Issue 103

Your planet needs you!

5 ways you can do your bit

The Magazine For Apartment Living

£4.50 Issue 103 / 2019

Why security should be seen as an investment

Prop Tech & Security Latest updates and all you need to know to stay ahead The recipe for the perfect major works

contents ISSUE 103

12 Block Management Companies Challenged By Unprofitable Growth Exclusive preview of the Fixflo Leasehold and Block Management Market Report infocus ALEP conference The conference, which tackled a wide range of issues, attracted 280 delegates 9 Landlords back plans to merge NLA and RLA The UK's largest landlord organisations are to merge 11 Appointments Latest appointments in the industry news 5 ‘Name and shame’ threat to tower block owners Owners who have failed to replace dangerous cladding could be named and shamed 7 Record numbers turn out for


15 Your planet needs you! 5 ways you can do your bit to help the earth 17 Three core skills to look for in property managers Look out for the 3 Cs, advises Peter Bigge 18 The Recipe for the Perfect Major Works Project Questions and feedback from property managers and solicitors


20 Resident’s

concerns and Call of the month! Readers ask the experts

How many Build to Rent units does your company manage?

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@newsontheblock News on the Block

News on the Block is the leading independent magazine providing help and advice to flat owners, landlords, managing agents and their professional advisors. SMS US: 0786 002 1858


Prop Tech & Security

Prop Tech & Security

inpractice 35 My Month: Nathan Caley JB Leitch’s director of IT describes how one of his months recently panned out 37 Court rules on management company dispute Andrew Morgan looks at a recent High Court ruling

23 PropTech’s role in helping our high streets Residential property could offer real opportunities in Britain’s dwindling town and city centres 25 Stand out from your competitors If you get your block management software right, you can make a real difference 27 Opening up about entry system upgrades! Vernon Taylor explains all you need to know about the array of entry systems that are available

intheknow 39 Upcoming events in the industry There’s a packed calendar of events in the next fewmonths

29 Why invest in property risk

management software? If health and safety and compliance work is slowing you down, it's time to look at a solution, argues Peter Moore 31 How secure is your PropTech? If you are using technology you need to consider how safe it is to use 33 Why security should be seen as an investment Azeem Rashid urges property management companies to swallow the cost of training security staff

directory 40 Help at hand A selection of companies offering help to leaseholders

Stand out from your competitors

recruiting property people



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‘Name and shame’ threat to owners of tower blocks

O wners of tower blocks named and shamed within weeks. The claim comes after it was revealed some developers still have no clear plans to remove flammable cladding – five months after ministers pledged £200m to remove it from 170 privately owned high-rises. Housing secretary Robert Jenrick told a Conservative Party conference fringe event that unless developers came up with a clear plan, he could name and shame them soon, The Mirror reported. Admitting the issue had given him “sleepless nights”, he said: “I think now that the taxpayer is paying for that there is absolutely no justification whatsoever for further delay. “And I’ve said that if in a couple of weeks or so we don’t have a clear plan for every one of those privately- owned buildings, then we’re going to get d into the business of naming and shaming who owns those buildings. And asking them to explain very publicly why they’re not taking further action.” who have failed to replace dangerous cladding could be

Mr Jenrick has already indicated that he could name and shame tower block owners but did not set a time limit. For more than a year after the Grenfell disaster that claimed 72 lives, the government said it was for private developers to fund the repairs themselves. • Grenfell Tower survivors have been living in a block of flats with a high risk of fire, according to a risk assessment report commissioned by a resident. In July 2018, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea acquired 31 flats on Hortensia Road, London, for survivors of the tragedy. The new- build property was bought from a private contractor as part of the 300 homes for Grenfell survivors. A fire risk assessment completed last month concluded that current provisions were not satisfactory and that the building was at high risk of fire. Sarah Jones MP, the shadow housing minister, said: “No one should be living in unsafe buildings, but of all people, putting Grenfell survivors at risk of another fire is a complete disgrace.”

A swimming pool that will be the “float” 115ft in the air between two apartment blocks is set to be opened next summer. The pool – which is being dubbed the world’s first sky pool – will join two blocks together in Vauxhall, south London. Residents will be able to swim between the blocks at the Embassy Gardens development in the 25-metre long pool. Breathtaking images showwhat the pool, which is currently undergoing final testing in Colorado, will look like once completed. Brian Eckersley, the man behind the pool’s engineering said: “Once you swim off, you can look right down. It will be like flying.” Prices of the 2,000 apartmentswill range from £600,000 to £5m for the penthouse suite. Alongside the pool – which will hold 400 tonnes of water – residents will also have a number of other amenities available to them, including a gym and spa, and a cinema that can be hired out for private parties. Sky pool idea set to float!

