Mon 02 Nov 2020
Rachel North, Operations Manager
Sometimes our Estate & Block Management property managers are asked the same questions but in a slightly different way, by different people, at different times, where the answer can have a different implication. Here are a few of the most common questions asked:
Q What happens if things go wrong with AB?
AB take customer care seriously. Our team operate within the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and The Property Ombudsman (TPO) Codes of Practice.
We appreciate that sometimes things can go wrong, people can be dissatisfied and wish to raise a formal complaint. AB operate a clear and straightforward internal Complaint Handling Procedure. Formal complaints are reviewed by a member of the team independent of the events and the reviews are thorough and transparent. Under our RICS & TPO membership benefits complaints can sometimes be referred to these professional bodies for further independent assessment.
All our Client funds benefit from our RICS membership; there are strict rules on how funds should be held, allocated and safeguarded. Our Director Portal also provides client log in access to view accounts, invoices, statements, and other such financial information which gives them peace of mind and full transparency.
We also hold Professional Indemnity insurance with a reputable provider, Hiscox and Director & Officers insurance cover.
Q. I live in a block of flats, how often should it be painted?
This is lease specific and varies from lease to lease, and property to property. Very generally, communal areas are often on a 5-7-year redecorating cycle, and externals 7-10 years.
Most projects will be subject to the Section 20 statutory consultation process which automatically kicks in when any one individual leaseholder’s contribution is £250 or more. This process includes notices, drafting specifications, putting the works out to tender, quotations, leaseholder consultations and several stages over several months particularly if there are insufficient funds. Property Managers can arrange and oversee that process where appropriate or outsource it to reputable building surveyors.
AB can arrange Planned Maintenance assessments which help Clients and Leaseholders budget for large works and build up their reserve funds over time to help spread the cost of communal works.
Q I am a leaseholder in a block, am I responsible for my windows?
This is lease specific and varies. It can also depend on which floor your property is on. It is common to see a lease stating leaseholders are responsible for their windows including the glass and frames except the final external coat of paint which falls to the Landlord / Freehold via the service charges. External window cleaning is often lease specific with a planned cleaning cycle a few times a year paid via the service charges.
We see frequent issues over the interpretation of lease clauses. For example, are windows still windows if they are set within the roof or do they then become roof lights and thus part of the main building roof structure? If the latter the repair / replacement costs would generally fall to the Landlord / Freehold responsibility via the service charges rather than the individual leaseholder. This illustrates the importance of lease reviews.
Q I am thinking of buying a flat, is there anything I should consider first?
Generally, what you are buying is a “demised” property outlined in the lease along with your rights, obligations, responsibilities, and restrictions. You will be regularly charged ground rent and service charges to cover contributions towards things like insurance, maintenance, services, management fees, running costs. There is usually some requirement to contribute towards a reserve or sinking fund for larger works and planned maintenance e.g. redecorating the common parts and building exterior, resurfacing of the car park, roof repairs. All these charges are usually a proportionate percentage of the total costs. You should ask your conveyancing solicitor to confirm that percentage prior to purchase. Other costs can include administrating alteration requests, selling, lease transfers and subletting.
Your lease will also outline how you can use your property and the communal areas, and the prohibitive and restrictive clauses e.g. no wood floors, no pets, no smoking, no subletting, no running a business from home, restricting music and noise between certain hours, where you can hang your washing, park commercial vehicles, play ball games etc.
The length of the lease is also an important consideration. This impacts the purchase / selling price as the value of your property generally reduces as the lease gets shorter. Generally, you will be able to apply for / buy a lease extension however this can be a considerable sum depending on the length and needs careful consideration and advice prior to purchase.
It is worth mentioning that whilst you are entitled to quiet enjoyment the Landlord / Freeholder does have certain access rights for inspection and repairs.
It is essential that you see sight of the lease before purchase and ask your solicitor to conduct a lease review to avoid any unexpected costs and issues. A very useful guide can be found on The Leasehold Advisory Service website here
Q What is Planned Maintenance?
A property is a valuable asset that, in our view, needs proactive planned regular maintenance to help minimize deterioration, disrepair, reduce reactive maintenance and keep its value.
Benefits include bringing in-line the cycles of routine maintenance and inspection; more control over expenditure; ability to build up a reserve fund to spread costs; minimise costly emergency and reactive maintenance; ensure compliance with lease and statutory obligations.
AB Property Managers can arrange Planned Maintenance Assessments and work closely with building surveyors to produce such plans and oversee their general roll out and implementation.
Q I am a Landlord / Freeholder, why should I pay for a lease review?
Lease reviews are essential for a proactive approach to owning a building and managing one. We recommend lease reviews to Clients when onboarding and during management particularly if there are queries or disputes over the interpretation of clauses, responsibilities, and liabilities (like the window issue mentioned above!).
Many leases are written in antiquated language using terminology that has different interpretations depending on whether you wear a solicitor’s, surveyor’s, or homeowner’s hat. Lease reviews save time and costs in the long run and avoids confusion, misinterpretation, and disputes.
This blog is intended to be an informal, general comment on complex topics. If you have any queries your property manager is available to talk.