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19 Sep, 2023/ by Homeward Legal /Buyer, First Time Buyer

It has been a worrying week, as the extent of the problems with RAAC (Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete) have come to light, with more problems likely to be reported.

Of course, the primary concern is with schools, not the least because the government gave the order for head teachers to check their buildings for existence of the substance, with many learning institutions being forced to partially or completely close. 

This, in turn, has led to pupils either being required to go back into home-learning, or for the school authorities to decamp to other available and empty properties nearby as temporary classrooms.

But the problem is broader than that.

As time has gone on, there are increasing reports of large parts of hospitals - even more difficult to evacuate and find temporary accommodation in an already overstretched system - libraries, courthouses, provincial theatres and other municipal buildings being affected by the decay of RAAC.

What is the problem?

In the fifties, at a time when the ravages of the bombing of cities during the war a decade earlier had resulted in a severe shortage of all sorts of residential , municipal and commercial accommodation, there was a necessary boom in the building industry. With the demand high to rebuild homes and other buildings, it was natural to find a product that allowed a far swifter response.

The answer was found in RAAC, a substance created from a mixture of concrete, slag and aluminium, with aerations or bubbles formed by a chemical reaction process. The material would harden around the air holes and the result was remarkably strong, but also light, particularly when it was reinforced with steel cables and grids.

It was easy to create planks of RAAC, which could swiftly be put in place for floors, walls and ceilings, meaning that buildings would go up very quickly, satisfying the demands of the building industry.

The use of RAAC continued right through to the nineties. But there were two significant problems: the first was that RAAC was never intended to be in place for more than about thirty years (so many buildings are living on borrowed time from that alone); the second issue is that the construction of RAAC is such that water is drawn into the material and held in the bubbles, making the concrete eventually crumbly and very friable, as well as corroding the steel reinforcement, which increases the risk of collapse over time.

The two problems together instructed the edict to close schools, which will also have an impact on any other areas that are actually or possibly built with RAAC as an integral part. The age of the buildings, too, might have further problems because of the risk of the existence of asbestos, making remedial action much slower than would be liked or hoped.

Will my potential purchase be affected?

One of the issues, like asbestos before it, is that there is no register of where RAAC was used in the construction of any buildings - and neither should it be expected, since it was a perfectly reasonable material to use at the time.

Therefore, if you are buying a property that was built between the fifties and nineties, it is worth appointing a Chartered Surveyor to check out the property and getting a detailed survey report, with a specific focus on the existence of RAAC. They can assess any issues and highlight the level of risk and the cost of any remedial action to be taken.

Your conveyancing solicitor will perform a series of searches on the property you plan to buy - whether it's residential or commercial - and establish when it was built. They should also be able to identify the age of any additions and extensions. Based on this, they can make a recommendation that your surveyor specifically checks for the existence of RAAC.

This is an unprecedented situation and, if you are at all concerned, you'll want to talk to someone who can provide guidance and help, without spending a lot if money.

That's where Homeward Legal can really help with affordable but quality conveyancing services! They will start work on your planned purchase and/or sale as soon as you agree to the quotation and appoint them to represent you. 

Homeward Legal will also provide a quote that will not change - what you are quoted is what you pay for standard conveyancing process.

There are some unforeseen items that might arise during the purchase and/or sale, but the solicitor discusses these and their cost as they come up. 

In addition, to protect the homebuyer further, Homeward Legal operates a ‘no completion, no fee' promise, which ensures that, should the purchase or sale not go through as planned to completion status, no payment is required.

Call  to get your conveyancing quote started, or to discuss your concerns with your plans to move.

Or you can get a quick quote, using Homeward Legal's easy-to-use quote generator.

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