Arrest after man’s threat to ‘blow up’ flats

A man who allegedly threatened to blow up a block of flats has been arrested on suspicion of criminal damage and intent to endanger life. Police forced their way into the east London building and detained the man

“blow it up” at about 8.40pm. Residents were evacuated from the 12-storey building and were gathered at a local community centre. Firefighters and paramedics were also sent to the scene at Earlsdown House in Wheelers Cross.

after hours of attempting to negotiate with him. Officers were called to reports that a man had barricaded himself inside a seventh floor flat in Barking. He was threatening to burn the block down and







Record numbers flock to attend ALEP conference

A woman who has lived in an leave and find a new home. Lynn Bell and 16 other tenants at the building in Trent Vale, Stoke-on-Trent, have received letters telling them the landlord has sold the property. Now Lynn, who lives on her own, is waiting for the council housing team to find her a new home. The 67-year-old said: “What has happened is disgusting. They should have given us more warning, two months doesn’t seem a long time, and I wanted to spend the rest of my life here. I don’t want to be dealing with this at this time of my life.” A spokesman from the company that has bought the block, Fairhome Group, said: “We have acquired the properties and plan to refurbish them to provide high- quality supported living accommodation for people with learning difficulties.” Woman given two months to quit her home of 20 years apartment for 20 years has been told she has just two months to

A record-breaking number of property influencers flocked to this year’s Association of Leasehold Enfranchisement Practitioners’ (ALEP) Annual Conference. The conference, which attracted 280 delegates, tackled a wide range of issues as the sector gears up for some of its biggest changes. Commonhold and regional relativity emerged as the main topics at the September meeting.   Mark Chick, ALEP director, said: “The ALEP Conference is one of the sector’s biggest events where delegates expect debate on timely, pertinent topics. The sector is facing its biggest changes yet, and the ALEP Conference provides a platform for speakers and professionals to voice opinions, A n investigation is continuing after a fire broke out in a block of flats near Grenfell Tower. Around 70 fire-fighters and ten fire engines rushed to the blaze in Markland House, Notting Hill, in the shadow of the site of the tragic two years ago. Footage showed smoke rising from a flat, with Grenfell Tower R eal estate software firm MRI Software has revealed it has given its business a major boost after making a triple acquisition. MRI will bolster its offering after acquiring PropTech innovator Leverton, which provides an artificial intelligence-powered data extraction tool. The US-based firm, formerly known as Qube, has also taken

concerns and ideas. Yesterday’s event was no exception.”  As the sector awaits the Law Commission’s final report on its Commonhold consultation, barrister Nicola Muir delivered a presentation on how it could work in practice. She also provided delegates with examples of issues that may need to be overcome should it be considered a viable option for the future. Ms Muir acknowledged getting rid of a regime that’s been in place for 1,000s of years would “not be easy”. But she argued that Commonhold and its regulations could provide a comprehensive regime for owners in the same block. She pointed out that time-old issues such as repairs, neighbour disputes and the like would remain whatever system was in


Mr Chick added: “ALEP is about best practice and sector- wide education and it was clear from debate at the Conference that there is demand from our membership to explore important topics such as regional relativity in more detail

Probe after flats blaze near Grenfell

was handled.

investigation,” a spokesperson for the London Fire Brigade said. Some residents said alarms had not sounded and expressed concern that there had not been enough changes since the Grenfell Tower blaze. Halsho Draey, who has lived in the block for around 20 years, said he was angry at how the situation

seen in the background, as sirens were heard approaching. The London Fire Brigade said a balcony on the 12th floor of the building had been alight. Almost 30 people called 999 to alert authorities over the blaze, which was brought under control within an hour. “The cause of the fire is under

The 34-year-old told The Independent: “I saw the fire

extinguishers were only reaching the fifth or sixth floor. I said that wasn’t going to diffuse the fire. I said [to the fire brigade] ‘you need to go inside’, not to waste time. I witnessed Grenfell. How do you expect me to be?”

Triple acquisition boosts software firm

for accountants by accountants, and it further enhances MRI’s ability to provide a broad range of organisations.” John Ensign, president and head of international operations at MRI, said acquiring Rockend “greatly extends our capabilities in the multi-owner, multi-family and residential property management space, enhancing and extending the MRI residential solutions suite.”

the MRI family, with expertise in the application of AI to real estate data collection, management, and analytics.” The purchase of ProLease will enhance MRI’s capabilities within its financial and accounting offerings, the company said. Chuck McDowell, MRI’s senior vice president of commercial and financial solutions, added: “This easy-to-use solution is designed

over ProLease, a provider of lease administration, accounting, analysis and workplace management applications. It has also announced the acquisition of Rockend, currently a provider of residential property and strata management solutions in Australia and New Zealand. Patrick Ghilani, MRI’s chief executive, said: “The acquisition of Leverton brings a true innovator and global PropTech leader into





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Landlords back plans to merge NLA and RLA

