Sunday, September 14, 2014

What is Underpinning? - Part 2 - Other Methods



Underpinning is often considered as a solution for subsidence however the need to stabilise ground could warrant underpinning for other reasons therefore underpinning is not a solution exclusive to subsidence

Source: http://www.mason-mason.co.uk/
In last week’s article (Link) I discussed traditional underpinning and explained that this is often a solution to ground movement (subsidence), which will stabilise a building or structure in the event that movement is continuing.   I also explained that dealing with ground movement is not always disruptive or expensive however professional advice is always recommended to ensure that an appropriate remediation method is adopted.  In this week’s article I will consider a number of different methods of underpinning as alternatives to traditional underpinning that may be selected to suit individual circumstances.

Underpinning is often considered as a solution for subsidence however the need to stabilise ground could warrant underpinning for other reasons therefore underpinning is not a solution exclusive to subsidence.  For example, the use of a building may change which would add load.  The original foundation design may not have been designed for this additional load, this could warrant underpinning.  Adding an additional storey/s to a building would be a good example of this.  Also, the construction of nearby structures may warrant additional support to an existing foundation for which underpinning may be selected.  For whatever reason underpinning is used it is important that the correct method is selected.  Traditional underpinning was discussed in last week’s article however this week will I discuss needle beam underpinning, cantilever beam underpinning and an underpinning raft.

Source: www.gbanksltd.com
Needle Beam Underpinning – This method of underpinning stabilises existing foundations with the installation of concrete ‘needle beams’ supported by concrete mini-piles.  The amount, distance between needles and diameter of the mini piles will be determined by the design. Concrete mini-piles can be either cast in-situ (this is where wet concrete is used with steel reinforcement) or pre-cast (made off site a delivered as a dry solid concrete component).  A small hole or pocket is broken out below ground level and just above the existing foundation as detailed on the image at the left.  Concrete mini piles are then installed into the ground adjacent to the newly made hole. We will consider cantilever beams in a moment, however a common method of installing needle beam underpinning is to install a concrete mini pile either side of the newly formed hole, one inside the property and one on the outside.

www.gbanksltd.com
The concrete mini piles, once installed will have short steel reinforcement bars projecting at the top.  These are referred to as starter bars and allow further steel reinforcement to be attached which will connect each of the concrete mini piles to each other as they pass through the hole/pocket that has been made in the wall.  The next stage is to provide temporary timber formwork around the reinforcement bars to accommodate and hold the wet concrete until it has cured (hardened).  Once the formwork is complete the wet concrete is poured and allowed to cure, after which the timber formwork is removed, leaving behind a single solid concrete beam supported off the concrete mini piles.  The hole/pocket, which the new concrete beam now passes through, is made good with the installation of ‘packers’ to fill any gap between the top of the new concrete needle beam and the underside of wall that is being supported.  Packers will usually take the form of a masonry material or possibly materials such as slate to ensure that any voids are completely filled so that the wall has a solid support.

Needle beam underpinning is used where traditional underpinning is not appropriate due to the existing foundations being too deep, or good bearing strata is so deep that it is uneconomical to dig (depths greater than 1.5m). Concrete mini piles are typically installed in pairs at 1.0m-1.5m intervals and approximately 1.0m-1.5m apart, although this can vary with design.  The advantages of this system include suitability for restricted access, the needle beams can be constructed at a higher level if the existing foundations are too deep, it is often faster than traditional underpinning, it is more economical at greater depths, the system has a high load capacity and there is less disruption and spoil produced compared to traditional underpinning.

Source: www.gbanksltd.com
Cantilever Beam Underpinning – Firstly it is worth clarifying the term cantilever.  Freeedictionary.com provide the following definition; ‘A projecting structure, such as a beam, that is supported at one end and carries a load at the other end or along its length’ This method of underpinning will stabilise a wall foundation either internally or externally however it does not require support on both the internal and external side of the wall.  Basically all of the support is provided at just one side of the wall with the load supported off a concrete cantilever beam which passes through the wall in the same manner as the needle beam method previously described; i.e. with pockets cut into the wall and a beam cast through the wall with the use of mini-piles, reinforcement, formwork and concrete which links the two mini piles. The image above shows that two mini-piles are installed, one is a compression pile (taking downward force) and the other is tension pile (resisting uplift).   

