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

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BRICKS&MOR­TAR

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.

PLAN­NING

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.

THE MAR­KET

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.

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