T HE largest landlord

members. “We will be stronger together when presenting a unified voice to government both nationally and locally about the importance of supporting the majority of landlords who do a good job providing the homes to rent the country needs.” Property one of best sectors for graduate pay G raduates who enter the property industry are some of the highest paid workers, new data has revealed. A study has found that the property sector is in the top three industries for the best pay packets – beaten only by IT and engineering careers. CV-Library found that the average salary for graduates in the industry was £24,382, beating sales, marketing and finance roles. It also reported that of the graduate jobs listed on CV- Library, the property industry commands a 6.4% share of the graduate jobs on offer. Lee Biggins, founder and CEO of CV-Library, said: “While the property sector has a smaller proportion of graduate jobs, don’t let this put you offer. There are plenty of exciting opportunities for you to make the most of, as long as you spend time on your applications and perfecting your interview technique.” The list of best-paid industry sectors for graduates were: 1, IT - £25,518.56; 2, Engineering - £24,785.71; 3, Property - £24,382.35; 4, Consultancy - £24,250.00; 5, Sales - £23,117.19;

about the merger. It said: “After more than 20 years of friendly competition the time is right to create a single organisation to represent and campaign for landlords. “With so much of our work done in parallel there are major benefits to be gained for our landlord

Association (RLA) in September. The new organisation, whose members own and manage half a million properties, will officially launch in January 2020. The chairmen of both organisations – Alan Ward, of the RLA and NLA’s Adrian Jeakings (NLA) issued a joint statement

organisations in the UK have announced they are to

merge. More than 80,000 landlords will be represented after they backed a move to unite the National Landlords Association (NLA) and the Residential Landlords

Zen garden plan at block development

There will also be a theatre rehearsal space, health club and cinema contained in a fashionable new quarter in Upper Street, N1. The four-acre site had been closed to the public for generations, but its grand double-arched entrance, once only used by postal delivery vans, has been opened and a shopping arcade and civic square have been created behind the impressive façade. The Royal Mail sorting office was built in 1904, where 3,000 people worked.

A Zen garden and an acre of green space on the rooftops will be created as part of a new luxury apartment scheme in north London.

The former Edwardian postal sorting office in Islington Square is to be redeveloped, creating 263 new homes and boutiques, bars and restaurants.

Mainstay grows after acquiring new portfolio

P roperty management portfolio of Keith Perry Chartered Surveyors. The Worcester-based company will jointly oversee the apartment blocks in London, Nottingham and Wallasey with Keith Perry for the next 12 months. Charles Lucas, technical director at Mainstay, said: “I’m very pleased to share the news of Mainstay’s latest acquisition, which forms a key part of our accelerated growth plans. “We felt it was important that Keith assists us with the on-boarding process; he’ll be able to bring his wealth firm Mainstay Group has acquired the national

of experience and invaluable technical expertise, ensuring a smooth transition as we begin to welcome our new clients, and customers to Mainstay.” The portfolio includes blocks in Stoke Newington, Bloomsbury and Bethnal Green, London, together with three smaller schemes in Nottingham, and the iconic Portland Court block on the Wirral. Mr Lucas added: “Mainstay is perfectly placed to handle the management of this national portfolio, as our team has a wide geographical spread and expert knowledge with high levels of customer service throughout our teams. “We’re excited to build on

the excellent service Keith has already provided, and bring the Mainstay experience to this new customer base.” The news comes after the announcement of Mainstay’s recent appointments on the landmark Hallsville Quarter scheme in Canning Town and Salford’s luxury Downtown development. Established in 2000, Mainstay now employs 726 people. With this latest acquisition, it will manage in excess of 80,000 homes across the country. This year, Mainstay is on track to turnover £25.9m in line with their 2020 corporate strategy.

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10 ISSUE 103


Stalwart lawyer joins legal practice

A stalwart in property law has joined a legal practice as a consultant solicitor to help boost the company. James Brice, who has more than 30 years of experience as a property lawyer, has joined JPC Law’s property practice group. James was originally the founding partner of Brice Droogleever & Co, which merged with Cripps Pemberton Greenish.  He offers a wealth of expertise in all aspects of property transactions which will enhance the team’s recognised profile within the sector.  James said: “I am delighted to be joining JPC and look forward to continuing to deliver clients a dedicated and collaborative Double senior appointments boost legal firm

service for all their legal requirements.” Yashmin Mistry, partner and property practice group leader at JPC Law, said she was delighted that James was joining the team She added: “We look forward to the contribution his experience and skill set will bring to the team in order for us to continue to delivery the best results for our clients”.   Derek Payne, partner and head of conveyancing  at JPC Law said: “I am delighted to welcome James to our team. His experience of more than 30 years, and his expertise in property transactions will compliment and enhance what we offer”.

