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Laying a timber floor?

As more and more leaseholders apply to lay a timber floor where there was once carpet, how should this be handled by the diligent property manager?

It can be a tricky subject in blocks of flats, but the main thing is that the managing agent is there to ensure that the lessee sticks to the terms of the lease. If the lease says carpet only, then a Licence to Alter will be required if a change is proposed.

Of course, all leases are different on this subject and it is therefore essential that the lease wording is checked thoroughly before any work is done. A standard lease might say something like:

The lessee should "Cover and keep covered all the floors of the demised premises (except any kitchen bathroom and watercloset) with close fitting tufted carpet and underfelt or other form of underlay of a condition and quality approved by the surveyor and in addition if required by the surveyor a layer of suitable sound-insulating material in order to prevent undue penetration of sound to adjoining premises in the building or the group".

It is difficult to define "undue penetration of sound", but we have always taken this to mean that the new floor covering should provide at least as good sound insulation as the old carpet. Airborne sound is not usually a problem and can be easily dealt with by inserting a good quality sound-insulating layer under the new timber floor covering. However even with the best sound insulating material, a hard wooden floor will usually transmit more impact sound than a carpet.

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A Porter, Concierge, an Estate Manager or a Security Guard?

Many blocks of flats, particularly the larger ones, require an on-site presence of some sort. The principal benefit of this is that someone is available to respond quickly to a problem at the building, or to allow access to contractors or visitors. They also patrol the building to aid security and safety. However, do you employ a Porter, a Concierge, an Estate Manager or a Security Guard? Often, the role undertaken by on-site personnel encompasses an element of all these. The Managing Agent’s job is to decide what is best for each building...and every building has it’s own unique set of requirements!

One thing is certain, however; residents are becoming more demanding. It is no longer sufficient for in-house staff to simply sit in reception looking pretty. A more bespoke service is what is required. Whether its last-minute theatre tickets, a table at a restaurant or handling their dry-cleaning, the Concierge staff are often asked to be on hand to fulfil all such requests, more like the Concierge in a hotel lobby. Of course, there is a cost to pay for such service but, particularly in and around London, cost is not the prime concern. What a Concierge now needs to offer instead is the one thing that we all lack, time. 

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Short term lets – planning consent required

We are regularly asked by leaseholder’s groups to comment on and take action against people undertaking short-term lettings within blocks of flats. By short-term lettings, I am referring to lettings for less than 6 months, often a week or two only.

The letting of a premises for a term less than 6 months constitutes a change of use, for which planning consent is required. Carrying out short term lettings of this sort without obtaining the necessary planning consent risks an Enforcement Notice being issued by the local authority, and failure to adhere to the terms of the Notice would then be a criminal offence under Section 179 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. Any person found guilty of this offence is liable to a fine of up to £20,000 within the Magistrates’ Court (and more if convicted by the Crown Court).

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Are you a good neighbour?

NeighboursAs property managers, we all too often get drawn into neighbour disputes. When is loud too loud? When is rubbish too much? When is the dog barking too much? These are some of the simpler issues – there are many issues that we see which are really not simple. While social networking sites can connect us with friends all across the world, we may not know our neighbours well enough to have a cup of tea with them. 


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Flat roofs - susceptible to leaking?

Block-with-flat-roofIt struck me last night, as I spilled an entire bucket of water across my kitchen floor and spent the following half hour tracking/mopping where the water had got to, that a little bit of water goes a long way and sadly as many people are currently experiencing, a lot of water can cause utter chaos. Many of the buildings we manage have flat roofs, currently we are resurfacing a major property with a large roof area which has failed after only a few years’ use. We are often asked about the viability of flat roofs and suitable materials to re-cover them. Here’s some information that some may find useful.

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Property Management FAQ’s - What is a service charge?

The first in a series of posts explaining the terminology and requirements facing those in shared buildings.

The big one - What is the service charge?

A service charge is a payment made by a tenant or a homeowner towards the cost of services and repairs beyond those specifically for their house or flat. For example, if you live in a block of flats with a communal garden, the cost of maintaining that garden is covered by a service charge because it is available to all residents as a communal service and it is outside of their flats. Other services it can include are general maintenance and repairs, electricity, cleaning of communal areas. Service charges are usually payable in advance and at the frequency stated within your lease - typically this will be annually, bi-annually or quarterly. The charges may also include the costs of management by us the managing agent and for contributions to a reserve fund or sinking fund - see 'what is a reserve or sinking fund?'.

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