General Helpdesk

The leasehold and freehold sector involves a lot of jargon, definitions and areas which can appear confusing. 

 

Bridgeford is a member of the Association Of Residential Managing Agents (ARMA), which is the industry body which regulates professional Managing Agents.  

ARMA produces a useful series of definitions and guidance notes to help freeholders, Residents' Management Companies (RMCs) and leaseholders get a better understanding of the environment in which they own their homes and investments.

Some of these are outlined below.

In addition, if you would like to chat about a general property management issue, online, with an experienced property manager in our IPMNet group, please use this chat button to talk to us...

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ARMA Guidance Notes

Service Charges

Service charge accounting - best practice


A summary of best practice for service charge accounting In 2010 the Government pulled back from introducing important regulations that would have given greater protection to leaseholders service charge money. To fill this void ARMA, along with the Institute of Chartered Accountants for England and Wales (ICAEW), the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), worked together to issue best practice guidance on service charge accounting. This Advice Note summarises that best practice.

Download the full Advice Note above...




Service Charge Arrears


How to deal with service charge debts in your block When leaseholders dont pay, or fall behind with, their service charge payments it can cause problems for everyone else in the block. The managing agent may not have enough funds to carry out important maintenance or provide the key services that everyone expects. In this Advice Note, well take a look at some of the issues and legal restrictions that leaseholders, Residents Management Company (RMC) directors and their managing agents face when pursuing service charge debts. Download the full Advice Note above...




Service charge rights a summary for leaseholders


An important summery of leaseholders rights under Landlord and Tenant Law Leaseholders have important protections under Landlord and Tenant legislation and landlords are required to serve a summary of those rights when issuing service charge demands. Leaseholders can challenge unreasonable charges; challenge poor or unnecessary workmanship; and have the right to be consulted about major works and long term agreements. As the leading trade body for managing agents, ARMA plays an important role in educating and informing leaseholders about their rights and responsibilities. Here we take a look at some of the existing rights in relation to service charges and what leaseholders can do to challenge them.

ARMA Guidance Note...





Your Managing Agents

Appointing A Managing Agent


This guide is for leaseholders thinking about appointing and employing an agent to manage their building. It's particularly relevant for directors of resident management companies and right to manage companies. It explains the benefits of using a professional managing agent, how to go about appointing one and what you can do to get the best out of them. There's also a useful checklist of questions to ask prospective managing agents, a sample tendering letter and a summary of services you may require.

ARMA Guidance Notes...




Appointing a managing agent by a Tribunal


How to go about appointing a managing agent by Tribunal Under Section 24 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1987, any leasehold flat owner has the right to apply to a Tribunal to change their managing agent if theyre unhappy with the current one. But its normally a last resort there are time and cost implications and the appointment will only be granted if you can prove fault with the current management. The process can be initiated by a single leaseholder or a group, and its a good alternative when theres no enthusiasm in the block for going down the Right to Manage route. In this Advice Note well look at how you can go about appointing a new managing agent through a Tribunal. Download the full Advice Note above...




Making a complaint about the management of your block


What to do when things go wrong with the management of your block When things go wrong with the management of your block, you need to know who to complain to. In this Advice Note, well look at what you can do if youre unhappy with the way your property is being managed and how to establish whos responsible. Well also look at how you can make a complaint about your managing agent if they are at fault.

Download the full Advice Note above...




Changing Managing Agents


A guide to changing managing agents and ensuring a smooth handover This Advice Note looks at situations where a landlord, Residents Management Company (RMC) or Right To Manage Company (RTM) has decided to change managing agent. When this happens, the outgoing agent needs to handover the management of the block to the new agent. Its important to ensure this process is a smooth as possible so the block can continue to be managed successfully and effectively. A lot of the information in this Advice Note is also relevant to Right to Manage situations.

Download the full Advice Note above...





Neighbours

Noisy Neighbours


Advice for dealing with noise problems in your block Noise problems cause many complaints in blocks of flats. DIY, building activity, late night music, laminated floors and barking dogs are the main culprits. Surprisingly, your landlord or managing agent have very limited powers to take action and it's unlikely that a court will evict a leaseholder for being noisy. In this Advice Note we'll take a look at some of the ways you can deal with noise problems in your block. Download the full Advice Note above...





For Your Flat

Buying and selling your flat


A summary of the typical events when buying and selling a leasehold flat This Advice Note looks at the typical events in buying and selling a leasehold flat. It explains the usual restrictions found in leases that can affect how flats can be sold. Being aware of these restrictions can help speed up the sales process. Well also explain how the landlord and managing agent will be involved, and the kinds of information they will be asked to provide. At the end, theres a useful list of questions that buyers may wish to ask their solicitor before going ahead.

