event of in­sur­able dam­age, there is a risk that the amount paid out may not be suf­fi­cient to cover the cost of re­pair or re­build­ing. I rec­om­mend that the amounts for re­build­ing are re­cal­cu­lated ev­ery four or five years, as re­build­ing costs may have in­creased for his­toric and pe­riod prop­er­ties at above the rates ap­plied by in­sur­ers for in­dex­a­tion. Own­ers of listed build­ings also have a greater re­spon­si­bil­ity to re­build on a like for like ba­sis. Changes in plan­ning poli­cies in­tro­duced ear­lier this year re­in­force this view and it ap­pears likely that most es­ti­mates of re­build­ing costs pro­vided at the time of any mort­gage val­u­a­tion are likely to all well short of the ac­tual ex­pense.

RID­ING HIGH: The Lang­dale hall es­tate in­cludes a six-bed­room coun­try house with seven re­cep­tion rooms and a pool.

HAN­DLE WITH CARE: Own­ers of listed build­ings, like many in the cen­tre of York, need to be vig­i­lant about main­te­nance.

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