Many of the advantages of cantilever beam underpinning compared to traditional underpinning are the same as needle beam underpinning described above in terms of speed, more economical at greater depth etc.  A further significant advantage of cantilever beam underpinning is where access is particularly restricted as the mini-piles are cast from just one side of a wall/structure.

Source: www.gbanksltd.com
Underpinning Raft – Of all methods of underpinning described the installation of an underpinning raft is by far the most disruptive and expensive as it can stabilise walls and foundations for a whole building. Mini-piles are installed within a property and capped with an integral reinforced concrete raft.  The diagram on the right shows that needle beams project from the slab into the walls below ground level. This system is used where whole rooms or whole structures are to be underpinned as opposed to individual walls or parts of a building.  Although more expensive than other methods of underpinning an advantage is that a new integral floor slab is provided at the same time as stabilising a building. The image below shows an underpinning raft just prior to concrete being poured.


Underpinning Raft before concrete is poured. Source: http://www.larsenpiling.com/
This week's article has discussed a number of alternatives to traditional underpinning as ways of stabilising walls, buildings or structures.  Professional advice should always be sought to ensure an appropriate method of stabilising is selected. This and last week’s article provide a short introduction into to some of the commonly used methods of stabilising ground, structures and buildings however there are many other ways that stabilisation can be achieved.  This is something I will no doubt discuss in a future article.

Please feel free to share this article and other articles on this site with friends, family and colleagues who you think would be interested


Information/opinions posted on this site are the personal views of the author and should not be relied upon by any person or any third party without first seeking further professional advice. Also, please scroll down and read the copyright notice at the end of the blog.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

What is Underpinning? - Part 1 - Traditional Underpinning



There is not a single method of underpinning which will be suitable in every circumstance and to be effective, careful considerations of things such as dead and imposed loads, ground conditions, depth of excavation, site restraints including access and ultimately costs will help to determine the most appropriate method of underpinning to use

Source: http://www.davocal.ie/
I have previously written two articles on the subject of ground movement a term more commonly referred to as subsidence, Subsidence – Part 1 – Not all it’s cracked up to be! and Subsidence – Part 2 – Factors that contribute to subsidence and what to look for. The first article explains how the very word (subsidence) seems to strike fear into most people due to the misconception that ALL instances are both disruptive and expensive to rectify.  Whilst this is true in some circumstances, in the vast majority of cases subsidence can be rectified reasonable quickly and without excessive expense.  In order to establish what correct remedial measures are necessary it is crucial to accurately diagnose the factors causing any episodes of ground movement and whether movement is continuing or has stopped.  In my previous articles I explained that when I first graduated from University I joined a Property Consultancy who’s main area of business was dealing with subsidence insurance claims as Loss Adjusters.  My role was to visit site with a more experienced Structural Engineer, who would make an initial assessment, and then I would be required to manage the claim to a conclusion.  This often involved crack monitoring to establish whether any movement was historic (had now stopped) or progressive (was still continuing).  This was a crucial part of the process as it is pointless dealing with the effect of subsidence until movement has been stopped.  On the occasions where movement was found to be progressive, it was often first necessary to undertake substantial remedial work such as underpinning to stabilise and stop any movement.  In this article I plan to explain what underpinning is so that anyone who is affected by subsidence where underpinning is suggested will have an understanding of what is happening.

So what is underpinning?  Well in simple terms underpinning is a method of strengthening weak foundations whereby a new, stronger foundation is placed beneath the original.  The whole concept of underpinning can seem mind boggling when you consider that this often involves excavating underneath of an existing foundation to strengthen whilst at the same time ensure that the building or structure that is being supported does not disappear even further into the ground!  There are a number of different methods of underpinning including traditional underpinning, needle beam underpinning, cantilever beam underpinning and an underpinning raft. The method of underpinning selected in each situation will be determined by a number of different factors, which I will discuss in this and in next week’s article.  There is not a single method of underpinning which will be suitable in every circumstance and to be effective careful considerations of things such as dead and imposed loads, ground conditions, depth of excavation, site restraints including access and ultimately costs will help to determine the most appropriate method to use.


