One of the biggest construction stories of the past few years broke last month with the discovery of the presence of RAAC (reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete) in schools up and down the country.

Sudden collapses of walls and panels in schools not previously thought to be at risk prompted the Department for Education to order the closure (or part-closure) of the buildings. Although RAAC was more widely used in public buildings, including hospitals, theatres and courtrooms, there are potential knock-on effects for the private sector too.

Maunder Taylor provides business lease renewals advice in Hertfordshire and many parts of London. Here we look at the background to the story and who is responsible for removing or replacing the RAAC in homes and offices.

What is RAAC?

RAAC is a type of concrete (pictured above) which was used in roofs (particularly flat ones), floors and walls from the mid-1960s to the mid-1990s. It has an open texture, with open-sided bubbles often visible.

It was popular because it was cheaper than most other forms of concrete; however, it has a shorter lifespan, usually around 30 years. Water can damage the concrete, particularly if there’s any reinforcing steel present which can be vulnerable to corrosion.

It may be present in local authority housing stock but, as researchers from Loughborough University have warned, it might have been used in a small number of private homes and offices too. The problem is no one knows the full extent of the problem until surveys are carried out.

What Should You Do

The course of action you should take if you think your building may contain RAAC depends on your role – whether you are an owner, landlord or tenant – or on the terms of your lease.

More specifically:

If you are a freehold owner of the property then the responsibility for the maintenance and repair of the building will fall on you. Call in a structural engineer to provide you with a full report on the extent of the problem (if there is one).

If you are a tenant under a lease then you may have to pay for the cost of any repairs. The crucial element of the lease is whether you are ‘responsible for making good any deterioration to the property’. It may be up to you to prove that the condition of any RAAC has not worsened during the time of your occupancy; however, the problem with this is that any deterioration won’t be visible until the concrete fails or collapses, so this may be difficult to prove.

Other Complicating Factors

Any building warranties probably won’t cover the cost of repairs, given the length of time the RAAC is likely to have been in place. You probably won’t be able to claim on your insurance either as it may be considered a maintenance and renewal issue, rather than an insurable risk.

If the concrete forms part of a building which is of national or historic importance and has listed status, or lies in a Conservation area, then you may need planning permission before carrying out any remedial work. If you are in any doubt, contact your local planning authority.

Business Lease Renewals Advice in Hertfordshire from Maunder Taylor

Maunder Taylor provides legal, commercial and residential property services in a range of areas – including commercial property insurance in North London and Hertfordshire, and business lease renewals advice in the same locations.

If you would like to know more about any of our services, you should follow this link and fill in the online form. You can also contact our main office in Whetstone on 020 8446 0011. If you have any residential management queries, call our Potters Bar number (01707 665 666).