If you are a member or even a director of one of the many freehold or leasehold property management companies which are responsible for the maintenance and repair of blocks of flats or apartments what do you think?
Does your company really need the in depth property management advice offered by the professional property managing agent? Or is such a move just another waste of service charge funds?
Increasingly many directors and company members are shifting towards the employment of specialist property managing agent professionals to share responsibility and to advise and guide their property management company through the maze of legislation surrounding the residential sector.
However many others are resolutely sticking to their guns and continuing to manage their companies and their property estates in house.
So what is all this legislation and what else do the directors and decision makers who are ultimately responsible for the management function need to know?
Current legislation in England and Wales is largely defined under well established landlord and tenant law as subsequently revised by the more recent Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act 2002.
In summary, any terms included in any residential lease cannot be upheld where they do not comply with current statutory legislation. As a result, parts of the lease may not be enforceable and may be deemed illegal. This means that property management company members and directors must be compliant with the requirements of statute, however well they might have read and understand the property lease.
Property block management therefore involves knowledge and expertise in how statute will vary the terms of how the lease is interpreted.
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order brought in to effect significant changes. The new fire safety rules came into force on 1 October 2006 and affect all non-domestic premises in England and Wales.
If you are responsible for non domestic premises then you need to act by undertaking or arranging a fire risk assessment. This is an organised appraisal of work activities and the workplace which now includes by definition the common areas of your residential premises. It is therefore an essential part of your block management duties.
The risk assessment should identify potential fire hazards, for residents, employees and visitors who might be in danger in the event of fire. You should evaluate the risks arising from the hazards and decide whether the existing fire precautions are adequate, or whether more needs to be done.
If you do not employ the services of property management agents this means that your management company members and directors must be compliant with The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order.
The Data Protection Act controls how personal information you hold is used by organisations, businesses or the government. Everyone, including you, who is responsible for using data has to follow strict rules called ‘data protection principles’. In summary you must make sure the information you hold is:
used fairly and lawfully
used for limited, specifically stated purposes
used in a way that is adequate, relevant and not excessive
kept for no longer than is absolutely necessary
handled according to people’s data protection rights
kept safe and secure
not transferred outside the UK without adequate protection
There is stronger legal protection for more sensitive information, however the above information should be sufficient to make you aware of the need to comply.
If you do not employ a property management services agent this means that your property management company members and directors must be familiar with and compliant with The Data Protection Act and the ‘data protection principles’.
The above examples are merely a few of the many areas of estate property management affected by ever growing legislation and red tape.
Other important matters which are affected include the treatment of service charges, tenants’ rights, legal landlord notices required, increased powers conferred on the LVT or leasehold valuation tribunal, consultation procedures for Qualifying Works under Section 20 of the Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act, and enfranchisement and new right to manage principles giving the leaseholders in qualifying properties the right to take over the management of their properties.
If you are familiar with the majority of the above property block management legislation and have the time available then you are probably well informed and very capable of managing your estate or block of flats.
If however you have found that this article has provided you with new information then you might want to think about taking professional advice about how you manage your company and your estate to ensure you are not at risk.
Whilst directors and officers liability insurance cover is available to help protect you in the event of negligence it is doubtful how far this will cover those who could be thought to have willfully ignored statutory legislation. It is particularly important to realise that any serious breach of health and safety legislation is treated as a criminal offence for which a heavy fine or custodial sentence may result.