Property Clinic: do I have to cover the repair of my apartment windows?

Your property questions answered

Apartments are particularly complex when it comes to dealing with condensation a

Apartments are particularly complex when it comes to dealing with condensation a

 

My apartment has very bad condensation on the windows which is leading to extensive mould issues. I raised this with the management company.

The management company appointed a building consultant to conduct a survey of my apartment. He established that the ventilation is very poor in the apartment. There are large windows with vents in the window frames. However the vents are blocked and provide no ventilation at all even when the vent is opened.

The building consultant recommended a list of works to be carried out to fix the problem, including

– Insulation to Mullions/Frames

– Insulation to Solid Panels

– reinstate window board

– install permavents

– replace with new double glazed pane

The management company are now saying that they are not responsible for these works. They say these works are not structural, are not part of the common areas, and are therefore not the responsibility of the management company. Even though they had said previously that the window frames are the responsibility of the management company.

The management company accounts show a building investment fund of more than €160,000. It is my contention that these works are structural in nature and therefore the responsibility of the management company.

My view is that the windows are an integral part of the external walls of the building and therefore are structural. The windows have a function in keeping the building weatherproofed. Also the mullions in the windows are structural in terms of supporting the load/weight of the wall.

I don’t see how it is fair that I as the owner should be responsible for the defective windows that were installed by the builders. The vents are blocked and totally inadequate causing massive condensation in the apartment with consequent mould growth and implications for the health and safety of occupants.

Answer

There are a lot of issues here that could not be addressed fully in an answer of this nature. It is clear that from your description that the issue is one of condensation and the associated mould growth. There are many factors contributing to condensation including the levels of moisture created within an apartment, the levels of ventilation and heating and the standard of insulation. There may also be some issues with the structure such as water penetration which also contribute to the condensation.

As I have not surveyed the apartment I cannot be precise, however I am somewhat surprised at some of the recommendations which have been made to address the problem and would question the necessity and indeed the benefits of such proposals. It seems to me that it would be better to replace the windows rather than undertaking the works described. It is also extremely unlikely that the windows are providing a load bearing function; however assuming that you are not directly involved in construction, this may not be that apparent to you from a visual inspection.

If there is an issue with a common element of the building then I do believe that the responsibility for this lies with the Management Company. Accordingly, if the windows are a common element and there is a problem with the frames, then this is an issue for the Management Company. However more often than not the window frames are not a common element and are actually owned by the individual apartment owners but any external redecoration / treatment is often carried out by the Management Company for consistency.

I note your reference to the Management Company stating that the windows are common elements; this is just hearsay and you will need clarification as to whether or not the windows are common elements. Notwithstanding the above I suspect that there are simpler ways of dealing with the condensation such as concentrating on ways of reducing the amount of moisture created within the apartment and improving the ventilation systems.

To be fair, apartments are particularly complex when it comes to dealing with condensation as very often there are only windows in one elevation and this restricts the ability for a natural flow of ventilation throughout the apartment and this can give rise to a greater risk of condensation occurring.

While I fully concur that it is unfair that you as an individual apartment owner should be landed with the problems and having to address same, this is really down to a combination of poor design and construction when the apartments were first built and is not really an issue for the Management Company.

While this may not be of much consolation for you, rather than “fighting” with the Management Company, it would be much better if the residents and management committee worked together with a view to addressing or at least mitigating the risk of condensation occurring in as far as is practical.

Val O’Brien is a Chartered Building Surveyor and member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Irelands, scsi.ie