Sometimes the lease may require them to take preventive action, but usually you can only usefully point them in the right direction.
The main risks to property come from storms and sudden cold that can freeze and crack pipes. If we get a lot of snow, the additional weight could be trouble for a poorly maintained roof. The gradual release of moisture when it thaws can also be bad news if gutters are clogged.
Who is responsible for preventive maintenance?
Most of the winter preparation falls on your shoulders as managing agent, but leaseholders do have a role to play.
They can check their plumbing and connections to minimise the risk of freezing and burst pipes, that their own windows are in good condition, and that balconies are cleared of loose pots and furniture. You should ensure they know who to call to report a problem as soon as it arises, so that it is not left until the next periodic inspection.
As the managing agent acting on behalf of freeholders or a Right to Manage (RTM) company your focus will be on the structure and facilities. Leaseholders are typically responsible for repairs and maintenance within their flat.
Typical managing agent responsibilities:
- Maintaining the exterior of the building, shared grounds and gardens and internal communal areas
- Maintaining communal doors, gates, lighting, lifts, door entry systems, smoke alarms, etc.
- Internal structural walls, load-bearing walls, and walls dividing the flat from other common parts of the building and adjacent properties
- Roofs, gutters, and window frames
- Foundations, drains (beyond a flat’s front door), waste pipes, and soil pipes
- Communal central heating, electricity, and hot water
- Communal TV aerial and socket
- Pipes supplying mains water to the flat’s stopcock
- Gas pipes within the block.
Usual leaseholder responsibilities:
- Window glazing inside and out, window catches, sash cords
- Floorboards, floor coverings/tiles, skirting boards
- Internal doors, individual front doors, their frames, hinges, and locks
- Plaster covering on walls and ceilings
- Ceilings and ceiling battens
- Air vents and extractor fans that serve just their property
- Kitchen units and appliances
- Internal decoration, fixtures, and fittings
- Individual heating systems (central heating) and appliances
- Appliances, plumbing, and pipework within the property
- Sanitary ware
- Water, gas, and electricity in the flat.
A winter checklist for managing agents
The outside of any building takes a battering in the winter, so an assessment of its current condition by a professional surveyor can be beneficial. You should take the roof, guttering, walls, floors, windows, and doors into consideration, and get repairs done promptly.
Roof: Arrange for the roof to be inspected and for cracked tiles to be replaced, particularly if doing so isn’t already part of your regular maintenance schedule. If there are chimney pots that are not actually being used, consider protecting them by fitting ventilated cowls to minimise rainwater ingress while maintaining ventilation.
Make sure aerials and any remaining satellite dishes are secure.
Loft: Check the insulation is in good condition (up to current standard). If there are tanks and pipes in the loft, do not over-insulate below the tank, or the tank may be more liable to freezing. Make sure the lid is on the cold-water tank.
Gutters and drains: Overflowing gutters can drench walls and cause damage. Have them cleared of leaves and debris and check they are still securely fixed to the wall. Take care that any roof gulleys are clear as well.
Walls: Check the pointing – frost can play havoc with poorly maintained walls. Make sure water can run off the building freely.
External paving: In very cold weather, water on paving will freeze. Ensure the paving is well drained to avoid water collecting. This can also help to avoid slips and trips.
Windows: Check perimeters of all windows to make sure water flows away from glass and doesn’t collect on the sill or drain behind it.
Condensation: The moist, warm conditions that can build up inside during the winter can lead to condensation, which causes mould and can damage window frames. Encourage leaseholders to keep their flats well-ventilated.
Heating: If flats have individual boilers, remind residents to ensure they are serviced regularly. It’s not mandatory unless the lease specifies it, but it is good practice. Communal boiler servicing should already be part of any annual maintenance procedures.
Trees: Seek the advice of a tree surgeon and cut down any loose or overhanging branches in the gardens, particularly any close to windows.
Have a contingency plan for severe weather
When the Met Office issues a storm warning, make sure that all garden furniture, and any other loose objects are stored away or secured to the ground to protect your windows.
In case of a flood warning, cover air bricks with sandbags. Don’t leave this too late – flooding can happen very quickly. Ground floor leaseholders can also put sandbags in toilet bowls to prevent sewage back-flow.
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