  Source: Chudley R. & Greeno R (2005), Building Construction Handbook. 
Traditional Underpinning - This method stabilises existing foundations by digging under the present foundation in sequenced bays to a depth where firm strata exists and replacing the excavated material with mass concrete.  This method of underpinning is used when the existing foundations are at a shallow depth.  ‘Bays’ are usually excavated in 1.0m to 1.5m in length and generally 0.6m wide.  This method can be used to depth of circa 2.5m however due to cost an safety issues it may be worth considering a ‘mini-piled’ solution for depths in excess of 1.5m, something that will be discussed in next weeks article.

Advantages of traditional underpinning compared to other methods is that is simple engineering and generally easily understood, suitable for heavy loads and large structures, occupants can remain in the property as work can be undertaken from outside, method can be used in restricted access areas (does not require plant or machinery), it is a low cost solution at shallow depths and it creates minimal disruption and is not noisy.

Source: http://buildingandengineering.blogspot.co.uk/
You can see from the diagram on the right that each bay is excavated in sequence and then filled with concrete, which is allowed to cure (harden), before the next bay is excavated.  This is crucial to the stability of the building/structure during the process.  Once the concrete has cured the next bay in sequence is excavated, filled with concrete and cured and so the process continues until all of the bays are complete.  This method therefore provides a new deeper foundation over a short period of time but not in one operation. In order to carry out traditional underpinning it is first necessary to understand the ground conditions (via a ground investigation) to know what depth to excavate for solid ground and the to plan the sequence for the underpinning bays.

Although traditional underpinning is the simplest and most commonly used method of underpinning it is still necessary to obtain professional advice in order to ensure that the selected method of underpinning is designed and completed correctly.  It is also necessary to engage a contractor who is familiar with traditional underpinning and will take into account the various safety aspects of providing temporary support where required, supporting excavations where necessary, working in confined spaces and so on.  Excavating a bay and filling with concrete may seem a very simple process to most people and you may wonder how anyone could get this wrong, however never be surprised with the fallibility of human nature.

A common example I give to my students relates to my previously explained role as a graduate Building Surveyor, working with Property Consultancy who’s main area of business was dealing with subsidence insurance claims as Loss Adjusters.  Late one evening we received a call to a mid-terraced property in the Moseley area of Birmingham from a man who had contacted his insurance company (who then contacted us), where he had arrived home to find a problem with his house.  He had left his house in the morning as usual, shut his from door and proceeded to work.  When he arrived home he put his key in the door, turned the lock the door would not open.  After a number of attempts he promptly shoulder barged the door, which eventually opened.  When he got inside the house he realised that the front door was the least of his problems. There was major vertical cracking in three locations on the party wall (a shared wall with his neighbour), which was so bad he could see through to next door's lounge, the suspended timber ground floor had significantly dropped near the junction of the party wall, there was a 50mm horizontal crack at the junction of the top of the ground floor lounge wall and ceiling and all of the ground floor internal door frames were distorted and none of the internal doors would close properly. Not exactly what you want or expect when you come home from work!  On investigation it was established that his neighbour was in the process of an extensive refurbishment, which included underpinning of the party wall between the two properties. For reasons which we never got to the bottom of the contractor excavated underneath the party wall in one operation, rather that in sequenced bays, and unsurprisingly the whole party wall had dropped as the excavation was part way through!  How somebody was not seriously injured or even killed was a miracle.  The cost of rectifying the works and in addition the costs of temporary accommodation while the work was being carried out were calculated in the region of £75,000.  This demonstrates the significant impact of what can happen if underpinning is not carried out correctly.

In next week's article I will discuss other methods of underpinning such as, needle beam underpinning, cantilever beam underpinning and an underpinning raft.

