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KevinMarshall talks us through the key aspects of blockmaintenance

appearanceS *

Keeping up

They say There are only two things that are certain in life - death and taxes. Iaminclined to suggest that the phrasemust pre-

date theexistence of blocks of flats or it would have been death, taxes andmaintenance. Isuspectveryfew readers wouldchooseto

ownacar andnever have it serviced sowhy treatyourblock of flats differently,after allit’s worth quite a bit more. There are of coursemany good reasons to keep up withmaintenance tasks, themost

obvious being: ■it isalegalduty –landlord’scovenants to

maintain and repair. ■it iscost effective –the oldadage ‘a stitch in

timesaves nine’ verymuch applies. ■itminimisesinsurancecosts–abuilding whichconstantlymakes claimsfor water damage will quicklyfind itspremiums and

policy excess raised. ■saleabilityof flats – this is no-brainer. ■Forstatutorycompliance– lift inspections

and electrical testing for example. ■Tocomplywithwarrantyrequirements –

many elements of newbuildingsand even partsofrefurbished olderpropertiesmay benefit frommanufacturerswarranties. Often, especiallyfor roofingmembranes, the warranty will be invalidatedunlessarecord of periodic inspectionsand minormaintenance

is adhered to. ■Forresidents’comfort–anavoidable leak notonlycoststhe blockmoney on insurance excessbut mightalsodamagecontents, notto

mention the inconvenience. ■Forsafetyreasons – thankfully not a common occurrence butitcan happen.Only recently in London a fatal accident occurred when a piece ofmasonry fell fromroof level. Idaresay we couldall add afew moreto

thelistbut thesealone oughttobemore than enough to convince even themost impervious-to- reason residentwhomone might encounter at the AGM. The arguments against regular

maintenanceexpenditure usuallycentre on the need to keep costs downto reflect thefinancialcircumstances of individual residents. Certainly reasonableness has to be afactorofany well draftedplanned maintenancereport, butthatshouldn’tmean nothinggetsdoneuntil theroofcaves in. Landlords have duties to repair andmaintain:


lessees have duties to pay. Therewas atimewhenthere wasperhaps

someadvantage in suppressing service charges by cutting expenditure, often on routinemaintenanceinorder to attractbuyers with seemingly lowcharges. It seems fair to saythatthose days areprobablygone. The averagepurchaser is nowwelladvised on such mattersand indeed theabsence of arealistic budget andplannedmaintenanceregimecan nowadversely affect saleability. So that is thecaseformaintenancemade.

Butwhat does thismean in real terms? Taking a broad view,maintenance can be everything fromday-to-day cleaning rightthrough to periodically repairingand painting theexternalelevations, replacing roofs, communal heatingsystemsand such like. In idealcircumstances there should be apredetermined schedule of all themaintenancetasks required foreach particular building.

SpecialiSt ServiceS Previous articles haveemphasised thevalue of having a surveyor prepare a detailed Planned MaintenanceReportand this will be an essentialstartingpoint,but it shouldn’tstop there. Oftenthere arevarious specialist building

services within ablock,suchaslifts and heatingplant.The surveyor preparingthe report will be confident of predicting the likely timing and cost ofmajor capital replacement of theseservices forthe purposes of longterm projections but this won’t cover the routine maintenance requirements. If it hasn’t been necessary to have a

specialist building services consultant involved in thepreparation of thePlanned MaintenanceReport, it mightbeworthwhile instructingacompetent firmtoreview anyplant andequipment.Thisreportwill commentonthe standard ofmaintenance

maintenanceregimecan adverselyaffectsaleability

...theabsenceofarealistic budgetandplanned

Youwouldn’t choose to

ownacar and neverhaveit serviced so

whytreat your blockofflats differently, after allit’s

worthquite a bit more

beingcarried outand will include aschedule of thevarious requirements andtimings in order to implement themaintenance plan. Inmany cases blocks will have in place

contractswithretained services engineersand lift contractorsetc andsuchcontracts should contain ascheduleofdutieswhich take care of themaintenanceatthe rightperiods.Where this is thecase, it is worthcheckingthe schedule is comprehensiveineachcaseand maintenance is being done to standard. Such specialist contractorsare themselves

avaluablesourceofinformation.Where they have beeninvolvedwithabuilding for anumberofyears they canusuallyprovide insight into thevagariesand bespokeneeds of aparticularsystemtokeepeverything runningsmoothly.Talktothem-but take advice or getasecond opinion if your enquiry promptsasuggestionofsuddenadditional tasks and associated costs.

HealtHandSafety file Look at anyavailabledocumentation relating to thebuildingwhichmight be available. In thecaseofblocksbuiltin the last 15 years there ought to be a health andsafetyfile containingmaintenance requirements (asaresultofthe provisions of theCDMRegulations).Ensurethe surveyor has sight of thiswhen preparing the report.Those responsible forthe daytoday management should ideallyworkthrough it as well to familiarisethemselveswithany requirements.Aword of cautionisneeded here. If the building is of a particularly large

Spring2012 Flat Living

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