E xpanding property management firm Principle Estate Management has created a new finance role to help with its growth. Paul Richardson has become finance manager at the Birmingham-based company and will be overseeing all clients’ accounts. Paul, who has spent the last 18 years as financial controller at Jobson James Insurance Brokers, is an associate member of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants. He will also finalise annual service charge accounts and will handle all client reporting. Brett Williams, managing director of Principle, said: “We’ve been looking for the right person to join our existing team of staff and consultants, and we’re thrilled to have recruited Paul as finance manager. “Finance is the engine room of property management and adding Paul’s skills to our teamwill allow our personnel to be comforted that we can provide the highest standard of service to our customers.” Paul said: “I am looking forward to helping make a real difference as the business continues to grow.” Finance position created to help firm expand

wealth of experience in property litigation matters as well as dealing with disputes, such as dilapidations, arrears and breach of covenant. Steve Sherlock has been appointed to the newly created role of head of marketing, and brings almost 20 years of experience in brand development, marketing and research. Steve will develop promotional materials and online

P roperty solicitors JB Leitch have made two senior appointments to boost its operations. The Legal 500 firm, which already employs 140 people, have added to its commercial and

marketing departments. The appointments come as the company, which represents some of the largest property management firms, has also created a number account management and supporting roles. Sarah Hall joins the Liverpool-based firm as senior associate, with a focus on technical and complex cases. Having qualified in 2007, Sarah brings a

channels as part of a wider brand strategy.

New role created to deal with rise in disputes

A property law firm has created a new role to help deal with an increase in complex leasehold disputes. Brady Solicitors has appointed Jeremy Weaver as head of litigation as disputes for leaseholders, freeholders and managing

considerable opportunities, both personally and professionally. Leasehold law has been my focus since 2014 and I am now looking to work with a specialist, well-established litigation team - Brady Solicitors is an ideal match.”

He has more than 17 years of experience in specialist property and commercial litigation. Jeremy said: “I have followed Brady Solicitors’ growth trajectory over the past few years. It is clear it is an ambitious, well-run, go-ahead firm that offers

agents cases rise at the Nottingham-based firm. In the new role, Jeremy will oversee the swift and effective resolution of leasehold and service charge disputes across the firm’s core work in the residential property management sector.

11 ISSUE 103


Block management firms struggling to make profits B lock management companies’ portfolios have grown in the past year – but firms are struggling to turn the increase into more The relationship between the use of specialist block management software and the number of buildings managed per Property Manager*

revenue or profits, a new study shows. And the report says that 70% of companies are missing out on a massive £2.6bn opportunity to expand into the fast-growing build-to-rent sector. The findings are revealed in The Fixflo Leasehold and Block Management Market Report 2019, which polled 170 block management companies. It found that almost two-fifths of those companies achieved a staggering growth of 35% in the number of leasehold units they manage. More than a third of those who responded said they had seen their portfolio by as much as 40%. But the report – which was supported by ARMA, MRI Software, News on the Block and Flat Living – states that the growth in the units being managed had failed to translate into extra revenue or profits. Pointing to ARMA’s Overview of the Residential Block Property Management Sector in England and Wales 2019 report, it highlights that: • Firms with a turnover less than £500,000 has seen an average loss of 12.5%. • Those with turnovers topping £500,000 saw profits rise by just 6.8%. • Block management firms that hadn’t invested in specialist software (3% of respondents) saw their portfolios shrink. Missing out on build-to-rent The study also reveals that the majority of block management companies that responded have failed to expand into the growing build-to-rent sector. Almost 70% have yet to enter the sector, of those which have, the majority manage fewer than 100 build-to-rent units, while a meagre 3% has more than 1,000 build-to-rent units under their management. A Fixflo spokesman said: “Data published by Savills in June 2019 showed that investment in build-to-rent schemes reached £2.6bn in 2018 – an 11% increase than that in 2017 and the highest level of investment since 2014. “Block management companies, with their wealth of property management experience, are well positioned to enter this expanding market. Why is our sector slow to respond to the growing demand?”

Not using any specialist block management software solution Using 1 specialist block management software solution Using more than 1 specialist block management software solution

Number of Buildings Managed Per Property Manager

Companies using specialist block management software solution Companies NOT using specialist block management software solution

12 ISSUE 103


The Fixflo Leasehold and Block Management Market Report 2019

How many Build to Rent units does your company manage?