Download the full Advice Note above...





Health & Safety

Health And Safety


A summary of the main health & safety regulations that apply to blocks of flats This advice note summarises some of the main health & safety regulations that apply to blocks of flats. This includes houses that have been converted into flats. The duty to comply with health & safety regulations falls on the landlord or person responsible for managing the building. That could be a managing agent, a Residents' Management Company (RMC) or a Right to Manage Company (RTM). Health & safety should never be ignored or dismissed simply because it costs money. The cost of failing to comply if there's an accident or injury could be far greater. ARMA Guidance Note...




Smoke-free regulations


A guide to the smoking ban in blocks of flats Since 2007 the internal communal areas of block of flats must be smoke-free by law. Residents who do smoke in these areas can be prosecuted and fined up to £200.In this Advice Note, well take a look at the impact of this on the blocks of flats and residents.
Download the full Advice Note above...




Fire safety in flats


A general guide to fire safety in blocks of flats This Advice Note gives general guidance about fire safety in blocks of flats. Specific advice for individual blocks will differ, so you should read this in conjunction with the guidance thats in place for your own building. That could be a leaflet or a fire safety notice posted in the communal areas. The information in this advice note is important taking a little time to read it now may save your life!

Download the full Advice Note above...




Gas Safety


How you can stay gas safe in your flat When it comes to gas safety, ARMA supports and recommends to leaseholders the information provided by Gas Safe Register. Gas Safe Register replaced CORGI as the official gas registration body for the United Kingdom, Isle of Man and Guernsey. By law, all gas engineers must be on the Gas Safe Register. In this Advice Note, well take a quick look at how you can make sure you stay gas safe in your flat. Download the full Advice Note above...




Electrical safety in communal areas of residential properties


A guide to electrical safety in communal areas of residential property With so much legislation in place these days, and conflicting guidance that is all too easily available in the public domain, it can sometimes be difficult for you to know what to do when it comes to managing electrical safety within communal areas in buildings that you own or manage. This guide was produced by the Electrical Safety Council and supported by ARMA in 2011 to provide you with the right information so that you can meet your legal obligations where you have the responsibility of looking after communal areas. This Guide addresses periodic inspection, testing and reporting of electrical installations, and the inspection and testing of portable electrical equipment. It also offers some guidance on what to look for when assessing the competence of an employee, or selected contractor, to undertake such work. Electrical Safety is not all about protecting people from the dangers of electric shock. An overloaded circuit or faulty electrical wiring, for example, can cause a fire. Therefore an overview of fire alarm and emergency lighting systems is also provided in the Guide, together with an insight into fire risk assessments. Download the full 40 page guide above





Residents' Management Companies And Associations

Voluntary Residents Association


Forming a residents association is an effective way for leaseholders to express their collective views to their landlord or managing agent. Its especially effective if your block isnt run by a Residents Management Company (RMC) or Right to Manage Company (RTM). To form a residents association, you should follow the procedures set by the First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) in England or the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal in Wales. ARMA Guidance Note




Residents Management Association





Understanding Residents Management Companies


A guide to the differences between being a leaseholder and a shareholder Its quite common for a block of flats to be owned or managed by a company made up of the leaseholders. These are usually known as Residents Management Companies (RMCs) or Right to Manage Companies (RTMs). Being a leaseholder and being a shareholder or member of an RMC is not the same, even though you could be both. RMC directors need to keep a clear distinction between the two roles when making decisions. In this Advice Note, well take a look at some of the differences between the two roles and how this can affect the way your block is run. Download the full Advice Note above...





Freehold Houses

Freehold Houses on Private Estates


A guide for freehold homeowners paying service charges Some private estates have both freehold houses and blocks of leasehold flats. All homeowners will be expected to pay for the upkeep of the communal areas on the estate. The communal areas may simply be private roads; but they can also include landscaped gardens, electric gates, street lighting, refuse areas, sewage pumps and TV aerial systems. This Advice Note looks at the rights of freeholders who pay service charges and rentcharges on private estates. Unfortunately, they do not share the same protections as leaseholders. Download the full Advice Note above...





Leasehold & Rights

Leasehold


As a leasehold homeowner, it's in your best interests to understand the legal nature of this type of ownership. What exactly do you own and what are the associated rights and responsibilities? This guide aims to help you to understand residential leasehold and what your rights and responsibilities are. ARMA Guidance Note...




Letting Of Leasehold Flats


Buy-to-let has seen some phenomenal growth over the last few years and residential lettings are now a substantial part of the housing sector. Letting a leasehold flat is not difficult but it does require some unique considerations because of the communal living arrangements in a block of flats. Considerations which if overlooked can lead to future problems. Cooperation and good communication between leaseholders, managing agents and lettings agents is essential for successful leasehold lettings. ARMA Guidance Note...