Please feel free to share this article and other articles on this site with friends, family and colleagues who you think would be interested


Information/opinions posted on this site are the personal views of the author and should not be relied upon by any person or any third party without first seeking further professional advice. Also, please scroll down and read the copyright notice at the end of the blog.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

UK Rent Trap – A frustrating reality for many would-be home owners



‘The government's official English Housing Survey showed that in 2012-13 the 4 million households in England's private rented sector paid an average of £163 a week for their homes, an increase of £10 since 2008-9, while the 7.2 million households buying their home through a mortgage paid £149’

Source: http://www.moneycrashers.com/
The above statement taken from a recent article in the Guardian Online (Link), provide a startling reality into the changing state of the UK Housing market.  On one side we have the private landlords who will be rubbing their hands together at the prospect of a regular supply on tenants for the mid to long term future and on the other hand we have those who are trapped in the rent cycle as they struggle to save a deposit, which will allow them onto the property ladder.

Those with aspirations to get become homeowners must be extremely frustrated as they hand over a high percentage of their income to their private landlord each month, money which to them (the tenant) is lost forever.  At the same time the cost of living continues to rise steadily and the ability to put money aside for a deposit becomes even more of a challenge.  The outcome of this is often many years in rented accommodation, fundamentally paying somebody else’s mortgage for them, as tenants try to claw themselves out of the ‘rent trap’ and into home ownership.

Source: http://blogs.independent.co.uk/
If, as the research above indicates, that the average weekly rental payment is higher than the average weekly mortgage payment, then the problem does not appear to be affordability of mortgage repayments, moreover, the stumbling block appears to be the ability to save a deposit and being able to take that important first step onto the housing ladder.   I have used the word frustration already however for anyone not in this position (myself included), just for one moment put yourself in the place of a tenant who is handing over a sum of money to a landlord for rent that could easily be paying off their own mortgage if they just had the ability to get onto the property ladder in the first place.  I am sure frustration does not even begin to explain how these people must be feeling.

The UK Government will argue that their Help to Buy scheme has gone some way to addressing some of the problems within the housing market, by making home ownership more accessible to many who are caught in the rent trap described above.  In part this is true as there is plenty of evidence to show that the Help to Buy scheme is bringing first time buyers to the market earlier than they would have been able to due to the requirement of a much lower deposit (5%).  In a further article in the Guardian Online (Link) the Government cite their flagship Help to Buy scheme as the main driver for the recovery in the housing market:

‘The government's controversial Help to Buy mortgage guarantee scheme has supported 7,313 home loans worth a total of £1bn since it was launched in October, official figures show. The figures for the first six months of the mortgage scheme, released by the Treasury, showed the mean value of a property purchased or remortgaged through the scheme was £151,597, well below the average house price of £252,000 recorded by the Office for National Statistics’
In a previous article earlier this year UK Housing Market – ‘Help to Buy’ aiding recover or papering over the cracks? I questioned the future for those using the Help to Buy scheme to enter the property market early and in particular what could happen in five years when they will be required to start to payback the 20% deposit they have effectively borrowed; after five years the help to buy loan will start to attract a fee, which if added to rising interest rates is going to impact significantly, particularly those at the lower end of the income scale.  This therefore begs the question, is the help to buy scheme aiding recover or is it just papering over the cracks?’ 

The Help to Buy scheme may enable a certain amount of people to get out of the rent trap, however unless these people can actually afford the repayments when interest rates start to rise and they are required to start to pay back the 20% deposit as well as face cost of living increases, then they are likely to find themselves back where they started, or possible worse as they will be saddled with more debt.

Source: http://www.amaresearch.co.uk/
The only way of addressing the issues within the housing market and to help those in the rent trap is to increase supply by building more houses. Easy to say you may think, but simple economics tells us that when there is high demand and limited supply for something, the market will naturally adjust to reflect this, pushing up prices (such as the situation we find ourselves in now).  Therefore, to deal with the desperate need for housing in the UK and to control house prices, the UK government should be focusing it’s effort on building more houses and not on temporary ‘fixes’ such as the spare room subsidy (referred to a bedroom tax) and schemes such as help to buy!  BBC News Online (Link) recently reported that the number of housing starts had risen by 31% over the last year, however and interestingly, the number of completions only rose by 4% over the year.

The answers to the problems within the UK housing market are well publicised, however until a committed strategic approach to house building is instigated, driven by the government, then the situation is likely to get worse, resulting in continued hardship and frustration for many would be homeowners.  Note the need for a ‘committed’ approach by the government and not the introduction of short term fixes, which is often the case.