Investing in software The report also states that investment in specialist software is essential to help property managers increase the number of units they can manage. More than 40% of companies who took part in the survey using specialist block management software saw the number of units they manage rise by 35% over the past five years. Only 10% of those without such software achieved the same level of growth in the same period. It also reveals that more than half of all property managers not using any specialist

company using MRI Software for block management tasks uses Fixflo for PPM works management and reactive repairs reporting. The Fixflo Leasehold and Block Management Market Report 2019 was completed by 207 people representing 170 leasehold and block management companies as well as 37 industry suppliers.

software can only manage fewer than 10 buildings. Property managers who use more than one piece of software are likely to manage more buildings, the report states. It says that property managers who use a software stack are 20%more likley to be able to manage more than 20 buildings. A software stack refers to a process consisting of more than one software solution. An example of this is when a

To download a copy of the report, please visit:

13 ISSUE 103

Have you got better things to do than spend hours on the phone to your energy supplier? Of course you do. That’s what our specialist Property Management team are here for. Services include: • Multi-site utility procurement • Change of occupancy and terminations • Co-terminus contract end dates • Siteworks and infrastructure development • Meter reading and smart meter installation • VAT enquiries • Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) contracts • Bureau services and bill validation • Debt and tenant utility usage issue resolutions • Electric vehicle charting ports

Start saving time, money and energy today Get in touch with Janey Brockwell, Senior Property Management Utilities Co-Ordinator 0207 371 5360

Advantage Utilities Your competitive advantage

14 ISSUE 103


Your planet needs you!

W hilst the global impact of climate change is widely acknowledged, experts are divided over the potential extent, writes Janey Brockwell. The World Bank believes that as many as 150m people could be displaced by 2050 due to climate change. A recent study from an Australian think-tank suggests that the true figure could be closer to 1bn! The UK has committed to leading the global war on climate change by reducing greenhouse gases to virtually nil by 2050. Shortly before leaving office, Theresa May stated that there was a “moral duty to leave this world in a better condition than we inherited”. The government is therefore continually searching for solutions to provide that much sought after rarity in politics: a win-win scenario. So just how far does our responsibility extend? And what can we do in our homes, And so might your community and your wallet…

5 ways you can do your bit

Have a lightbulb moment Lighting is the biggest cost for communal living areas and it is often both inefficient and ill-considered! Consumption may be reduced in a number of ways, from installing LED lighting to implementing motion sensors that automatically switch off lights when no one is in the room. As with many energy efficiency measures, environmental benefits coincide with cost savings – the return on investment for LEDs can typically be recovered within a few months, with bulbs lasting up to 10 times longer than traditional light bulbs. Set the temperature to “just right” Controlling heating is key and should be a mainstay of any energy management plan. Basics, such as incorporating seasonality and prevailing temperatures into thermostat settings, are key as is ensuring that the area is equipped with appropriate

footprint, without any capital outlay or associated risk.

insulation and ventilation so that it derives maximum benefit from any available heat source.  

Consider an electric vehicle The number of electric

Get smart with your metering

vehicles registered on UK roads has increased from 3,500 in 2013 to around 235,000 today. This exponential growth is projected to continue, particularly with supporting infrastructure being continually upgraded and various tax benefits on offer. With many companies providing efficiency audits for little or no cost, there is every reason to review your options and help the country fulfil its 2050 goal whilst saving money in the process. Perhaps a win-win scenario for bill payers can be achieved after all! Get started today Janey Brockwell is senior utilities co-ordinator, in the property management department at Advantage Utilities

What you can’t measure, you can’t manage. The first smart meter was designed in 1977 to provide accurate and automated energy usage readings. Since then there has been a multitude of changes and upgrades, culminating with the latest Smets II meters which were introduced earlier this year. The Smets II meters are the first of its kind in that they are universally supported by all suppliers.  number of on-site generation technology available, the most common being solar panels. The increased availability of Power Purchase Agreements (PPA’s) mean that many organisations are faced with an appetising combination of immediate savings and a reduced carbon Go off grid There is now an increasing

workplaces and shared common areas to help? 

15 ISSUE 103

3 vital skills you need from your property manager ...

Common sense. Communication. Compassion.

At Town & City, we believe that everyone deserves excellent service. By focusing on our core skills of common sense, communication and compassion we can meet and exceed your expectations. Our property managers are committed to building strong relationships so that you and your property receive only the best and most tailored service. Keeping you informed, all the time Caring about what happens to you and your belongings Finding the best solutions for your circumstances Explaining at every step why and how things need to be done

Town & City are an independent property and apartment block management company, specialising in residential leasehold management throughout England.

