Blocks of Flats – Do you know your responsibilities?

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Properties that are split into flats are unique buildings. They are a collection of people’s homes, but unlike a freehold house the nature of their set up creates joint responsibilities for all owners.

All of your residents should understand that the roof protects all the flats, the foundations hold up the whole building, and the common areas are for the use of all. One person’s ceiling is often another person’s floor.

This set up not only relies on good neighbourly relations and co-operation, but also brings legal requirements and a duty of care to ensure a safe environment for all residents and visitors to the property.

Here are some important things to consider:

Health & Safety

  • Keep the common areas clear – ensure there are no bikes or prams blocking hallways
  • Ensure all gardens, paths, carpets, staircases are kept in good, safe order to avoid slips and trips
  • If residents carry out any basic maintenance requiring use of equipment e.g. ladders to change light bulbs, make sure the equipment is safe and regularly checked.
  • Whilst specialist sub-contractors carrying out work at the property should carry out their own risk assessments, you should still ensure that the environment is safe for them to work in, particularly in relation to any work at height.

Fire Safety

It is a requirement to carry out Fire Risk Assessments of common areas, and the following should be considered:

  • Slip and trip hazards when escaping the building in an emergency
  • Smoking is not permitted in the common areas, and there should be signage advising this
  • Emergency Lighting should be installed and maintained in working order
  • The electrical installation should be kept in good condition
  • Check for accumulation of flammable items in cupboards such as old paperwork or decorating material.

Passenger Lifts

There is a statutory requirement that lifts are thoroughly inspected by a competent person every 6 months. If this service is not included within any maintenance contract, you will need to purchase an Engineering policy to ensure you are compliant with LOLER regulations

Property Valuation

It is important that your building is correctly valued for insurance purposes. The valuation should reflect the cost to rebuild the property should it be destroyed, to include costs for site clearance and professional fees. If you do not know when your property was last valued, you should seriously consider having a professional valuation, and have this updated regularly.

In the event of a claim, insurers can reduce claims in direct proportion to the amount the building was underinsured – in the event of a large claim this can result in a substantially lower payment than required.

Directors & Officers Liability Insurance

If you are going to take responsibility to look after the affairs of the building, probably without reward, perhaps without a lot of thanks, the least the Company can do is purchase Directors & Officers insurance to protect individuals if they make a mistake. It is a low-cost cover and brings peace of mind.

Failure to comply with regulations, prepare accounts, undertake and document risk assessments and have regular management meetings can lead to problems when people want to sell their flats – solicitors enquiries are comprehensive. Be prepared, as you may have disgruntled flat owners whose sales are held up because matters are not in order and up to date.

If you’d like any further guidance on how to keep your block running smoothly and safely, contact us on 01285 885885 or leave us a message using the form below.