Please feel free to share this article and other articles on this site with friends, family and colleagues who you think would be interested


Information/opinions posted on this site are the personal views of the author and should not be relied upon by any person or any third party without first seeking further professional advice. Also, please scroll down and read the copyright notice at the end of the blog.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

CDM Regulations 2015 – Changes that will not please everyone!



….the proposed removal of the CDM Coordinator and replacement with that of a Principal Designer will result in plenty of debate.  Currently the CDM Coordinator is an independent role under the CDM Regulations, which will be lost, as a Principal Designer will undoubtedly have other additional roles/duties within a project. 

http://www.schlecht.com/safety
Consultation on proposed changes to the Construction (Design & Management) Regulations 2007 (CDM) were completed on 6th June 2014 by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) with the aim of introducing Construction (Design & Management Regulations 2015 in April next year.  In its consultation document the HSE set out a number of policy objectives which explain why an update to the current CDM 2007 is required:
     ·  Maintain or improve worker protection;
·  Simplify the regulatory package;
·  Improve health and safety standards on small    construction sites;
·  Implement the Temporary or Mobile Construction  Sites Directive (TMCSD) in a proportionate way (this  is a European Directive);
·  Discourage bureaucracy; and
·  Meet better regulation principles. 
HSE also cite external research into CDM 2007 within its consultation document which concluded:
    ·  CDM 2007 was viewed more positively by dutyholders than the 1994 version; its broad structure was fit for purpose;
·  Problems generally arose through mis- and over-interpretation of the Regulations; significant concerns remained, however, in several areas:
·  The Regulations had not borne down on bureaucracy as hoped;
·  The Regulations had led to an industry approach to competence which was heavy-handed and in many cases burdensome, particularly on SMEs;
·  The co-ordination function in the pre-construction phase was not in many cases well-embedded. 
Source: http://www.constructionsafe.co.uk/
Interestingly a number of the research findings above were also reasons why it was felt that the original 1994 CDM Regulations needed to be updated and it appears that the 2007 CDM Regulations have not addressed these issues.  For example, ever since the introduction of CDM 1994 and I can remember this vividly, there have always been issues around bureaucracy. Initially, this was partially down to lack of understanding of the workings of the regulations and latterly it could be argued that this is a result of complacency.  I can remember numerous occasions whilst acting as Planning Supervisor (Now CDM Coordinator, although this title will no longer exist under the new proposals), where documentation such as Designer’s Risk Assessments, Pre-Tender Health & Safety Plans and even Construction Phase Health & Safety Plans had became so generic that often information was copy/pasted with the wrong project title, works information, site address etc. This situation became ridiculous and large volumes of paper were being produced because that is what some thought the Regulations required.  CDM 2007 does not appear to have solved this problem, as this remains an objective for CDM 2015.

CDM 2007 also introduced the need to ensure that duty holders were competent in their role.  This put additional responsibilities particularly on Clients to ensure that those they appointed in the various roles had the skills and competence to carry out their duties.  Competence checking is not a role exclusive to the Client under CDM 2007, however HSE cite this as a particularly bureaucratic process and propose the following within their consultation document:

We plan to retain a general requirement under the revision of CDM (new regulation 8) for those appointing others to carry out construction work to ensure that they have received appropriate information, instruction, training and supervision to allow them to work safely. This aligns with the general requirements under Sections 2 and 3 of HSWA.

HSE believes that the competence of construction industry professionals should be overseen by, and be the responsibility of, the relevant professional bodies and institutions 

It will be very interesting so see how this will work in practice, particularly when there are Health & Safety incidents which require investigations by HSE, and especially how those appointing duty holders can demonstrate that ‘duty holders have received appropriate information, instruction, training and supervision to allow them to work safely’

In summary, the proposed changes to the current 2007 CDM Regulations are:
     ·  Significant structural simplification of the Regulations;
·  The replacement of the ACoP with targeted guidance;
·  Replacement of the CDM-c role with a new role, that of the ‘principal designer’;
·  Removal of explicit competence requirements and replacing with a specific requirement for appropriate skills;
·  Addressing areas of TMCSD relating to domestic clients; and
·  
The threshold for appointment of Coordinators. 
I am sure that the removal of the CDM Coordinator and replacement with that of a Principal Designer will result in plenty of debate.  Currently the CDM Coordinator is an independent role under the CDM Regulations, which will be lost, as a Principal Designer will undoubtedly have other additional roles/duties within a project.  A Client will effective lose an independent advisor who can provide them with a fresh perspective of Health & Safety issues and responsibilities under the Regulations, outside of other individuals within the project team.

