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Help and advice The ARMA Surgery

Bruce Maunder Taylor, a chartered surveyor and member of ARMA’s Council, provides answers to readers’ questions. If you have a query, email it to (All names and addresses are withheld).

Any works carried out requiring Building Regulation consent are subject to a one-year time limit during which enforcement action can be taken (subject to some exceptions). The change of a flat door in this manner is not something which will be disclosable on an insurance proposal form and insurers are far more interested in the claims history and certain fundamentals about the building (e.g., age, timber or concrete floors, etc.). There is one other matter of concern: the landlord has an obligation to have a fire risk assessment and carry out such action as is reasonable to ensure fire safety. I have seen cases in which the fire risk assessment has been used as a reason to require lessees to change their flat doors to a fire-risk-compliant door. However, such action risks creating World War III and the general advice is to be quite sure that, if you start pursuing some enforcement action, you have the money and the will to see it through to the bitter end. There are an awful lot of people who would never have started an action if they had realised the money, time and emotional cost of getting involved with lawyers, legal enforcement actions, etc. If enforcement action is required, it is probably most appropriate to report the matter to the Enforcement Officer either of the Local Authority or Local Fire Brigade who may take action themselves, or may provide you with a letter or formal Notice which will enable you to enforce a change through the terms of the lease.

Question: I am chairperson of the management of a block of flats.

Could you please tell me whether the Residents’ Management Company has the right to a copy of the tenancy agreement on a rented flat in our block? And should we know the name of the people living in the rented flat for fire reasons?

Answer: Some leases provide that a licence or landlord’s consent is required before a flat can be sub-let.

If so, the

Question: Our block was built in 1962, originally with fire doors on entry to each flat. Over the last few years some have had their doors changed to uPVC. Can you advise whether these replacement doors will comply with current Building Regulations and will our building insurance remain valid?

Answer: The first question is whether the door is part of the flat which is demised to the lessee, or whether it is part of the common parts or retained property belonging to the lessor. Most leases provide that the door is part of the flat, belongs to the lessee, and the responsibility for maintaining it is within the repairing obligation of the lessee. Most leases provide that they are obliged to repair, including replace, when appropriate. If you say that the replacement has been carried out in such a way that it is an alteration, then most leases provide that they cannot carry out an alteration without the landlord’s consent, with that consent not to be unreasonably withheld. However, that is of little help to you now because you are aware of this alteration having been carried out, you have no doubt continued to demand and collect service charges as rent, and will therefore have waived any claimed breach of the lease. In ordinary language: it’s done and dusted.

landlord can incorporate reasonable terms for giving such licence or consent and it is generally accepted as reasonable to require a copy of the tenancy agreement and the name/ contact details of the occupier. However, most flat leases do not have such a clause and have no control over these matters. Many wish they did! As a matter of general advice, co-operative management is always the best management. Management by enforcement of so called rights can be deeply painful at times – to everyone. Most flat occupiers recognise that there are likely to be times in the future when they will need the help of other people. Whether or not their landlord is willing to share names and contact details, the occupiers are often willing to do so if given the perception that this is driven by a wish for neighbourly co-operation and not by a nosy parker attitude. Even their landlord is more likely to respond favourably if he believes that shared information means that you will let him know, on a co-operative basis, if something starts going on in the flat, or with its occupation, which might be important to him. The old sayings are still the best ones: it’s easier to make enemies, it is best to make friends.

Continued page 12 11


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