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Construction in apartments: Oliver’s story Part 1

I’ve just about finished construction on my new apartment, and for those of you that don’t know, construction in an apartment – especially with communal areas – is quite different to a detached house!

My name is Oliver; last year Coreco helped me get my mortgage to buy a repossessed apartment in East London. The apartment needed a lot of work, since it was dirty, unappealing and in need of an extra bedroom. Damp and asbestos pipes, all of which had to go, also plagued the property. It was definitely no small feat to fix the property up. We ran into several hiccups in our work, causing huge amounts of stress, hair-pulling frustration and deteriorating health so I’m telling my story in the hope that you don’t have to go through the same. Anyone who’s remodelled their home before can surely attest to how difficult it can be; every little bit of information helps!

Very early on we hired an architect to help us with our remodel – most of which was inside. One part of the work was to replace some windows. This is simple enough in a house, but we’re in an apartment with neighbours above us. When removing part of a wall like we were (big sliding doors, thankyouverymuch!) we wondered if we needed planning permission from the council, and thankfully our architect said we did not.

Fast forward several months and we’re about 80% done with the renovations. It’s only when we start working on the windows that we hear from one of our neighbours. He tells us he is an ex planner for the council (good start), and asks us if we had planning permission to replace the existing window with full height sliding glass doors. We recited what the architect has told us, and assumed that would be the end of it.

Not long afterward we hear from the ‘planner’ again, except this time it’s an e-mail with the entire building copied in. With all the construction and noise going on (we may have been causing a bit of a ruckus in the car park with our skip, but that’s another story) our neighbours were just about ready to leap at our throats for anything. Frustratingly, the planner had suggested that our new windows were not enough support and the entire wall could come down. That dollop of fear was enough to turn a discussion into an angry mob. We didn’t really know what to do, since we’d already told them our architect confirmed the work being done fell under ‘permitted development’.

While this dispute was still going on, the ‘planner’ asked if we had permission from Building Control for the new bedroom roof supports. I say they ‘asked’ but it was more of a call to action for the aforementioned mob he had just incited, using phrases like ‘extremely unstable’, ‘the roof is collapsing’ and ‘I would be very concerned if I was living above that’.

Our flat was in serious danger of having the long, stressful process of renovation being over longer and more stressful. If we were told that the windows had to be reset, then all the construction we’d done on the walls would have to be put back and not only would we be paying for putting the new windows in, but now taking the new ones out and putting the old ones back in. That’s before the cost of the sliding doors comes into it, and the upset that our plan has been ruined.

On top of all this, we were already in a strained relationship with our neighbours and things looked like they were about to get worse! We had to fix all this before everything we’d worked for ended before it even began.

It’s all hit the fan for Oliver – how can he reassure his neighbours and get his construction back on track? And are the neighbours actually correct? Check out Part 2 to find out