Also, HSE estimate savings of £30 million each year as a result of efficiencies gained under the proposed new CDM Regulations.  Although, there ‘could’ be savings made due to reduced bureaucracy, as previously discussed (although this is questionable) it is difficult to see how the removal of the CDM Coordinator will produce any savings.  The title may be changing to a Principal Designer however the role and responsibilities remain.  All that will happen is that the fee currently charged by CDM Coordinators will now be charged by Principal Designers. 

What about those companies and organizations who provide CDM Coordinator services, some of which are exclusive to the role?  Surely they must be extremely concerned by this proposed change.  The role of a Principal Designer has very wide connotations and will prevent many CDM Coordinators from simply re-labeling themselves.  Whereas CDM Coordinators may have expertise in health & safety related matters, in order to be a Principal Designer they would need a much wider skill set due to the implied skills of being a 'Designer'.  No doubt some will be able to make this transition, however there will undoubtedly be others who fall by the wayside.

Another implication of the proposed replacement of the CDM Coordinator will be the requirement to update numerous pieces of documentation as well as re-drafting of Construction Contracts.  This will also have a cost implication and will reduce cost savings at least in the short to medium term.

The new proposal for CDM 2015 also propose changes to the notification threshold for a construction project as well as introducing duties for domestic Clients for the first time, however ‘create the default position whereby duties that would fall on a domestic client instead fall to the contractor’. This in itself generates a number of concerns however the HSE state that they expect the new regulations to be discharged in a sensible and proportionate manner.  It will also be very interesting to see how this works out in practice.

You can find more information about the proposed changes to CDM Regulations from the HSE by following this link (Link).

Please feel free to share this article and other articles on this site with friends, family and colleagues who you think would be interested


Information/opinions posted on this site are the personal views of the author and should not be relied upon by any person or any third party without first seeking further professional advice. Also, please scroll down and read the copyright notice at the end of the blog.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Why Greater Powers Are Essential To Regulate Private Residential Landlords



Landlords across the UK must be rubbing their hands together at the thought of the large amount of prospective tenants who will be paying ever increasing rents, a situation which is not likely to change for the foreseeable future

Source: http://www.midlandepc.co.uk/
With rising house prices and the general lack of affordable homes in the UK many who may want to step onto the property ladder for the first time are being forced to consider rented accommodation.  Even those thinking of using the Governments Help to Buy scheme as a way forward are still required to save a 5% deposit in order to be eligible for the scheme.  A 5% deposit may not seem too bad however with an average UK house price in excess of £250,000, this still requires a deposit in excess of £12,500, which can often prove to be difficult to save once you factor in the cost of living and the cost of paying rent. Consequently demand for rented accommodation has continued to rise and in particular within the private rented sector. Financial Reporter (Online) (Link) report:

‘Average UK private home rents have increased 7.5% in the last 12 months while national average earnings now rising at 1.7%. The average cost of renting a home in the UK has risen more than four times as quickly as national average incomes, according to new findings released today from the May 2014 HomeLet Rental Index’

Source: http://www.rostons.co.uk/
Landlords across the UK must be rubbing their hands together at the thought of the large amount of prospective tenants who will be paying ever increasing rents, a situation which is not likely to change for the foreseeable future. This high demand for rented properties has provided the opportunity for some Landlord’s to try to take advantage of the current situation by attempting to encourage tenants to leave their properties by not carrying out repairs or attempting to evict tenants in order to hike up rents.  In a recent article, the Independent (online) (Link) explained:

‘Soaring numbers of people in private rented homes face eviction despite being up to date with their rent because rising house prices are prompting landlords to ask tenants to leave. In the last year, Citizens Advice Bureaux has seen a 38 per cent increase in desperate tenants coping with the threat of eviction even though they have no rent arrears, according to figures seen by the Independent.


