Very expensive wallpaper that’s just got to go
Send your property problems to: Property Clinic, The Daily Telegraph, 111 Buckingham Palace Road, London SW1W 0DT
We will be completing this month on the purchase of a large house in France. The very expensive wallpaper on most of the walls in the rooms and corridors is similar to thin carpet and has been stuck on with a strong glue rather than a paste – I do not think paste would have been sufficient for the weight of the paper.
It will be a mammoth task to remove all of this but, as it is fairly oppressive, it has to go. If we were to paint over the paper, it would be like painting over flock wallpaper but heavier. We like clean plaster that is painted for ease of maintenance. Could you give me advice on the best way to remove this wall carpet?
David Snell writes:
I haven’t a clue which glue would have been used but if you can get a sample and get it to Strippers, of Sudbury, (01787 371524) I am sure they will analyse it and suggest some sort of solvent.
I would hazard a guess that it is water-based, but it may have hardened over the years and be fairly resistant to soaking. Scraping off will be a dirty and hard process but may be the only option.
However, if the substrate is a lime-and-horsehair plaster, soaking would or could be injurious and you would have to be pretty careful about scraping. You may never get it all off and you may inadvertently remove some sections of plaster, all of which might mean having to re-plaster. Do not, if it is lime plaster, be tempted to use a gypsum plaster, as that will prevent the wall breathing.
What you could do, assuming the rooms are big enough, is line them with new plasterboard fixed to battens and then skim coat, this time with a gypsum plaster, as the gap would still allow the walls to breathe. That way you would end up with a smooth and durable surface and, on the outside walls at least, you would be adding some extra insulation.
David Snell is contributing editor to ‘Homebuilding & Renovating’ magazine and will be appearing this weekend at The Newbury Homebuilding & Renovating Show, at the Newbury Showground (0870 906 2002).
POINTS OF LAW
We have had a new house built, on our own land, which has been constructed on a “time and materials” basis by a builder, who was working without a written agreement.
The construction has gone well and the build is almost complete. However, part of the new sewerage pumping station was, immediately after installation, found to be letting in ground water. The builder is now saying that, because we opted for the build on a “time and materials” basis, we are responsible for the cost of the replacement. What is our position, please?
David Fleming writes:
Building disputes of this nature are invariably detailed and complex, and it clearly does not help matters that there was no written agreement.
I think, however, that it must be implied that you would only have to pay for time reasonably spent and the reasonable cost of materials reasonably required. Assuming that the sewerage pumping station failed because either the equipment itself was defective or it was wrongly installed, it seems to me you should not be responsible for the cost of replacement. The builders should have bought good equipment and installed it properly in the first place.
I fully appreciate that it may be very difficult to find out what the cause of the failure is. If it is not possible, it would probably be sensible to try and negotiate with the builder, whereby the cost of resolving this problem is divided between you.
David Fleming is head of property litigation at William Heath & Co.
In 2004, I made a planning application for an additional bedroom to my property over the integral garage. This was rejected on the basis that a member of the planning department “liked the catslide roof” on the garage and wished this to be retained. Due to illness, I was not in a position to appeal that decision.
Nevertheless, last year, I decided to reapply. I used a local solicitor, who specialises in planning, to handle the application, and he resubmitted the original plans, with no changes. He thought that the council had rejected my original application “on a whim” and was of the opinion that I would succeed.
Again, my application was refused for the same reason. An appeal to was made to a higher authority and the plans were passed immediately. In the appeal ruling, all the reasons that my council had used were rejected by the adjudicator.
The cost of the second application was about £7,000. In view of the whimsical nature of the council’s reasons for refusal, am I in a position to sue for recovery of my costs?
John Winter writes:
You can certainly try to recover some of your costs from the council, but I would not have high hopes of a successful outcome. I fear that you would just be adding to your own costs.
The Planning Acts require planning officers to exercise aesthetic judgement and this is a very subjective issue. The local authority’s planning officer made his aesthetic judgement, and the fact that the inspector made a different judgement does not mean the planning officer’s decision was wrong.
I say this with some sadness, as I would be delighted if high-handed planning officers could be made more responsible for their decisions, and if they had less power over aesthetic matters, about which they often know little.
You say that your planning application was handled by a solicitor who “specialises in planning”. Surely, he is the person to advise you as to whether it is worth suing the council for your costs.
I am surprised that an appeal for a small domestic extension should run up a fee as high as £7,000. Part of the attraction of the appeal process is that, unless you go to a public inquiry, it involves so little work for the applicant and his professional advisers. Where did the £7,000 go?
John Winter runs his own architectural practice.
Our property, a 1970s detached, four-bedroom house, is on the market for £350,000 with a local estate agency. It is situated in a half-acre plot; a small paddock in which there are two very productive vegetable plots and a small orchard of apple, pear, plum and damson trees, and a front garden which has flowers and shrubs and is terraced.
However, as much of the ground is sloping, it does not easily lend itself to mechanical maintenance. We have had several viewings and prospective purchasers are put off by the work involved in maintaining the garden and orchard. Certainly, the property would suit keen and active gardeners.
How would you recommend that we target such prospective buyers? Is there a magazine or periodical we could advertise in or is there a website you could recommend?
Lorna Vestey writes:
The magazine Gardeners’ World has many pages of classified advertising which, when it has any, includes a Property for Sale section (0208 433 3983). This seems to me to be the most promising of the gardening publications for your purposes.
On the internet, The Gardening Website (www. thegardeningwebsite.co.uk; 0870 747 0099) has a Gardens and Homes for Sale page which currently has a dozen ranging in price from £395,000 to £1.45million.
As far as general marketing is concerned, you need the agents to tell potential buyers in advance that the property is on a hillside so that everyone’s time is not wasted on useless viewings. I would make sure that the hillside paddock, vegetable plots, orchard and terraced front garden are specifically mentioned in any advertising and photographed for the particulars.
You could also ask your agents to try including a “Great for Active Gardeners” or “Perfect for The Good Life” sort of headline.
Lorna Vestey is a former partner of a blue-chip London estate agency.