Property Developer, Leaseholder or Residents’ Management Company Director? Contact us today on 0333 7006 700 to arrange a free consultation

Email or visit We have offices in Darlington, Co Durham (Head Office), Leeds, London and Bournemouth


Three core skills to look for in property managers

A s with any service, when choosing a property management company there are various components to consider. Cost is usually at the top of the list, but this is very closely followed by an excellent level of service. However, when delivering excellence, property managers can often overthink and overcomplicate things when, in fact, it can be whittled down to a handful of personal attributes. Most challenges faced by modern-day property managers can be overcome by using just three vital skills: compassion, common sense and communication. So, when choosing the property management company for you, make sure you put these three attributes at the top of your list.   an investment property, it can be upsetting and frustrating when things outside of your control go wrong. These feelings only escalate when it becomes difficult to resolve issues and you find yourself chasing people who do not understand the impact it is having on you.  When reporting an issue in the first place, the last thing you want is for someone to behave like a scripted robot. It’s both far more helpful and humane if your property manager really listens and sympathises with your situation. If your lift breaks down and you’re a parent with a young child or children, the impact of this is far worse that someone who doesn’t have a pushchair to lug up several flights of stairs. Under more severe circumstances, where re-housing Compassion Whether it’s your home or

should be quite clear from the outset by how they deal with you, how quickly they respond, their transparency over service charges and whether they eliminate any confusing jargon from any conversations, letters or contracts.   Communication is demonstrated in three ways: how often they get in touch; how quickly and efficiently they get the right people on the job when something goes wrong; and how they keep the customer updated. It is paramount in a crisis, such as the gas explosion, but it is also vital for day-to-day management that the channels of communication are kept open. By being transparent and communicating from the outset, complaints can be minimised. Town and City property managers make it a priority to respond to any queries on the same day, even if it is to advise when it will be dealt with in full, which makes lessees feel valued and listened to. Property managers should have the ability to tailor their approach, whether they are lessees living in the property, freeholders or developers who have made an investment, all have differing outlooks and agendas.  In summary, look for a property manager that displays compassion and understanding, demonstrates common sense and has excellent communication skills to get the best service you can in managing your property. Make sure you select one that can demonstrate these three vital skills! Peter Bigge is managing director at Town & City Management Ltd

frustrating to a lessee or resident than hearing the answer, “It’s against our policy…” or words to that effect. To someone who may already be agitated, this just looks like a company being unhelpful for the sake of it.  Allowing common sense decisions to be made will create a smoother delivery of service. There are also times where a company must act only on common sense, as a scenario might arise that the company handbooks can’t prepare them for. Town and City had an instance where one resident was refusing to move their belongings from a communal hallway. This was causing an obstruction, but more importantly, it was also posing a fire risk for all residents. Whilst the situation could have continued until a resolution was found, the only common sense thing to do was get the items moved and ask the resident where they would like them to be relocated to.  Anything else would have been irresponsible and could have put lives in danger.  look out for the 3 Cs, advises Peter Bigge When it comes to choosing your property management company

might be required, compassion must also extend to our furry friends. This is exactly what happened with one of Town and City’s clients in 2019, when, following a gas explosion, the whole front wall was blown off of a property in Washington, Tyne and Wear. Town and City was not only able to get all residents rehoused on the day of the incident, but also more than 20 pets! Compassion is also relevant when it comes to costs. Service charges can be expensive and for some people, repair costs can be unaffordable when something unexpected happens. This is why property management companies need to demonstrate compassion and aim to set up fair payment plans when these events occur.   Common sense When finding the best possible solution to an issue, it’s not just about property management experience and knowledge. Almost all scenarios call for old-fashioned common sense. Rather than stay fixed to a set of rigid internal processes, property managers should take a logical approach to problem- solving. There is nothing more

Communication Finally, you should expect

good communication. A lack of communication is usually the root cause of bad service. When you are looking for a property management company, their standard of communication

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The Recipe for the Perfect

B efore we attempt to give away the works projects are alike and that is because every block of flats has unique requirements, then there’s the tenure of the building to consider (RMC/freeholder/RTM), the ability of the managing agent and how ‘on board’ the service charge payers are. In theory, all stakeholders want the same thing: a safe and well-restored building achieved at a reasonable price. In practice, there are competing objectives, so it’s important to prepare for and mitigate against the risks of something going awry. This is a blog aimed principally at the residential (block) property manager (PM), as they tend to be at the sharp end of any major works project. Who are the stakeholders? The RMC/RTM/head-leaseholder/freeholder (your client) has an obligation under the terms of the leases to maintain the building and usually to repair/redecorate on a cyclical basis. The managing agent serves the ‘section 20’ notices, they’ll select a building surveyor to become contract administrator and principal designer, they’ll raise funds for the project and do the accounting for the project through to the end of the defects liability period. Then there’s the contractor. Keeping all these stakeholders happy and on track needs a recipe. 1. Earl Kendrick Major Works Wheel Time is one thing you can’t retrospectively recover, so start early, even one year in advance. Our ‘major works wheel’ (available on request) shows PMs/their clients just how far ahead you ought to prepare. perfect recipe for a major works project, a word of warning: No two major 2. Check the lease A good PMwill know when each of their properties are due for cyclical major works, as they will have checked the lease. The lease will also tell you what your client’s obligations are (e.g. – the landlord has responsibility for painting the external surfaces but the leaseholders are responsible for repairs to their own window frames). Don’t assume, check. The lease will also inform if you can request each leaseholder’s contribution to the major works whenever you wish or if you need to wait until, say, the next quarter day. This is important.

