One of the most fundamental human rights is the right to shelter that is habitable, safe and fit for purpose. When it is none of these, problems can arise which may result in the need for dilapidations consultancy.

There are some legal grey areas, but for the most part, the moment when a building becomes dilapidated or condemned is when it becomes too dangerous to live in.

Exactly how this looks can vary, and whilst there are some obvious signs such as a building being boarded up in its entirety, signs of breaking in, mould, vermin infestations and cracks in the building or its facades, in other cases a perfectly normal looking building on the outside could hide hidden dangers.

Regardless, once a building reaches this state and its condition is reported to the local council this is when they start to take action.

They will inspect the home for one of the 29 housing hazards measured as part of the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS).

Typically all but the highest level of hazards are served with no more than an improvement notice, but if the danger is high enough, they may take emergency action.

This can take several forms, but the most common are prohibition orders, emergency action and demolition orders.

Prohibition orders are legal orders that ban the use of either part or the entirety of a property until the hazards identified in the HHSRS have been carried out, and it is illegal to break this order and continue to live in the property. This is most commonly known as condemning a property.

In some cases, the council will take action themselves to stop hazards that pose an immediate risk to people living in the vicinity, usually taking the form of urgent repairs, which are then charged from the owner of the property.

Finally, in extreme cases, there are demolition orders, where the building itself is destroyed and the site cleared.

A lot of people who have made modifications to their homes or have either attempted to or have sought permission to do so are likely to be aware of a party wall agreement.

party wall is the boundary between two different properties, which can in some cases be a physical wall (such as with terrace or semi-detached houses) or in other cases can be marked with a hedge or a fence.

If you want to do certain types of construction work on or close to this party wall, you must tell your neighbours as this work is likely to affect them too. This has been the case in law since 1996 but is a common part of neighbourly relations.

However, party wall disputes are a specific part of a much larger set of formal and informal discussions and disputes relating to development that are often grouped by the term “neighbourly matters”.

Neighbourly matters are a subset of development and planning concerns that broadly bring together every aspect of development that affects neighbours.

This includes concepts such as the “right to light”, the idea that developments that would otherwise be accepted or covered under permitted development rights could be refused if they block out a neighbour’s right to sunlight.

Conversely, it also covers artificial light pollution, such as with spotlights and other security systems.

They also cover not only the result of developments but also the ways in which development is undertaken in a way that often blurs the lines between informal discussions and formal agreements.

For example, this can include cases where someone needs access to your property to undertake maintenance and repairs on theirs, cases where cranes need to operate close to or over your property as well as the effects of scaffolding and other temporarily erected buildings.

There are many people who live in a piece of history, and for those people, the unique character and building qualities make them delightful places to live and a potentially valuable part of a property portfolio.

However, buying a piece of history makes you a steward of it, and as a result of this, a lot of the processes of buying and selling a listed property are quite different, with building surveyors handling these important relics in a somewhat unique way.

The first difference is that a lot of specialist research is required compared to more typical property and land surveys.

Part of the reason for this is that the character of a building needs to be protected and factored into any purchase or refurbishment. As a result, a surveyor of a listed building will closely examine the building materials, used, the current state of the property and what consent types will need to be applied for.

This information can then be used to help a buyer understand how much it would cost to repair a listed building if it ever gets damaged, as well as how to source the often-specialist building materials that are used.

As well as this, because historic buildings need to be preserved as much as possible and cannot, for example, have walls broken to access areas that have been lost to history, advanced technology is often used to conduct these surveys in a non-invasive way.

These include using drones to survey parts of the building inaccessible to people, cameras to check the quality of the roof, hydrometers to measure water vapour in confined spaces and thermal imaging cameras that have a range of functions in determining condition.

It also involves contacting and working with the local planning authority to determine what types of alterations can be legally undertaken to the listed building without affecting its historic character.

Handling neighbourly matters is a major task for property surveyors as they seek to ensure that what developers or householders plan to do to extend or alter a building does not cause conflict and potential legal trouble with those living in adjacent properties.

This process can be aided by constraints such as the limits of permitted development rights, as well as the extra restrictions involved with a home being within a conservation area, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, or a National Park.

However, the possibility of law changes making it easier to build extensions without planning permission could change this. The loosening of permitted development rights is something levelling up secretary Simon Clarke is very keen to implement, according to a report in the Times.

As the Daily Mail reports, such a step could allow measures such as building multi-storey extensions to a home without requiring planning permission. The paper reports that plan has sparked the ire of many Tory backbenchers, especially in rural seats, who have argued that it could create more neighbour disputes.

Greg Smith, a Conservative MP with a seat in rural Buckinghamshire, said: “This does have the potential to pit neighbour against neighbour as if we’re getting into the realms of an extra three-storey extension on the backs of houses.”

Steve Double, the member for the Cornish seat of St Austell and Newquay, said he appreciated what the plan aims to achieve, but said it should be “tempered with proper checks and balances so we protect the character of our rural and suburban communities.”

Even without a looser law there are cases of householders persistently seeking to expand their properties despite concerns about the impact on the area and the buildings themselves. 

As Somerset Live reports, one case of this is that of a couple in Bath who are seeking to add a two-storey extension to their Georgian terrace, despite the building being Grade II-listed. Bath and North East Somerset Council had accepted a plan for a one-storey extension but not two. However, the owners have appealed to the Planning Inspectorate.

Property Investors always have two options in their portfolio-building activities; they can buy up existing properties with the potential of upgrading them, or start new developments from scratch, such as on a build-to-rent basis.