More than 5,000 of these cases were reported to Citizens Advice in 2013-14, up from 3,750 the previous year – and as the housing shortage reaches critical levels, the figures show how increasingly precarious the situation is  for renters.

Eviction by private landlords is the most common cause of homelessness encountered by Citizens Advice, causing one in 10 of the 80,000 problems with homelessness the charity saw in the last year.

Tenants report being evicted following a request to carry out repairs, because the landlord wants to sell their home, or because rents are suddenly hiked to unaffordable levels’

Tenants have statutory protection under a raft of legislation such as the Rent Act 1977, Housing Act 1985, Housing Act 1988, depending on the type of tenancy, and the Landlord & Tenant 1985 in terms of obligations and responsibilities to carry out repairs. It does appear that Landlords are choosing to ignore their statutory responsibilities in increasing numbers in order to chase higher rental yields.  So what can a tenant do in these circumstances?

I am regularly contacted by people who experience difficulty, sometimes silence when contacting their landlord to carry out repairs.  In nearly all cases this involves private sector Landlords who for some reason think that if they ignore their tenants for long enough then they will just go away.  The issue of course is that the Tenant has rights and the Landlord has responsibilities under a whole raft of legislation (as indicated above)) and vice versa. In the event that a Landlord fails to carry out repairs for which he/she is responsible, a tenant can take action to remedy the situation. The problem becomes magnified if the repair that is necessary is something that may be dangerous or posing a health risk to the occupants.

Source: http://www.latentexistence.me.uk/
In my early career as a Building Surveyor I undertook a number inspections on behalf of Solicitors who had been appointed by Tenants where complaints had been made about living conditions and in particular habitation standards in their homes.  In those days a Surveyors report would be used as evidence that a landlord had breached their duty under legislation such as section 11 of the Landlord & Tenant Act 1985 or Public Health Acts such as the Environmental Protection Act 1990 or others.  In order to assess fitness for habitation at the time a Surveyor would consider the requirements of something known as the ‘fitness standard’ under section 604 of the Housing Act 1985.  Nowadays an assessment of the health & safety of a dwelling is considered under a much wider context under the Housing Health & Safety Rating System 2006 (HHSRS).  A tenant can contact their Local Authority and request an inspection under HHSRS if they feel that there are health, safety or habitation issues.  The Local Authority has enforcement powers under HHSRS where category 1 hazards are identified.  For more information on HHSRS refer to my previous article (Link)

Nobody wants to go through a legal process as this can be time consuming and expensive.  Ultimately, however this is one form of recourse that may be considered in which the tenant will effectively try to force the landlord to meet their statutory obligations through the courts.  In most cases tenants will not want to take this option as costs (money, time and stress), will be deemed to negatively outweigh the benefit that could be attained if successful.  Note the word ‘if’, because there is never any guarantees that legal proceedings will succeed. Although legal action should be used as a last resort this is nevertheless an option that a tenant may utilise.

Better regulation, particularly of private landlords is essential to addressing some of the issues considered above.  Rather than dilly dally around with suggestions the Government should introduce a landlord registration scheme such as that introduced in Northern Ireland earlier this year.  Under the scheme all private landlords are required to register under the Scheme and it is an offence to commence a new let of a residential property under a private tenancy without being registered. In the rest of the UK there are currently a number of voluntary registration schemes however the fact that they are not mandatory will mean that those who are likely to cut corners or do not meet their responsibilities are hardly likely to sign up!  Therefore this is something that has to become mandatory through legislation.  Mandatory registration schemes can state minimum levels of service that tenants should expect including transparent fees, improved property conditions, better communication between landlords and tenants, improved response times for repairs and maintenance and protected deposits. If all private landlords are required by law to meet these requirements then they will be made to think twice about the manner in which they deal with their tenants.

Please feel free to share this article and other articles on this site with friends, family and colleagues who you think would be interested


Information/opinions posted on this site are the personal views of the author and should not be relied upon by any person or any third party without first seeking further professional advice. Also, please scroll down and read the copyright notice at the end of the blog.