3. Funding and capital expenditure planning Expenditure Planning Look at your reserve fund. How much is in the account? Is this going to be enough? Is there a capital expenditure plan that will show you what is scheduled to be done and how much it’s going to cost? If there isn’t such a plan in place, perhaps this is a good time to commission one. a frequency for the cyclical works. If it doesn’t, then the necessity for the works may drive the agenda. So ascertain from a building surveyor what needs to be done by commissioning a survey, resulting in a ‘scoping document’ to show to your client. This will summary the works recommended and provide an estimated cost range to compare against the funds you hold. All too frequently, major works projects are specified/tendered, the results of which shock the client and the leaseholders. A scoping document helps to manage expectations, tailor the scope of the works to the budget available or phase the works. If there are areas of the building which are difficult to survey from the ground or from a neighbouring building, then a drone survey is a good idea. 5. Communicate By starting the process early, you’ll have plenty of time to communicate effectively with your client and the leaseholders. If they are given the relevant facts about the lease, funding, the works needed etc, they are far more likely to be on side. And they’ll have more time to raise the necessary funds to pay their contribution when the demand arrives. Keep the surveyor up-to-date with how well funds are coming in, so they in turn can manage the expectations of the chosen contractor. When there are updates for the leaseholders – particularly when they may be inconvenienced access wise or privacy wise – let them know via the building’s online portal or email. Don’t forget tenanted flats still contain residents who need to know what’s happening so consider the methods of communication that reach all owners and occupiers. 4. Scoping document The lease may or may not expressly specify

Be good neighbours. If there is a block of flats or a private house adjacent, let them know well in advance of your project. 6. Section 20 Get the section 20 notice of intention drafted with care. A notice that doesn’t comply with the legislation may mean starting the consultation process again! Draft the section 20 notices with the surveyor. The surveyor may have some useful input. The second stage section 20 notices will then list the tendered prices, including the continency. Explain each role, so leaseholders are clear who to contact (surveyor or managing agent) and when. The earlier in the process you can involve a building surveyor, the better it’ll be for the project’s smooth running. If the client is neutral, select one you trust or set up a beauty parade of say two surveyors for your client to meet/interview. Remember that a major works project can make or break a managing agent so the more in sync you are with the surveyor, the more you can demonstrate to the landlord a collaborative, thoughtful and organised approach. 7. Your key partner – the Building Surveyor • a. Involve the surveyor early! • b. Planned maintenance programme A good surveyor will recommend they produce a PMP. It could be that with an investment in such a long-term maintenance plan, the next cycle of major works can be postponed or phased (if the lease allows). • c. Spec Assuming the works are needed and the lease is quite clear that they need to be done, then the surveyor will produce a specification of works. This is where the plan becomes a project. A clear spec avoids ambiguity, ensures tenders are robust and provides a good control

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Major Works Project

Once the major works have the green light, the funds are in and a start date agreed, the scaffolding can be erected (if required). The more experienced PM will know that once

document to be used on-site when the post contract phase begins. Talk to your surveyor about including a contingency sufficient to overcome any requirements once the extent of the works can be seen from the scaffold. • d. Tendering Attention turns to the selection of who will carry out the work itself, which means the creation of tender documents and the subsequent selection of the right contractor for the job. A good surveyor will appreciate the requirements of s20 in terms of the leaseholders nominating a contractor, and will ensure the process is as objective as possible. It’s important not to select contractors for the wrong reasons. The key is to make the right selection based on a range of criteria – including financial strength, management structure, H&S competence – plus evidence of similar projects. Managing a tender process means doing so under a sealed bid ensuring a formal tendering procedure with the surveyor administering queries along the way. Bids will be opened at an opening event, recorded, reviewed, with the intention of looking for anomalies. You would hope to go for the least expensive tender but if one comes in dramatically under the rest, then questions need to be asked. The surveyor will then produce a tender report with a recommendation for appointment. You’ll need this to produce your second s20 notice. If the least expensive option isn’t recommended

the scaffolding is up, the surveyor and contractor are able to see the extent of previously inaccessible areas. You would hope that the scoping

8. Your role as property manager A successful major works project clearly relies heavily on the building surveyor, yet it’s your role as the managing agent to ensure that communication with all stakeholders is fluid, the s20 notices are correctly served, the necessary funds are raised/chased, that you are paying the contractor correctly as per the surveyor’s valuation certificates, and that you’re ensuring the cost of the works are fully accounted for as the works progress and in the year-end service charge accounts. The fees for your admin role ought to reflect the extra time you need to put in, for instance, for site visits with the surveyor and client, and to ensure you are up-to-speed with how the PMP needs to be updated post major works. The recipe for the perfect major works project in part relies on you not overstepping your mark. Your role is vital, but it should be limited to admin and communication tasks. Do discuss with the surveyor at an early stage what he/she can do to take some of your burden away. If like many of our clients you choose Earl Kendrick for many or most of your major works projects, you will benefit frommonthly meetings (which we call ‘trackers’) for the PMs and surveyors to meet, discuss each project and together decide on the best course of action for the client and the leaseholders. At your offices or ours, the time is well spent in nurturing the relationship – all part and parcel of the perfect recipe.

