Monthly Archives: December 2012

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By Claire Rhoades-Brown – 12th December 2012

Laws have recently changed in favour of residential landlords which mean that squatting in residential property is now a criminal offence.

Previously, the squatters had to be served notices while the process was dragged out through the courts, which was time consuming and meant that squatters were able to legally stay in the property until the court process finished.

Now, as squatting has been criminalised, the police can get involved straight away. In turn, this will lead to the property owner taking back possession of the property quickly.

The first squatter to be sentenced as a result of this new ruling was a 21 year old man from Plymouth who was sentenced to twelve weeks in prison after occupying a property in Pimlico.

This does mean that there are likely to be a lot of squatters who will move from residential to commercial property, as the law does not criminalise squatting in this type of premises. If you have property such as empty shops, pubs or factories then this is something to be aware of. We would suggest checking the security on these empty buildings and securing any weak entrance points.

The squatting offence does not apply to tenants who fall behind with rent payments or refuse to leave at the end of their tenancy. Tenants who entered the building with the permission of the landlord are not squatters. In these circumstances, landlords should use existing eviction processes to regain possession of their properties. If the property is  very run down and needs work to be carried out before it could be sold or rented out, the squatter may have an argument that they are not depriving someone of a home.  It is possible that a squatter may remove items to make it uninhabitable, such as bathroom suite, or kitchen facilities.  Although in doing so they could be liable for criminal damage and reduce their living standards.

By Claire Rhoades-Brown – 12th December 2012

One of the largest changes to gas safety legislation next year will affect many landlords. The change relates to boiler flues in void areas, such as ceiling spaces or walls.

Is my property affected? If your boiler is located on a window wall, and the flue goes straight outside then you can probably stop reading now. However, if your boiler is located in the middle of a room or away from any external walls then chances are that the flue will run inside wall or ceiling cavities. If this is the case then there is action that will need to be taken before 1st January 2013 to stop the system being deemed unsafe and switched off.

Why the change? The new rules have been put in place to make sure that flues running through voids were installed correctly and are not in disrepair as these flues will have joints that cannot currently be inspected. Flues are essentially exhaust pipes for boilers so if a joint is not connected property, then poisonous carbon monoxide may leak into the property.

What do I need to do? If you have a flue in a void, inspection hatches must be installed along the void area so the flue is accessible to check. If this is not completed by 1st January 2013 then the system will be deemed at risk and the system switched off by a plumber. If you think that your boiler may be affected then it is best to contact your managing agent who can double check for you before it is too late.

For more information you can visit Gas Safe’s advice page on boiler flues in void spaces.

By Ceri Adams 05 December 2012

CONDENSATION CONTROL

Condensation and damp are caused by excess moisture in the air settling on cool surfaces.  Air can hold a certain amount of moisture, which varies depending on temperature. The colder the air, the less moisture it can hold.  It is important to bring condensation in a property under control as it can lead to major problems, if left unattended.  Nearly every home suffers from some condensation but by following the recommendations and steps set out below, much can be done to prevent it from building up and becoming a severe problem.

1. Produce Less Moisture

Some normal daily activities produce a lot of moist air very quickly. To minimise the amount of moist air, which leads to the formation of condensation, you need to:

  • Close kitchen and bathroom doors when in use, even when using extractor fans, to stop the warm moist air producing condensation in other cooler rooms.
  • Cover cooking pans and do not leave kettles boiling.
  • Dry your windows & windowsills every morning
  • Dry washing outdoors or in a closed room with a window open or extractor fan running.
  • Do not dry washing directly on room radiators as this produces more water vapour and cools the room at the same time. Ask yourself  “Where will all the water vapour from the drying clothes go?”
  • Avoid using portable flueless bottled gas heaters as they produce moisture
  • Run the cold water first when filling a bath as it prevents steam production.

2. Ventilate to Remove Moisture to the Outside

Your home can be ventilated without creating draughts by:

  • Don’t block ventilators, air bricks and chimneys
  • Improve ventilation – open windows to help take damp air out of the property
  • If trickle vents are fitted make sure you use them.
  • Open windows wider in the mornings if the property is going to be occupied, to help reduce the degree of condensation occurring, but don’t over ventilate the property to the point where the temperature in the rooms drops excessively.
  • Don’t push beds and sofas against outside walls which are always colder and attract condensation. Make sure there is a 9 inch (225cm) gap. Bedding can get damp if air cannot circulate around it
  • Ventilate cupboards and wardrobes and avoid putting too many items in them as this stops the air circulating. If condensation persists, cutting permanent ventilation slots or breather holes in backs and doors will help to improve air circulation.
  • Ventilate kitchens and bathrooms when in use, by opening the windows, or by always using the extractor fan, if fitted, they only use 1/5th the power of a 100watt bulb
  • Ventilate your bedroom by leaving a window slightly open at night
  • Do not draught-proof rooms where there is condensation or mould.
  • Do not draught- proof a room where there is a cooker or a fuel burning heater such as a gas fire.
  • Do not draught-proof windows in bathrooms and kitchens.

3. Heat your Home

  • Keep the heat on low all day in very cold weather, condensation is less likely to form in warm houses
  • Improve background heating levels – set heating sources to give a low-level background heat ensuring there are no rapid temperature changes which can cause condensation, especially in extremely cold weather.

TEN FACTS THAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT CONDENSATION

  1. Condensation and damp are caused by excess moisture in the air settling on cool surfaces. Air can hold a certain amount of moisture, which varies depending on temperature. The colder the air, the less moisture it can hold. When air temperature drops, the moisture held in it condenses onto the coldest surfaces available, these are often windows or tiles but it can form on any surface and it may not be noticed until mould growth or rotting of material occurs
  2. Government figures show that one in four homes in the UK, has problems with condensation and damp.
  3. Cooking, washing, drying clothes, having a bath or shower and even breathing can cause produce up to 11 litres of moisture a day within the average home.
  4. Condensation does not always occur in the room where the moisture has been created. Moisture moves around. It can even move through walls, doors and ceilings.
  5. Signs of condensation and damp caused by condensation are most easily spotted by musty smells within the property, water on windows and window cills, peeling wallpaper, mould growths on walls, clothes, shoes and other leatherwear and also on wall and ceiling plaster.
  6. Living in a damp atmosphere due to condensation can cause health problems. This form of dampness causes mould and mildew to grow. The spores from these can aggravate chest illnesses, such as asthma. House mites also thrive in damp atmospheres and research shows they can also cause allergies.
  7. Up to 50% of damp-proofing company call-outs are for condensation related problems. Rising dampness is often confused with condensation, but can usually be recognised by “tide marks” up to about 1.0 m from the floor and also the absence of extensive mould growths.
  8. Double glazing reduces condensation on windows by keeping glass temperatures warmer, but this means that moisture will condense on other cool surfaces elsewhere, particularly adjoining wall surfaces, unless the property has cavity wall insulation.
  9. Condensation can bring a lot of expense. At the least, it can cause damp bed linen and furnishings, mildewed clothes, as well as mould on walls. At worst, the damp can rot timbers and result in rusting metal wall ties.
  10. Condensation and related dampness can be resolved only by controlling the level of moisture in the air. Control moisture levels in the entire house, with adequate ventilation is important.