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Agents who keep their options open

By Jo Eccles

Q: I have lived in my flat for eight years. The owner upstairs recently refurbished their flat and I think they have laid wood flooring – now I can hear their every movement and conversation. What can I do?

A: With any neighbourly issue, the more amicable you can keep it, the better. My first piece of advice would be to let them know so that they are aware of the problem.

It would be worth having a look at the flat as they may have made changes as part of the refurbishment such as replacing carpet with wood flooring. If that is the case, check your property’s ownership lease to see whether there are any restrictions on having wood flooring, as some leases don’t permit it. Obviously, every building is different but in many cases, if wood flooring has been put down, permission may be required from the managing agent, if there is one in place. Check whether this has happened.

With permission for wood flooring it often requires additional sound proofing to be laid as part of the works, so see if this was the case and ask the owner upstairs to check with their builder whether this happened. If they are claiming that the works were all done properly, you could let the managing agent know you are having issues to verify whether the proper permissions were granted.

One option would be to commission an acoustic test, as that will determine whether an unreasonable amount of sound is travelling between your properties. This will require the sound engineer to have access to both flats, and this is where an amicable approach with your neighbour will be important – you want them to be as cooperative as possible.

If the acoustic test shows that an unreasonable amount of sound is passing through the floor, the engineer will be able to make recommendations on how to improve the sound insulation. If sound proofing was due to be laid as part of the works, this may suggest that the builder cut corners, and therefore, the owner of the flat above should approach the builders and ask them to rectify the matter. Or, your managing agent or freeholder may be able step in and impose restrictions on the owner, for example, if wood flooring is not permitted in the lease, forcing him to cover it.

As with any dispute, try to keep it as civilised as possible, before you go down the legal route as in many cases, things can be resolved or improved via a good working relationship and sensible solutions.

If you have a question you’d like Jo to answer please email info@sourcingproperty.co.uk or tweet her @joeccles.

By Jo Eccles

Q. I have had an offer accepted on a property but the estate agent is insisting on keeping the property advertised on their website. What should I do?

A: If you’ve had an offer accepted, you or the seller can pull out at any time; it’s not until you’ve exchanged contracts that the purchase is legally binding. It often takes approximately 4 – 6 weeks from having an offer accepted to exchanging contracts, so there’s quite a lot of time before the purchase is legally secured. Therefore, a lot of estate agents keep properties on their website throughout the purchase process and don’t mark them as ‘under offer’ or ‘sold’ until exchange of contracts has happened.

From the estate agent’s perspective, this means that potential buyers for the property can continue to enquire about it and the estate agent can take down their details to have buyers lined up if your purchase falls apart. Additionally, the more properties that the estate agent has on their website, the more buyers are prompted to register with them, so it’s really a marketing tool for the estate agent.

From your perspective, having the property still being advertised online can add to the angst of the purchase and might have you worrying about whether another buyer will see the details online and try to gazump you. In your offer letter, you could request that the property is marked as ‘under offer’ on the agent’s website, or request that they remove it altogether. Some estate agents will agree to this whereas others have a fairly strict policy to keep the property online. In some cases I’ve seen properties online which we bought for a client nearly a year previously!

If the seller has agreed to stop all viewings then a reputable estate agent should uphold this and, if buyers do enquire about the property, they should be told that the property is under offer. For our own clients, we would always call the estate agent several times during the purchase and pose as a buyer to check that they are telling buyers that the property is firmly under offer, so I suggest you do the same. Then you can channel your efforts to getting exchanged as quickly as you can.

If you have a question you’d like Jo or SP Property Group to answer please email info@sourcingproperty.co.uk or tweet her @joeccles.