document would have prevented any nasty surprises, but they do happen from time-to-time, and there may be implications for the section 20 notices served and the funds raised. With any luck, you will have pre-empted these extra works and the contingency you have allowed for will cover them. There is a common misconception that the surveyor’s role is to manage the site. The surveyor actually has specific obligations under the terms of the JCT, including periodic inspections of the works, giving instructions to the contractor, authorising interim payments, certifying the completion of the work and settling the adjusted contract sum (otherwise known as the final account). client’s responsibility as they have specific duties before and during a major works project, including the provision of welfare facilities and responsibility for H&S. So gather all recent H&S related reports e.g. FRA/asbestos management plans – and pass them to the surveyor. • g. Rectification period After the project is over, there is the defects rectification period to see through (typically 6 or 12 months after practical completion). The surveyor will take care of that but there will be a retention sum to pay to the contractor. • f. The Construction (Design & Management) Regulations 2015 And don’t forget about CDM. It’s your

by the surveyor, the surveyor will set out why; you may need to serve a third s20. • e. JCT and the surveyor’s role as ‘CA’ The surveyor’s role within the Joint Contracts Tribunal Contract (JCT) is formally described as ‘Contract Administrator’. The CA is responsible for administering the

contract which is between the

‘employer’ (e.g. the RMC) and the ‘contractor’.

Andrew Banister, Director, Earl Kendrick North

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5 ways you can do your bit

TheMagazine For Apartment Living

£4.50 Issue103 /2019

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QUESTION Can you advise if our buildings insurance would cover damage due to ingress of water and cost of subsequent internal repairs? This has occurred last weekend due to an exceptional rainstorm and driving winds penetrating areas of brickwork adjoining window frames and lintels. If a claim was allowed by the insurance company would this be made by our property management company? We have our own right-to-manage company with appointed director residents. ANSWER This will depend on your insurance provider and the terms of the policy in place at the time the damage occurs, so I can only speak for Deacon, and our approach in similar circumstances. In my experience, this type of claim is likely to fall under one of two classifications. Storm damage, which would normally mean that wind speeds often referred to as “storm peril” by insurers and brokers, usually means the policy will cover both internal and external damage to the property. If, on the other hand, the external damage has not been caused by storm-strength winds, then it is unlikely that any external damage will be covered by the policy – but it may still cover internal damage. of 55mph or more have been recorded. This type of claim,

For example, where damage is caused by the ingress of water resulting from bad weather, even where any winds recorded were less than 55mph. In these circumstances, it’s likely the internal damage would be covered by what brokers and insurers refer to as the policy’s “accidental damage peril” (subject to any exclusions set out in the policy). Registering and processing a claim will depend on your current set up. If your property is managed by an agent, you may find that their service agreement includes reporting and managing any insurance claims on your behalf with the broker or insurer. Alternatively, if no such arrangements are in place, then a claim is usually registered by the freeholder, landlord or leaseholder, who may nor may not be the director of a resident management or right-to-manage company. Arranging buildings insurance for flats and making a claim can be complex, particularly when multiple flats are involved, and I hope I’ve helped answer your questions. Luke Tarlton is claims team manager at Deacon QUESTION I have lived in my private rented flat for five years. My landlord has now advised there will be a new no pets policy, meaning I will have to re-house my dog who I have had for six

years. It was agreed at that time with the landlord that I would move in with my dog. Is this correct? I do not want to move home, but I also cannot imagine having to lose my dog! ANSWER There are two contractual areas for consideration here when providing a response. Your landlord and the freeholder will have contractual obligations with their lease, and you will have contractual obligations with your landlord as part of your assured shorthold tenancy. It is unclear why a “no pet policy” has been introduced at this time during your tenancy. I would try to ascertain: a) whether pets were never permitted as per the terms of the lease or b) whether the freeholder has changed the policy on pets or c) whether your landlord changed their mind on permitting pets into their property. The lease will contain either: (i) a “no pets” restriction clause; or (ii) reference to obtaining prior consent before you can keep a pet; or (iii) be silent on pets in the property. A typical clause in the lease may read along the lines of: “not to keep any bird, dog or other animal in the Demised Premises without the previous consent in writing of the Lessor…such consent to be revocable by notice in writing at any time on complaint of any nuisance or annoyance being caused to any owner tenant or occupier of any other flat in the

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