Property Clinic: How can I get the drains and road on my estate checked?

Your property queries answered

Expertise: a chartered building surveyor can supervise  a review of shared facilities. Photograph: iStockphoto/Getty

Expertise: a chartered building surveyor can supervise a review of shared facilities. Photograph: iStockphoto/Getty

 

I live on a 20-house estate where the roads and drains are privately owned and we manage things through a service charge, and that all works well. The estate is 15 years old and there is no wish to have the council or other bodies manage our estate.

I wonder whether we should be having our drains checked with a camera just to make sure that all is well and to have some understanding of problems that may arise and their likely cost. How often should we have them checked?

I would like to have the road assessed for wear and tear, and have some idea of when it might need to be resurfaced. I think we need to be putting money aside for repairs on drains and the road in the future. The lighting will need upgrading at some stage too.

What do you advise, and how would I go about organising these assessments? Since they would involve asking people to spend money, I worry that arranging them might be prohibitively expensive.

Your advice would be appreciated.

There is always a fear that seeking knowledge as to the expected useful life of a facility will accelerate its replacement, and it can be difficult to trust those from whom you seek such advice.

It is prudent to have your drains checked and a CCTV survey can be worthwhile to determine if there are any minor blockages, root invasions or collapsed sections. Often obstructions to a surface, foul or combined wastewater line will only manifest themselves when it is too late, with either a large blockage or major flood causing damage, thus giving rise to insurance claims and unforeseen draws on your service charge.

In order to get a comprehensive review of your facilities and have the data collated and reported in a comprehensive manner, I would suggest that you engage a chartered building surveyor or chartered engineer to co-ordinate the CCTV survey, inspect roads and assess the lighting arrangement subject to consultation with various contractors. While this would add a layer of professional fees to the cost, it would also deliver some reassurance to you and your co-owners, being the view of a professional adviser rather than that of an individual contractor. A professional can also advise on technological advances achieved in the past 15 years that may deliver value for money on any of the renewals required.

The appointed professional should be in a position to suggest a timeline for the renewals and preventative maintenance required and to determine the total funds needed. At that time you can discuss with your co-owners how you will finance any work that needs to be done.

Professional advice is imperative for the protection of those operating the service charge, to shield them from any personal liability that may arise from the wrong decision being made.

You suggest that there may not be an owners’ management company involved in the operation of your private estate, which raises the question of which legal entity is liable for the repair, maintenance and upkeep of the shared facilities, and of who makes the decisions.

Paul Mooney is a chartered property manager and member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland; scsi.ie

Send your queries to propertyquestions@irishtimes.com or to Property Clinic, The Irish Times, 24-28 Tara Street, Dublin 2. This column is a readers’ service. Advice given is general and individual advice should always be sought.