As a managing agent or director of a management company, you may want to contact new residents as soon as possible to welcome them.

It’s a golden opportunity to make settling in easier for them and answer questions about their new home.

Ideally, the past leaseholders or owners who have sub-let to a new tenant will have passed on their details so you can introduce yourself with a personal letter or, even better, a visit.

You can use this first contact to establish a friendly relationship that reflects the block’s culture and respects its rules. You can also make sure new residents know what to expect from you as the managing agent or director of the management company.

While you would hope that the new neighbours have been advised of the lease covenants and building rules by their solicitor or letting agent, don’t assume that to be so. Even if they were briefed, there can be a lot of new information to take in when moving home.

A quick reminder can avoid getting off on the wrong foot and getting into an unpleasant early dispute. For example, if there’s a block rule on noise-absorbing carpets, this might be something to summarise in case they are considering laying laminate. Such terms being adhered by all living in the block can benefit everyone.

We’d suggest a ‘welcome pack’ that includes:

Personal introductions

Tell people who you are – are you a neighbour and volunteer director of the RMC (residents’ management company) or the managing agent?

If you are representing the property as managing agent, give broad details of the scope of your contract and explain who the residents’ day-to-day contacts are. It may be that you have a full-service managing agency agreement that includes fielding calls from individual leaseholders. Alternatively, you may want all queries to go through the RMC.

If there’s a block social media group or similar, ask if you can add them to the discussion – and use it to tell other residents that new people have just moved in.

Don’t forget to tell the new arrivals about any residents’ meetings, and when the next one is planned. The sooner you can involve them in the running of the building, the easier it will be for them to become a part of the community.

A personal service charge summary

Again, leaseholders’ financial liability should all have been resolved in the conveyancing process, but people always like to know where they stand, so confirmation won’t do any harm. There’s no need to send a complete account, just a reminder of where they stand and when the next service charge bill is going to be due.

If possible, include a copy of the current working service charge budget as a reminder of where their money is going and the value they are getting.

Don’t assume that people are experts on leasehold, so explain industry terms, for example ‘sinking fund’.

A guide to leasehold

Here, the work is already done for you. You can include an online link to the Guide to Living in Leasehold Flats produced by the government-funded Leasehold Advisory Service, the Association of Residential Managing Agents and the Association of Retirement Housing Managers.

Block manual or website

If you don’t already have a block manual, consider compiling one. Once it’s done, it can be a relatively simple job to keep it up to date.

What should you include in a block manual?

  • Details of ownership – who or what entity is the freeholder. It may be residents as owners of a share of the freehold, in which case it could be worth a reminder that freehold sharers are still leaseholders too, subject to lease covenants.
  • An explanation of how the block is managed and by whom, with appropriate contact details.
  • An outline of key lease conditions, such as noise level and quiet hours (typically 11pm until 7am), prohibition on short term lettings, rules about pets, etc. Offer to provide a copy of the lease if needed.
  • A reminder about the strict rules on building safety, especially fire precautions.
  • A summary of rules and etiquette on use of common parts such as no smoking, no obstructions, etc.
  • An explanation of any bike storage and parking provision – and that people use them at their own risk.
  • Practicalities like rubbish and recycling bins and collection days.
  • Rights of access to garden areas etc.
  • Useful local information such as late-night chemists, supermarkets that deliver, bus routes.
  • The location and frequency of residents’ meetings.

Emergency checklist

Escape of water can be a common problem, so we recommend that everyone knows where the stopcock for their flat is as a top priority.

You could draw up a checklist for people to complete, including knowing where the water stopcock, gas cut-off, and electricity circuit board are located.

If you have emergency assistance insurance, residents may also have access to a helpline, so ensure they have access to the phone number.

Putting the manual online

You could consider creating a website for your block of flats, even subscribing to an off-the-shelf website package specifically written for leasehold flats. Such commercially available services enable you to store documents and information about the building with access restricted to residents who are given a password.

If the building you manage is occupied by people who are happy with technology, it may be an approach worth exploring.

Remember, your early contact with new residents sets the tone of how you will get along with them in the years ahead. Keep the tone right and keep the block happy!

Blocks of Flats Insurance from Gallagher

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The sole purpose of this article is to provide guidance on the issues covered. This article is not intended to give legal advice, and, accordingly, it should not be relied upon. It should not be regarded as a comprehensive statement of the law and/or market practice in this area. We make no claims as to the completeness or accuracy of the information contained herein or in the links which were live at the date of publication. You should not act upon (or should refrain from acting upon) information in this publication without first seeking specific legal and/or specialist advice. Arthur J. Gallagher Insurance Brokers Limited accepts no liability for any inaccuracy, omission or mistake in this publication, nor will we be responsible for any loss which may be suffered as a result of any person relying on the information contained herein.