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Practice Note 4: Appendix 3: Normal repair works & the hereditament test for dwellings

The following notes are designed to give referencers and caseworkers a steer on judgements to be made in connection with deletion decisions when answering the question “Does a hereditament exist?”. Following Wilson v Coll 2011 the test is a physical one, not based on economic cost. The judgement to be made is whether a property is capable of normal repair without changing its character – which may be that of a derelict property. Mere boarding up of a property for security purposes will not be an indicator either way, but will only serve to conceal its true nature and make inspection more difficult.

Negative indicators: A truly derelict property will be typically indicated by a combination of the following features. It will be unoccupied, possibly for some years and will have deteriorated to such an extent that normal or a reasonable degree of repair will not make the property capable of occupation without more major reconstruction work to structural elements. A derelict building will normally display many of the following features:-

● The property is not wind and watertight: The property is exposed to the elements by a significant degree.

● Many roof tiles or slates are missing and severe and on-going ingress of water through the roof, and associated extensive damage to more than one room, penetrating the structure and the structural elements to the roof are also damaged.

● Ceilings have collapsed and there is damage to the floor joists.

● Extensive wet or dry rot may make entry dangerous. It has spread to floor joists and staircases and possibly other structural elements.

● Plaster is crumbling extensively or stripped back to brickwork.

● Window frames are missing and external doors missing.

● The property may have been vacant for many years. Vegetation growing inside the property or over structural elements of the property.

● Services wiring and pipe-work has been stripped and the building appears more a shell than a building fit for occupation.

● Structural problems and cracking compromise stability.

● Fire damage has taken out structural elements.

Positive indicators: A dwelling still exists where the property is capable of normal repairs to make it habitable. Significant reconstruction of structural elements is not necessary. Actual costs of repair are not relevant. Typical examples:-

● The property is generally wind and watertight.

● Some roof tiles have slipped or are missing –causing minor damage internally.

● The whole property requires redecoration internally and externally.

● Localised plaster /ceiling repairs.

● Areas of floorboards may have woodworm and require renewal.

● Windows frames need repainting or possible renewal.

● External woodwork needs stripping down, repair of localised wet rot.

● Random broken panes of glass.

● Kitchen and bathroom fittings require renewal/replacement.

● Pipe-work & copper tank stolen.

● Electric wiring needs replacing.

● Water tank leak in loft has brought down bathroom ceiling.

● Garden overgrown and fences dilapidated.

● An old wooden conservatory, not forming part of the main structure needs demolishing or renewal. It will not affect the ability to inhabit the main living accommodation.

Conclusion: This can be a difficult area and it is important that any inspection makes a detailed record of the state of the property with sufficient photographs to give an overall picture. It will be often necessary to refer borderline cases to the CT complex caseworker or Team leader. Technical Advisers are also able to assist.

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