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How to Sell a Problem Property

A problem property can cause very real stress. For many people, the chance to own a property is a dream come true. But sometimes, ownership can turn into a severe headache, or worse still, a nightmare.

Some situations can become so bad owners seriously consider selling their home fast. These include when there are problem tenants or a property needs full refurbishment or has structural faults.

Getting help with your problem property

In this guide, we look at severe property problems. While help is available to deal with property nightmares, in some circumstances you may be better off selling your property quickly.

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Problem tenants

At times, landlords can be challenged by difficult and even anti-social tenants.

It’s always best to vet tenants thoroughly before they move in and have a legally binding tenancy agreement. This can help alleviate most problems.

But if tenants start acting badly  – damaging furniture or overall decor, perhaps – you may need to act quickly and firmly.

Dont’ be afraid to get in touch directly and explain why their behaviour isn’t acceptable. Cite clauses in their tenancy agreement to back up your concerns.

If things get worse, you may need to consider evicting the tenant. This can be difficult and expensive. You must follow legal procedures correctly or it could delay the process.

The Money Advice Service has been set up by government to offer free and impartial advice. It recommends how to find the right solicitor or conveyancer for property matters.

Sitting tenants

In some circumstances, tenants may have the right to live in a property until they die. These are known as sitting tenants having signed regulated tenancies. They have stronger rights than usual.

These tenancies typically started more than 30 years. And ‘regulated’ tenants can only be evicted under certain circumstances. As a result, a property with sitting tenants will often be valued differently purely because it is more difficult to obtain vacant possession for re-sale.

Landlords need to apply for a possession order from a court to evict such a tenant. The court will decide if the ‘discretionary grounds’ put forward for eviction are reasonable. These could include rent arrears, breaching the terms of a tenancy agreement or being involved in anti-social behaviour. Even so, eviction of sitting tenants will not be easy and in some cases can take time. If you find yourself in this position you should take the time to learn how sitting tenancies work.

Japanese Knotweed

This plant, with its white flowers, is a serious property nightmare. Japanese Knotweed can grow as much as 10 cm a day.

Because it grows so fast, it can cause severe damage to building structures and substructures. It targets weak areas like cracks in masonry.

Typical damage includes damage to tarmac and paving, foundations and wall structures. It reduces the value of your property.

RICS, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, has published a paper on Japanese Knotweed and how it can be treated.  Try reading their advice, which concerns residential property, and acting fast.

Trees growing near your house

A nice house in an attractive tree-lined street is one thing. However, if trees are growing very close to – or even into – your property, that’s a serious problem.

Tree roots growing close to the foundations and walls of a house can cause damage. They could mean the property will be hard to sell.

In advice on trees, RICS says: “The potential damage is most often not due to direct physical pressure exerted by roots. A tree has to be very close to the structure for such damage to occur.”

If the roots of a tree grow too much, they could affect your house foundations. They can also grow so much that they block or even break gutters.

Think about your driveway, garden path and other concrete areas that tree roots could damage, too. Any such damage will be spotted by potential buyers and someone will need to fix it.

Watch out for trees or groups of trees that are subject to a tree preservation order (TPO). These are made by local councils in England to protect specific trees or woodlands. House owners can be issued with TPOs.

This kind of order prevents the:

  • cutting down
  • topping
  • lopping
  • uprooting
  • wilful damage
  • wilful destruction

of trees without the local planning authority’s written consent. More information about Tree Preservation Orders can be found here.

Structural faults within a problem property

Structural faults to your property are best spotted early and the fixed, to avoid huge expense.

Serious problems can include interior problems, signs of which are windows not shutting properly or cracks in the walls.

Wall separating from the house are also alarming and can usually be spotted by large cracks in the exterior walls. This can point to subsidence problems.

While the latter can be repaired using piling or other underpinning methods, there is unlikely to be cheap – or quick – fix.

The skills required are beyond those of a typical home DIY enthusiast. While a builder or civil engineer could help, in some circumstances it may be worth selling your property faster.

Doubtful building materials

There’s nothing quite like bricks and mortar. However, over the years some alternative types of material have been used to build houses.

These are:

  • Prefabricated houses. These are referred to as ‘prefabs’, which mean they are dwellings that were manufactured away from the building site in sections. The sections were then transported to the site and assembled piece by piece. What’s the problem here? According to one construction company, prefab homes only typically last around 35 years – and that’s with good maintenance
  • Steel-framed houses
  • Timber framed or
  • Concrete frame

While innovation is good in other industries, as we said, with property you are better dealing with bricks and mortar. There are doubts about the strength of these construction materials over time.

These types of construction material are less typical than bricks. If you own a property like this, it may be possible to sell it on – but not so easy. That’s because mortgage lenders are less willing to agree a mortgage on these kinds of property as they view them as a possible future problem property.

Risk of floods near a house

Some people dream of living near a river, a lake or the sea. But as we saw with rising floods in recent years, the location of a house near water can be troublesome.

If your house is near a major river, for instance, you may struggle to get home insurance. Many buyers will factor in the close location of a river in their decision to buy a property. Or not.

Due to the damage to towns and cities in northern England by recent floods, many will rule these homes out. As a result, houses located near water can be harder to sell.

The government issues flood warnings so householders can check flood risk levels across the UK. The Environment Agency website also gives an indication of the typical areas that suffer from flooding.

Anti-social neighbours

This problem can be increasingly common in the UK. Neighbourhoods that were once pleasant to live in can go downhill rapidly if anti-social people move in.

Problems with noise, damage or threatening behaviour can mean certain streets or neighbourhoods get a reputation for ‘ASBO’ behaviour.

In turn, this can mean buyers may prefer to move to quieter areas. If the issue gets serious, the police and your local council are required to act against those responsible.

If you are suffering from anti-social behaviour, you may want to report the problem to your local council.

But police and council resources are stretched, so an answer to your problems can take some time. If the anti-social behaviour really gets out of hand, maybe it is time to consider selling your house?

Damp in your problem property

Rising damp and penetrating damp are a massive concern for home owners. Although not exclusive to older properties, the first is common in older buildings without a damp course. Or where the existing damp course has been damaged.

Penetrating damp comes below ground or “vertical penetrating” is caused by roof defects, leaking or blocked guttering and drain pipes. Both can be chronic and lead to severe dry rot.

These damp issues are headaches no-one wants. They can really hit you in the wallet.

Another solution for selling a problem property

While these nightmares can ultimately be solved, dealing with them can be costly, and take time – perhaps even years. And they cause a lot of stress.

Help is at hand with professional home buyers who buy property in any condition.

They could take the problem off your hands quickly and leave you with a lump sum of cash.

Take care, however, in choosing a home buying company. These businesses certainly vary. You need one that looks after your interests, is clear in its communication and will secure you a fair price.

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