Health & Safety
With health and safety rife at the moment with a strong focus on fire safety regulations following the anniversary of Grenfell, we wanted to share some health and safety regulations that apply to block of flats.
The responsibility to comply with health and safety regulations falls on the landlord or person responsible for management which could be an agent, a resident management company or a right to manage company.
Under no circumstances should health and safety be ignored especially due to cost as the cost of failing to comply could very well be far greater.
Risk Assessment of Communal Areas
All blocks of flats must have a risk assessment carried out on the health and safety of any common areas. It is a requirement of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. You may argue common areas are not “at work” but if any cleaner, gardener, managing agent or repair contractors enters them, then a risk assessment must be made.
Remember to include all areas including gardens, grounds, plant rooms, meter cupboards and lift motor rooms.
If there are no employees of the landlord working at the block there is no requirement to record the risk assessment, but it would be “best practise” to do so anyway as if there were to be an accident and you had no proof of a risk assessment being carried out, you are much more likely to be prosecuted and/or sued for negligence.
Since 1st October 2006 every block of flats will require a fire safety risk assessment. Again, this applies to common parts, not to the inside of any flats and is an obligation on the landlord. Fire Officers will be able to enter any block of flats to inspect, ask to see the risk assessment and issue enforcement notices to improve fire safety should the need arise.
Working at Heights
Work at heights can be at any height if a person could be injured falling from it, even if below ground level.
If window cleaners or other contractors visit a block of flats, then an assessment of the risk from working at height is required.
Part of the duty to assess risk will obviously fall on the window cleaner, but the landlord or his agent once again also has a duty.
The principle is that any work at height should be avoided if it is practical to do it in another way. If it cannot be avoided, then the work must be assessed and planned to be done with the least risk.
Work at height can include changing light bulbs, general cleaning, testing smoke detectors and cleaning gutters. If a ladder is supplied by the landlord for changing light bulbs or checking smoke detectors, it should be checked regularly, and a notice stuck on it with safety precautions for its use.
Electrical Equipment Safety
If electrical equipment is supplied by the landlord or agent to say a cleaner, then it must be regularly tested and properly maintained.
A visual inspection and a more formal test should be carried out at the intervals recommended by the Institution of Engineering and Technology.
Legionella is a bacterium common in water systems which can result in legionnaires’ disease.
Once again, the landlord or agent of a block of flats has a duty to control the risks of legionella in any pipes, tanks and taps in common parts (including a cleaner’s cupboard).
Cold water tanks, taps and showers within lessees’ flats are the responsibility of the lessees, unless the lease puts repairing responsibility for them on the landlord.
The starting point is a risk assessment usually carried out by an expert, and if there are risks then a written action plan should be produced to reduce the risks.
An annual review of the risk assessment should be made.
What are Service Charges
Service Charges seem to be a much sought after topic, so we have taken some time to give you an overview and explanation of what Service Charges are and what they it mean for you.
Service charges are payable by the leaseholder to the landlord for the services provided, as determined by the lease. Service charges normally include costs for maintenance, repair and insurance of the building and communal areas (often including roofs, foundations, window frames, pipes and drains) plus the employment of staff and management of the property.
Service charges can be split into three sections: –
Reserve funds – which are for long term expenditure, for example roof replacement.
Cyclical expenses – which are for more regular expenses like external and communal area decoration.
Day to Day expenses – which are for the cleaning, insurance, salaries etc and other items which are payable each year.
Details of what is included to be paid with the service charges is set out in the lease and all contributions will be met by the leaseholders. The landlord arranges for the services to be provided and the leaseholder pays for them.
Service charge demands are payable as determined by the lease, which can be monthly, on quarter days, bi-annually or annually. Service charge demands must include a “summary of rights and obligations” and the name and address of the landlord. If the service charge demand does not comply with either of these the Leaseholder has the right to refuse to pay until the service charge is requested correctly.
Service charges can vary each year dependent on the expenditure expected for that period and are normally collected in advance based on an estimate of forthcoming costs. However, some older leases do collect service charges in arrears. When purchasing a leasehold flat is important to find out what the current and future service charges are and what the level of the reserve fund may be for any major works that could be planned, to enable you to budget accurately.
As most leases collect service charges in advance, the landlord would normally require the landlord to prepare an end of year statement, to provide to each leaseholder – which can lead to an additional demand for the landlord to recover the additional costs. Where the landlord has over estimated, the lease will determine whether the over payment is to be refunded, held as a credit for the following year or transferred to the reserve fund.
Service charges apportionment should be clarified in the lease, unfortunately this is not always done well, and leases often refer to the amount payable by each leaseholder to be fair and reasonable which could be determined to be, for example, the rateable value or the square footage of the property.
Where leases do state more specifically how the service charges should be apportioned it is often by using a fraction or percentage, for example, if there are 10 flats then each flat will pay one tenth or 10% of the total service charges expenditure. A variable percentage could also be used where there are properties with varying numbers of bedrooms, for example 10 flats, 5 with one bedroom and 5 with two bedrooms would be shown as 8% payable for those with 1 bedroom and 12% for those with two bedrooms.
Lease wordings can often be quite difficult to understand – if in doubt always check with your solicitor.
Performance is key at Rynew and with improving our customer experience high on our agenda we will be sharing some key performance indicators (KPI’s) regarding where were performing as a business against our set targets for 2018. We are focusing on service delivery and customer service.
KPI’s For June
Employee of the Month - Chris Dunn