Your rights to information


A summary of your rights to information as a leaseholder Leaseholders have many important legal rights when it comes to accessing information, probably more than you think. Brushing up on the essentials can put you in a more powerful position when it comes to how your block is being managed. This Advice Note summarises your main rights as a leaseholder along with some useful legal references. ARMA Guidance Note...





Property Maintenance

Section 20 Consultation


By law, leaseholders must be consulted before a landlord carries out works above a certain value or enters into a long-term agreement for the provision of services. This guide explains the Section 20 consultation process for landlords, resident management companies and their managing agents in England and Wales. ARMA Guidance Note...




Carrying out your own work to your block


If you live in a smaller blocks of flats, particularly if it's self- managed, you or your fellow leaseholders may want to carry out gardening, cleaning or other work to the building yourselves. The immediate advantage of doing this is that it can keep costs down. But there are important legal, health and safety and insurance issues that need to be considered by the landlord. Remember, the landlord could be a Residents' Management Company or Right to Manage Company if one is in place.

ARMA Guidance Note...




Powered gates


Important safety information about automatic gates Following a number of fatalities caused by powered gates in recent years, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) issued a series of safety notices. They identified several factors that classify automatic gates on residential sites as high risk: Regular risk assessments are required for powered gates including force testing and planned preventative maintenance by a competent person. Failure to carry out a risk assessment may affect the insurance cover and could lead to prosecution and negligence claims if theres an accident. This Advice Note looks at what you need to do if there are powered gates on your development. Whist the focus is on gates, the advice also applies to roller shutter doors and barrier arms.

  • Where children may be in close proximity to them
  • Where its not possible to instruct users
  • Where the gates are used by high numbers of the public
Regular risk assessments are required for powered gates including force testing and planned preventative maintenance by a competent person. Failure to carry out a risk assessment may affect the insurance cover and could lead to prosecution and negligence claims if theres an accident. This Advice Note looks at what you need to do if there are powered gates on your development. Whist the focus is on gates, the advice also applies to roller shutter doors and barrier arms. Download the full Advice Note above...




Employing contractors


How to go about employing competent contractors All landlords, Residents Management Companies (RMCs) and Right To Manage Companies (RTMs) have a responsibility to appoint competent contractors to carry out work and services to their building. The work needs to be properly managed, not just outsourced. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) stresses that using contractors is a joint responsibility health and safety duties cant be just delegated to a contractor. In this Advice Note, well look at how important it is to assess the competence of a contractor before engaging their services. Download the full Advice Note above...




Water Leaks


How to prevent water leaks in your flat

Overview

A quarter of all insurance claims made on flats are for damage caused by water leaks. The damage costs millions of pounds and causes heartache to those involved and disputes between neighbours over who should pay.

HERE ARE SOME THINGS YOU CAN DO TO PREVENT WATER LEAKS

Bathrooms/toilets:

  • Check the condition of all your seals. These are the white flexible beads that run around your bath and shower, allowing water to run from your tiles and back into the bath/shower. If the mastic seal is damaged, split, loose or curling away from the wall or bath, water can freely run down the back of your bath or shower, and eventually make its way through the ceiling and into the property below, often through a light fitting

  • Check the grout in a bathroom (between the tiles) especially around wet areas. Gaps in grout can allow water in behind tiles, causing damp patches, risk of water leaking into the property below and other rooms, and tiles coming loose

  • Toilets also need to be checked. If you hear any irregular sounds, such as the flush cycle taking longer than it normally does, or humming sounds, its a good idea to have it checked over, and is often remedied by adjusting the valve or the replacing the inlet valve washer

  • You may inadvertently be causing damage to the exterior of the building if your toilet is making a constant running sound. This will mean the external overflow is allowing water to escape onto walkways below and in icy conditions you could be causing a hazard. It will also mean staining to walls, encourage vegetative growth, damage mortars, and lead to possible ingress elsewhere

  • Check taps for drips (often repaired by replacing a washer) and humming or vibration sounds when using the taps

  • Ensure that if you have a service duct or main stack within your property, it is accessible. The duct provides access to valves, all main services, rodding eye and also in some flats you will share these services with your neighbouring flat.

