Your queries answered
Q The house next door to me is a rented property which is very damp. I had my house damp-proofed 20 years ago but now the damp from my neighbour’s hall is coming into my hall. Can you advise what steps I should take to resolve this?
A First, it will be necessary to build up a picture of the full extent of the problem you are experiencing. A number of questions must be considered. For example, where is the damp and what form does it take?
You mention that it is in your hall – is it near the door or it is it coming from the roof? What is the party wall in the hall made of?
What type of roof is there and is there a chimney nearby? Is there a basement or a bathroom on your neighbour’s side or any other adjoining external structures that may lead to damp in your property?
Answering these questions will help you to identify possible sources of the dampness.
I would also be interested to know why your house was damp-proofed 20 years ago – was there a similar issue then and if so, what remedy was employed?
Much information needs to be gathered to identify the cause and mechanisms of the problem, before a reliable decision on the remedy can be made.
Generally speaking, the main causes of dampness are water penetration through walls, windows and roofs; rising dampness from ground level; leaks from pipes and drains; and condensation.
Moisture can travel a long way inside a structure where building materials act as a wick – drawing water to areas where it can evaporate. If you notice staining in one spot, it doesn’t always mean the source of the leak is close by.
Initially, a visual examination is necessary and this can involve a basic sketch of the party wall and adjoining constructions, floors and roofs; looking for obvious causes. Depending on the findings, further investigations may be necessary.
I would recommend speaking with your neighbours to check if they are experiencing similar problems. I would also contact the landlord of the house to explain the situation. I would expect that they will be reasonable about this.
If they are not forthcoming, it is worth noting that there is legislation concerning inspection/works to party structures contained within the Conveyancing Law Reform Act 2009 – but that would be a last option.
In any case, I recommend that you seek professional advice to eliminate the possibility of the dampness arising from your own house (ie a leak) and then seek to reach an agreement with the landlord of the neighbouring house if it is likely the damp is arising from there.
You should also discuss this with your insurance company or broker.
Jim Drew is a chartered building surveyor and member of the western region of Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland ( scsi.ie)
Q I rented out my home for the first time about six months ago, as I moved abroad, and let the property myself to a single tenant before leaving. I noticed that the rent stopped coming in last month and I phoned the tenant who said that she was sorry but couldn’t afford the rent any more and had to move out.
I told her that she had signed a 12-month lease and she couldn’t simply move out without agreeing it with me. She said that since I have her deposit that would cover the last month’s rent.
I am very distraught because I am new to being a landlord and do not know what to do.
Have I any comeback or can she simply walk away?
A Unfortunately this situation is very common where a tenant agrees to rent an apartment for, say, 12 months and then defaults midway through. If the tenancy agreement is specifically for a fixed period of time and it is clearly stated on the agreement, then the tenant is liable for the entire rent for the period of the fixed term.
If the tenant approaches a landlord mid-tenancy and asks for permission to sublet the property and a landlord refuses then they will be able to break the lease without penalty.
Where no fixed-term contract is in place a tenant may give notice to terminate a tenancy but this must be done in an appropriate way and the process is also clearly set out on the websites mentioned.
Where a tenant stops paying rent without notice to a landlord, or vacates without notice to a landlord, then there is no protection for that tenant under the law and a landlord can seek recovery of loss or damage through the PRTB.
It is important that in the first instance the tenancy is registered with the PRTB to be eligible for this process.
In practice, however, where a tenant has breached the lease agreement for reasons which are to do with the inability to pay it is very difficult to recover any outstanding payments.
It is good that you picked up on the non-payment early so that you can limit the loss by dealing with the situation quickly.
We always recommend to clients to check their bank accounts each month to stay on top of rental payments. The important thing is to get vacant possession of the property and re-let it as quickly as possible.
I understand that you are a first-time landlord and that you may not be familiar with the law or common practices.
I would recommend using a suitably qualified agent to handle your affairs. It will involve a fee but this may be money well spent – especially if you are living abroad. Most agents offer a management service also.
Fergal Hopkins is a member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland ( scsi.ie)