An Aberdeen student says it’s a “lose-lose situation” after she bought a house in Torry only to be told by the council the roof could collapse due to faulty concrete.
Hannah Chowdhry, 19, moved from London last year to study law at Aberdeen University and used all her savings for the deposit on a four-bedroom house in Torry.
Excited to start a new adventure in the Granite City, she wanted a more permanent home as she will likely be here for several years as she pursues her dream of being a lawyer.
In June this year, she took the plunge and put down the deposit on a house, previously owned by Aberdeen City Council, on Farquhar Road. To her, it was her dream house.
Only her dream has turned into a nightmare as news began surfacing of issues related to Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC).
The lightweight concrete had been exposed as a substandard building material, leaving thousands of buildings at risk of potential collapse.
Ms Chowdhry was left “scared and worried” after receiving a letter which said her home may contain RAAC and she should have an inspection done to find out.
Hannah Chowdhry has been forced to turn to family for help
She said: “I just wanted a stable place to live. So I purchased the house thinking I could have some extra income from tenants as well and I am close to town and university.
“I was really excited to move here. I used up all my savings to put down a deposit and then I got a letter from the council saying about the news of roofs collapsing in England and Scotland, and that there was a chance there was RAAC in the Torry area.”
The council carried out inspections on Balnagask Road, which revealed RAAC had been used in the construction, raising the chances that Ms Chowdhry’s house also had RAAC.
A second letter in November confirmed the findings, but the council clearly stated private landlords would be responsible for funding their own repairs and inspections.
As a student and a part-time worker, Ms Chowdhry says she doesn’t have the money.
“When I read that letter, I felt upset and disappointed, I can’t afford to pay for an inspection or repairs myself. I don’t have that kind of money. I have had to ask my dad for help.”
Ms Chowdhry says she believes it is the “council’s fault” as the properties previously belonged to the council before being sold.
She said the council “opted to go with RAAC” as a building material at the time and should bear responsibility for their “mistake”.
High likelihood that her home in Torry does contain RAAC
The search to find a suitable surveyor to confirm the presence of RAAC has been very difficult according to Ms Chowdhry, who has already spoken to 50 firms who couldn’t help her.
She says residents are struggling to find a solution to their RAAC problem as there has been no guidance on where to seek help.
The letter also states that some homes may need to be evacuated, which Ms Chowdhry says has made her stressed and fearful for the future.
She says the situation has ruined any prospects of financial stability and will definitely impact housing prices in Torry, on top of the cost of repairs.
“The council doesn’t have my back, and they should take responsibility and have initiatives to help homeowners, like discount buy schemes for surveys, inspections and repairs. ”
While there is a high likelihood of RAAC being found in her home, Ms Chowdhry says the uncertainty means she could end up paying for the survey only to find no RAAC.
“It’s a lose-lose situation, there is no winning. No matter how much money you spend, you are either going to find out you have it or you don’t.
“You then have to pay the extra costs for repairs or you have just wasted your money to find out you don’t have RAAC.”
Ms Chowdhry wants the council to potentially front up the costs of getting the house surveyed for the RAAC so that homeowners are not burdened with survey costs.
Council says property owners should ‘seek their own surveys’
She has since written to the council’s housing department to seek advice and clarification on where she stands on this complicated issue.
An Aberdeen City Council spokeswoman said: “Letters have recently been sent to all residents and owners in properties of a particular historic construction type in the Balnagask area of Aberdeen affected by RAAC in roof construction.
“Further inspections are being carried out to determine what the next stage will be.
“Residents (including council tenants and private tenants) and owners will be kept informed.
“Property owners are advised to seek their own surveys and they can ask for advice around this by contacting the council via the information on their recent letter.
“The council will continue to do all we can to provide advice, and we will continue to be guided by advice as matters progress.”