James Cooke: Why Health And Safety Trumps A Striped Lawn!
James Cooke MA, is Director of Your Home Property Management and for this article he looks at the inherent conflict that arises over the need for health and safety versus the desire for aesthetics like landscaped gardens.
The art of Property Management is all about balance and the best property managers are skilled in negotiating resolutions between these competing needs, often against limited resources.
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. They want great internal and external decorations, great cleaning, and gardening. They want their block to look fabulous because they know it adds value and they feel great to have friends and family visit. For leaseholders health and safety law 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 accommodation is strong, detailed, and widespread. The duty on landlords and Resident Directors to evidence compliance is a serious burden, compounded by the sheer volume of legislation such as (to name a few):
Health and Safety at Work Act 1974
Landlord and Tenant Act 1985
Landlord and Tenant Act 1987
Disability Discrimination Act 1995
Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995
Fire Precaution (Workplace) Regulations 1997
Gas Safety (Installation & Use) Regulations 1998
Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994
Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999
Employment Act 2002
Control of Asbestos Regulations 2002
Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act 2002
Service Charges (Consultation Requirements) (England) Regulations 2003
Money Laundering Regulations 2007
A legislative minefield, all of which is designed to look after leaseholders…and with which landlords and Resident Directors must comply. In order to do so, many 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 lively conflict.
The Role And Responsibilities Of The Managing Agent
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 who 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 so 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.
For further information on the services offered by Your Home Property Management please contact James on:
T: 020 8257 7663
M: 07715 328 711