In all this, the question of aesthetics is one that may have often been overlooked, but not now. If modernist buildings in the 1960s were allowed to be ugly because they served some utopian ideal in the minds of architects, the government is now keen to call time on any such thing now, something those working with property development consultants will need to consider.

This was made clear by housing secretary Michel Gove in a speech to the Centre for Policy Studies’ Margaret Thatcher Conference on Growth, in which he pledged to use his powers to crack down on “ugly” developments. 

Accusing some construction firms of “using a restrictive pattern book with poor-quality materials,” Mr Gove added: “The aesthetic quality of what they produce is both disappointing and also not in keeping with the high aesthetic standards that may already exist”.

Stating that development codes are set to be applied more strictly, Mr Gove argued this approach is necessary if the government is to make good on its 2019 election manifesto pledge of raising annual house building numbers to 300,000, because attractive designs are more likely to be accepted by those living in existing homes nearby, reducing the numbers of objections and public enquiries.

Perhaps ironically, this commitment to avoiding ugly construction comes just as one of the biggest critics of modernist architecture has entered a self-imposed silence on such subjects upon becoming King. When he was Prince of Wales, Charles III was a vocal critic of many architectural creations, famously calling extension to the National Gallery a “monstrous carbuncle”.

This phrase led to the creation of namesake awards of the kind no architect or developer wanted to win, such as the Carbuncle Cup (which ran from 2006-2018) and Scotland’s Carbuncle Awards, which have been awarded to either towns or individual buildings.

There are fewer properties available than ever before, as a result of a drop in the number of developments being put up for sale. 

The UK Residential Market Survey from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) has revealed a 13 per cent fall in new instructions, resulting in historically low stock levels. 

It stated that estate agents typically have just 34 residential properties available to sell, which is why near-term sales expectations for the month returned a net balance of -30 per cent. 

A spokesperson for the group said: “The September 2022 Rics UK Residential Survey results remain indicative of the sales market losing momentum, with the outlook for interest rates and the uncertain macro picture more broadly taking a toll on activity.”

It was predicted that the rise in mortgage rates will outweigh the balance of stamp duty cuts, and the lack of supply on the market will continue to force house prices up. 

Due to rising prices and increasing mortgage rates, new buyer enquiries fell by 36 per cent in September, declining for five consecutive months in all regions of the UK. 

The Bank of England recently (November 3rd) increased the base rate yet again from 2.5 per cent to three per cent. This represents the largest growth since 1989, and the eighth time it has risen the rate recently. 

This time last year, the base rate was just 0.1 per cent, showing just how much interest rates have grown in the last 12 months for those on tracker mortgages. 

For property development consultants, give us a call today

Building Surveyors are a key part of ensuring that the properties we live, work and socialise in are safe and that the communities that rely on these structures are happy and secure as a byproduct.

Whilst surveyors are used in a wide range of industries, one of the most common tasks for surveyors is to examine homes and offices for potential building faults or disputes related to land ownership.

With regards to the former, most experienced surveyors have noted that certain building faults are found far more than others, and here are some of the most common.


Moisture level and humidity are complex issues facing a lot of homes in the UK, particularly older buildings which were made with an expectation that an open fire would be used and are therefore not especially airtight.

Damp is an excessive level of moisture in specific parts of a home that cannot escape and often caused damage, mould and can at its worst become a hazard to occupants.

Surveyors not only check for evidence of damp or mould but also its causes, whether that is a corroded pipe or a broken seal that has caused water to drip over the course of years.


Another issue commonly found in buildings that have largely remained unmodified since the 1980s is the existence of asbestos, which was used for insulation and fireproofing.

It is safe until it is broken or disturbed because if the fibres enter the body they can cause many dangerous and potentially fatal lung diseases, so when Asbestos is discovered it needs to be painstakingly removed by a specialist.

Roofing Problems

Most of the time, as long as there isn’t an obvious problem such as leaking or falling tiles, it can be easy to miss roofing issues, which is where a surveyor will come in to help ensure that the roof is structurally sound and there are no other issues such as cracked tiles or damage to waterproof linings.

There are many reasons for neighbours to fall out, but research has shown disputes over boundaries are among the most common.

A survey by civil law solicitors CEL found that it was one of the three biggest causes of arguments, along with noise and inconsiderate parking.

Mark Montado from the firm commented:”Some of the most common disputes include parking spaces, excessive noise, unkempt gardens and arguments over just where your land ends and theirs begins.”

While these can sometimes be sorted out “over a friendly cup of tea,” on other occasions they can escalate and end up requiring a legal resolution, Mr Montado added.

There are some very effective ways of preventing a land dispute getting to that point. One of them is to have a boundary determination survey which can sort out once and for all exactly where one property ends and another stops, so that the correct location of the fence, garden or hedge can be clearly defined.

Sometimes the problem can arise in the first place because there is no record to hand to begin with showing exactly where one property starts and the other ends.

Not having a survey and taking the matter to court can end up being a very expensive affair, as the losers of one very expensive recent case in London found to their (very considerable) cost.

Wendy Mszyca and Amanda Uziell-Hamilton ended up the losers in a row over a 3ft strip of land they had paved over that belonged to their neighbours Jay and Hannah Stirrett, whose garden backs onto theirs.

The couple had grabbed the land in 2018 when remodelling their garden, claiming that the extra section of land had actually been their flower bed before being temporarily walled off by builders in 2013. The Stirrets said there had been a fence 3ft beyond the wall marking the true boundary, a claim that was upheld in court.

While the losing party are millionaires and thus able to cope with the big legal bill, though doubtless unhappy with this and the land loss, the dispute may show just why people should try to avoid expensive legal battles.

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