Kitchens:

  • Check your seals at the back of your kitchen worktop and around your sink. Spills need containing and gaps can often cause water to penetrate down the back or into your units

  • Check your plumbing. Nine times out of ten under the sink is where everything comes together - your water outlets for your dishwasher and washing machine, your isolation valves, and the waste from your sink etc. Make sure that nothing is leaking, and the outlet connections from your washing machine/dishwasher are secured and in place; frequent vibrations can cause these to become lose. Also check your plughole is not leaking

  • If you have a washing machine carry out frequent checks on the hose as this is a major cause of leaks

  • Check taps for drips (often repaired by replacing a washer) and humming or vibration sounds when using the taps

  • If you have a service duct within your kitchen please ensure that this is fully accessible in the event of an emergency.

Radiators:

  • Check your radiators, valves and exposed pipe work for leaks and any signs of corrosion and rust

  • It is important that you carry out regular checking/monitoring of all radiators/pipe-work within your flat where visible

  • Leaking radiators must be fixed. The damage to flooring, carpets and floorboards could be a lot more serious and expensive than you might think.

STOP TAPS AND DEVICES TO REDUCE WATER DAMAGE

Do you know where the stop tap for your flat is located? Can you easily turn it or is it rusted? Being able to turn off the water supply easily if water is leaking could save you thousands of pounds of damage and insurance premiums. An annual test of the stop tap is a good exercise.

It is good preventative maintenance to spray WD40 or similar around the stop cock. And make sure your family members also know the location of the stop cock.

There are devices on the market that can be installed by leaseholders to reduce the likelihood of prolonged water damage. One device is a switch, similar to an electric socket switch, which will turn off the water supply at the stopcock.

THINGS YOU CAN DO TO HELP YOUR MANAGING AGENT IF A WATER LEAK DOES OCCUR

Make sure your managing agent has up-to-date contact details for you or your letting agent or tenant in case no one is at home. This way it is easy for you to be contacted if you have a leak which is resulting in damage to a property below which will help to minimise damage.

BUILDINGS INSURANCE AND WATER DAMAGE

Once a leak has been traced and further damage prevented, the buildings insurance taken out by your landlord of the block of flats will cover certain types of consequential damage caused. It will not cover the cost of repairs to any damaged pipework unless the damage was caused by freezing water in the pipes.

If a leak is in a pipe which is only used by one flat, even when located in common parts, the position may be more complex. It would normally be the leaseholder of that flat that had to pay for the repair if caused by normal wear and tear. But any consequential damage would be covered by the buildings policy.

Buildings insurance taken out by landlords will cover any necessary repairs and redecoration to the fabric of the flat itself, including fittings and fixtures, but not replacement of damaged contents owned by residents except in certain circumstances.

LESSEES CONTENTS AND CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGE TO THEM

The insurances taken out by a landlord or managing agent do not include insuring leaseholders' or tenants' household contents and personal effects. But the building insurance policies will normally cover fixtures and fittings such as baths, basins and toilets.

It is important that leaseholders obtain contents cover. For example if a water leak from one leaseholder's flat causes damage to the contents of the flat below, the items can only be replaced if the both leaseholders hold current contents policies. It may seem unreasonable but the leaseholder who is not at fault in any way may have to claim on his/her contents insurance if the leaseholder from whose flat a leak occurred does not have third party contents cover. Note that many contents policies do not allow for third party damage cover.

ELECTRICAL SAFETY AND GENERAL ADVICE FOR HOMES AFFECTED BY WATER DAMAGE AND FLOODING

  • Make sure the property is safe before you enter

  • Try to avoid direct contact with any water which remains. It may be contaminated

  • Have a torch at hand when entering the property

  • Switch off the electricity supply at the fuse box, if it is safe to do so. If there is evidence of water inside the fuse box stop and seek professional advice

  • Unplug damaged electrical appliances and move all portable ones away from the area affected by flooding

  • Arrange for other services, such as gas, to be switched off. Electricity and gas supplies should not be turned back on until you have had professional advice that it is safe to do so.

Do not attempt any electrical repairs or connection of temporary supplies yourself always use a registered electrician:

  • Arrange for a periodic inspection and test to be carried out on the property. The registered electrician will issue you with an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) which will identify the condition of the wiring and equipment in need of repair

  • All of the portable appliances affected by the flood will need to be tested to make sure that they are safe for continued use

  • Fixed equipment, such as electric cookers, storage heaters, boilers etc. should also be tested

  • If the water damage to electrics is relatively minor and caused by clean water, i.e. a burst water pipe or tank, then it is likely that the registered electrician will just need to dry out cables and replace any accessories affected by the water (sockets, switches, plugs etc.)

  • If there is major flood damage to the electrics caused by clean or contaminated water, then it is likely that parts of the electrical installation will need to be rewired.

When rewiring is necessary, ask the registered electrician about the possibility of raising the height of the newly installed electrical equipment, including raising the fuse box and sockets to above any future expected flood level.

Downloand ARMA Guidance Note...






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