Dry rot – what advice is appropriate for you?

We offer our customers the most appropriate dry rot advice – and sometimes that advice leads the customer to “walk away”.

Below are two recent scenarios where our advice was sought on what the customer was told were minor dampness issues. In both cases we were contacted by prospective purchasers who had made offers for properties which had been accepted and their mortgage lenders had requested further clarification on the extent of possible specialist remedial works.

The first picture shows a sporophore or fruiting body (effectively a mushroom) of dry rot fungus growing on the carpet at the bay window of a first floor tenement flat. This had not been apparent when the customer viewed the property.

Although this looks fairly innocuous, by the time this sporophore appears, extensive damage will have occurred to the concealed structure and fabric of the building. Whilst guaranteed repair is possible, and a specification for such was prepared, extensive exposure to both this property and the commercial premises below and significant structural beam and floor joist repairs would be necessary. The significant upheaval, the prospect of trying to negotiate a discount from the purchase price to cover the share of the cost and the hassle of having to deal with the landlord of the property below, coupled with a likely retention being held by the lender for the full cost of the works, was too much for our customer to bear.

In this case the customer, a first time buyer, decided to withdraw their offer and look for something else.

The second picture is again a tenement flat, this time at ground floor, where the prospective purchaser’s lender had  asked them to arrange for a report on possible rising damp to lower walls. The customer was a property developer and was not phased by the prospect of having to undertake damp-proofing works and had factored this into his budget. What he hadn’t noticed was the dry rot sporophore to the ceiling of the back bedroom.

Dry rot is the most serious wood destroying fungi. It is malignant and will spread even through thick masonry in search of timber to attack. The extent of the outbreak must be fully eradicated and the building fabric sterilised to prevent re-infestation occurring. Although the only visible evidence of an issue was the sporophore, due to the location not only is it  more than likely that problems will extend upwards to affect the flat above it is also likely to be affecting the adjacent ground floor property on the other side of the party wall and the flat above that as well!

In this case we advised the developer that unless permission was granted and access could be gained to undertake exposure to each individual property. then even the assessment of the problem could not be considered accurate and subject to change should remedial works be commenced. The prospect of dealing with the several owners and factor lead the developer to make the decision to withdraw their offer and move on.

There are unscroupulous contractors out there who may play down the extent of a problem such as these and underspecify remedial works in order to secure a job and only once work has started on site would make you aware of the additional work and costs involved. There are also others, whilst not being underhand, will not appreciate the nature of dry rot and their lack of knowledge and experience may also mean they initially underspecify works.

We are surveyors and charge a fee for our service and are not contractors who derive their income from undertaking remedial works.

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