Property Clinic

Service charge calculations, a leaking chimney and an invation of mice

Thu, Mar 20, 2014, 00:00

Q Our apartment complex is supposed to have 244 units but I notice from the list of owners that three one-bed apartments have been combined into one so now there are 242 units. What is the position vis-a-vis planning and the payment of service charges for the newly formed larger apartment?

A Many planning applications are now available for inspection online at . Not all documents are available online yet so you may need to visit the respective local authority to view them. The planning applications will inform you as to what permission was granted for the development. Residential developments on the ground can alter from the initial design for various reasons and this is not uncommon. Consequently, leases are not always amended to reflect this as built properties and developments can find themselves underfunded or are over-charging if members are invoiced as per their lease agreement.

The service charge calculation method will be noted in the lease agreement binding the owner of the property to the owners’ management company (OMC). The manner of service charge calculation varies from lease to lease.

Some OMCs will be unaffected in its ability to charge a service charge if a change is made to the type or amount of properties that make up the development after the lease is made. In most cases the OMC will be greatly affected in its ability to invoice the correct service charge if the lease is not correctly amended. The method of amending the lease agreement to allow the OMC to correctly invoice the appropriate service charge would be to arrange for a deed of rectification.

My primary concern is if the building is in compliance with its fire certificate and if the changes to the properties resulted in any interference with the buildings structural integrity and services.

It is plausible that the developer or the owner made the changes to the properties correctly and your lease was not amended thereafter. I would hope that the alterations were done correctly and in accordance with the building regulations and planning and a comprehensive lease agreement appropriately cognisant of the built properties will be forthcoming to all the members of the OMC.

The OMC may be aware of your recent observations and have the appropriate documentation on file, however, I would recommend that you investigate this anomaly promptly with the board of directors and their appointed property service provider.

Paul Huberman is a member of the property and facilities management professional group of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland .

Q We have a problem with rainwater leaking into the chimney breasts in our bungalow. The water is soaking down through the concrete blocks, causing the paintwork on the chimney breast walls in the rooms below to bubble. This has happened before, about three years ago. We had previously removed a fireplace and closed up the opening. We also sealed the chimney pot. This work was done about seven years ago. Our house was built in 1977. Can you help us?

A You do not say where the chimney is located, at gable end; along the ridge or at eaves’ level. What is the finish above the roof, plaster or brick? The top has been sealed to shed water away. How was it sealed and was the pot removed? There should be a damp proof course (dpc) underneath the capping to deal with any moisture absorption. Also further down at the chimney and roof slope junction, a dpc tray should be installed, to prevent moisture ingress from cracked or porous plaster, brickwork, pointing and poor lead detailing. Part of the dpc tray can sometimes be seen in the attic. If no tray was installed, then moisture can penetrate. How are the outer lead upstand and cover flashings constructed? There should be minimum 150mm upstand height for the lead plus an adequate lead back gutter.

If the angle of roof pitch is very low and there is insufficient head lap of the slates then driving rain will enter particularly at exposed locations. Any holes in the roofing felt under will provide a path for rainwater. Check this along with the chimney and the felt junction. The felt should be dressed up under the outer lead which is sometimes omitted. There may be other factors at play such as condensation or porous plaster on the outer wall to the chimney. The enclosed chimney space should also be vented.

In a dry spell you can test the roof finishes with a water test and by a process of elimination you may be able to identify the point of entry. This would require a controlled even spray by an experienced roofer in the presence of your professional advis er. I would really need to know more about the chimney and roof construction and therefore recommend that you seek advice from your local chartered building surveyor. An inspection at roof and attic level along with a check on the surrounding roof construction may identify the problem, before any testing is carried out. Even better, if you can coordinate this by providing safe access for the surveyor onto the roof.

Jim Drew is a chartered building surveyor and a member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland .

Q Recently I’ve had an invasion of mice to my town house. Any small holes where pipes etc came into the house were filled in and a selection of traps and baits were put in strategic places (always using gloves in case the scent of my hands might deter the mice from using the traps). I’ve used a range of pre- baited, humane and conventional traps.

To the delight of children, who came to observe them at play, the mice never came close enough to the traps to get caught. They circled the traps. I don’t want to use poison for fear of a corpse causing a bad odour as was the first evidence of these creatures coming indoors . A corpse was eventually found in the wall cavity by removing skirtings and plaster.

These mice do not have any interest in pre-baited traps or chocolate, peanut butter or cheese. Now I’ve plugged in an electronic device into a socket and maybe the mice are gone or are they just waiting for another opportunity. There are plenty of cats about but they seem to sit in wait for the birds.

A An invasion of mice can be difficult to overcome, as you seem to be experiencing. As mice can multiply quite quickly and are unsanitary, it is essential to ensure you get rid of mice in your home as quickly as possible.

Mice look for food and shelter most frequently in colder months and many people are faced with this problem in winter and early spring.

You mention you have filled any small holes where pipes enter your house, however you don’t mention what materials you have used.

If your mice reappear, it is worth knowing that a mouse can enter a premises where there is a hole merely large enough to fit a Biro.

Expanding foam is ideal for filling any cavities as it can be sprayed into any holes or gaps and will expand and harden upon coming in contact with the air. Mice are very good at finding small gaps (air vents are a common entry point).

As you are aware, eradicating mice can be a process of trial and error. It may well be the case that the electronic device you have plugged in has solved your issue. It is worthwhile laying some talcum powder along the floor beside the walls; you will notice track marks within a few days if your mice are still present.

Your mice appear to be quite smart so if your problem resurfaces, you may need to trick them into trusting you. Pre-baiting your traps with peanut butter (as before) and not setting them for a few nights may make your mice believe this is a safe food source.

Once the traps are set you may th en be successful in catching them. A piece of bacon can work well as bait. Lay the traps close to the wall.

Sometimes, people think that they have mice but actually have pygmy shrews which are a protected species. If your “mice” have no interest in peanut butter, it is possible that they are shrews.

If all else fails and your problem persists, I would recommend contacting your local pest control company. They are well experienced in this area and are well-equipped in dealing with invasions of this kind.

Simon Stokes is a chartered surveyor and estate agent and chair of the residential property professional group of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland .

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