Politics is the art of conflict. The art of Residential Block Management is balancing competing needs against limited resources: a recipe for conflict. It’s no surprise to learn then that the best property managers are also skilled politicians. A great example of this is the conflict that arises over the need for health and safety versus the desire for aesthetics like landscaped gardens and how the most skilled
Leaseholders want to see funds spent on those initiatives that look great, and add value to their property: like landscape gardening, new communal flooring, better lighting and so on. What leaseholders want is great internal and external decorations, great cleaning, and gardening. They want their block to look fabulous. They know it adds value and they feel great to have friends and family visit. For leaseholders health and safety law, say, the Working at Height Regulations, comes a distant second when competing with a great looking block.
Like leaseholders, landlords are keen to see work that adds value to their investment. They like to see initiatives that improve the look and feel of the place.
Landlords and Resident Directors (leaseholders who’ve volunteered themselves as Directors of the Management Company) have serious responsibilities, however, and when it comes to health and safety they’re the ones that could end up in the dock if things go wrong.
Law? What Law?
The legislation around residential residential block company accommodation is strong, detailed, and widespread. The duty on landlords and Resident Directors to evidence compliance is a serious burden. A burden compounded by the sheer volume of legislation:
- Health and Safety at Work Act 1974
- Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 and 1987
- Disability Discrimination Act 1995
- Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995
- Fire Precaution (Workplace) Regulations 1997 (as amended)
- Gas Safety Regulations 1998
- The Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1998
- The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999
- Employment Act 2002
- Control of Asbestos Regulations 2002
- The Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act 2002
- The Service Charges (Consultation Requirements) (England) Regulations 2003
- Money Laundering Regulations 2007
A legislative minefield which is all designed to look after leaseholders…and with which landlords and Resident Directors must comply.
To ensure compliance many landlords and Resident Directors bring in professional managing agents. The consequence is that what was a triangle of interests (leaseholders, landlords, and Resident Directors) becomes a square. And four vested interests can give rise to lots of lively conflict.
The Role And Responsibilities Of The Residential Property Management Company
The role of the managing agent, among other things, is to ensure residents’ health and safety. As number one priority. It is critical that health and safety initiatives are properly explained to leaseholders and then implemented. Leaseholders will understand health and safety spend, but only if the rationale is explained first.
Resident Director responsibilities are often misunderstood and overlooked – not least by the Resident Directors themselves. Resident Directors have numerous and serious responsibilities especially around health and safety law. If something untoward were to happen at their development they could be sued. As well as Health and Safety (H&S) Resident Directors are responsible for the finance of the block, arranging and/or approving insurance, planning major works, recovering service charges and so on. Directors have serious responsibilities. Full stop!
Residential Block Income
Residential block income pays for the day to day services through the Service Charge account and pays for larger, planned works (or the unforeseen) through the Reserve Fund, where there is one. Block income is spent by the key decision makers; the freeholder and the Resident Directors. But the decision makers have significant responsibilities, to the legislation, as well as having a duty to meet the desires of the leaseholders - and therein lies the conflict.
The solution is found in good communication. Leaseholders will understand the need for H&S compliance and spend – once it has been properly explained.
Open And Honest Dialogue
Open and honest dialogue is the best way through the politics of ‘want versus need’. Out of the four interested parties the responsibility for positive dialogue – and good communal relations – lies, to the largest extent, with the managing agent. An effective managing agent:
- is easily accessible,
- makes regular, promoted site visits, and
- organises regular face to face meetings between all parties.