Q: I am moving into a newbuild in two weeks. I went in to measure for a sofa bed and found the second bedroom measures about 13 sq ft smaller than the plans, which equates to about 10 per cent of the total area of that room. Every room is a little smaller, but this was the largest difference. One room was 10.7 sq ft, although the plans stated 12 sq ft. I’ve looked online but found nothing to help. Do I have any grounds for a rebate in what I am paying for the flat? Is there a maximum leeway a property can have before the seller or developer is liable?
BB, by email
A: It is accepted house building industry standard across the UK that newbuild homes should be within five per cent of the dimensions provided on the plans or marketing material.
If they are not, you may have a case to renegotiate your purchase with the house builder. I always advise clients to use a surveyor to get an independent set of measurements and plans done for a property.
In the first instance, you should seek independent legal advice from an expert property lawyer – I would advise that you speak to a specialist property lawyer, such as Child & Child or Mishcon, about your case. You should provide the lawyer with the plans the builder gave you, including any small print provided with the marketing material, and all the correspondence you have had regarding the purchase with your current solicitor and the seller or developer.
If the independent legal adviser finds in your favour, then you can update your solicitor and approach the seller to renegotiate your purchase. If the seller proves to be difficult, then you should consider the option of contacting your local newspaper, radio station, MP and councillor in order to make them aware of the situation. The developer will give your case the attention it warrants if you have the support of the local media and other stakeholders.
All developers need to maintain the goodwill of the local planning authorities and media in their operating area, so if your case is ignored, you should look at gaining their support.
Becky Fatemi, estate agent
Becky Fatemi runs Rokstone Properties in Marylebone, London ()
Q: We are trying to outfit the electrics in our house, but we have a dog that likes to chew things and we are worried about his chomping teeth getting near wires. Everything will need to be covered and out of reach, either under floors or in walls. Do you have any suggestions as to how to tackle this? Will it be a problem in the future when it comes to maintenance, repair and upgrades?
A: The best practice today for the rewiring of a domestic property is for the cables to be concealed within the floors, ceilings, and walls, and to be run through and protected by something called conduit – a metal or plastic tube that protects and routes the cables.
When the works are being carried out, your qualified electrician will need to consider the location of access points for maintenance and will discuss this with you.
While it may cost a little extra, insist on a detailed electrical layout drawing that will show the location of all the electrical points, switches, and access points, and can be used if you decide to get another electrician in at a later date.
On completion of the rewire, be sure to run through the “what if” scenarios with your electrician. Ask them to show you how to open the access hatches and how to reset your consumer unit in the event of an emergency. Also ask how to change the light bulbs as this can be quite a task with modern low-voltage downlights.
Billy Heyman, builder
Billy Heyman runs BTL Property, a London-based building firm ()
Q: We just bought a large, six-bedroom house for our family and we are very happy with the size and space. However, the former owner had very different tastes – the large reception area is white and red marble, and everything seems to be covered in gold trinkets, from door handles to toilet taps. It’s too austere and grandiose for me and my family of teenagers, but it seems a waste to lose the marble. How can we tone it down to create a more simple, homely look?
A: This room should be the heart of your home and the biggest waste would be not to feel comfortable there. My advice is to change the floor.
There are decorating tricks you could use, such as layering sisal and accent rugs to cover most of the floor. But ultimately you would be spending money on compromised design choices. A beautiful floor anchors a room and requires fewer furnishings to give a room presence. My choice for a timeless flooring is timber in wide planks or random width.
The gold taps and handles can be changed over time. If the hardware is stylish, you can have the pieces refinished – or do it yourself if you are feeling crafty. For a fresh look, paint the walls, skirting and cornices all in the same colour. It is an instant update and the right shade might even work with the gold-tone door knobs.
Natalia Miyar, designer
Natalia Miyar is an interior designer and trained architect who runs her own studio ()