Managing the Common Areas
Freeholders own what are usually referred to as the common areas of blocks of flats, so it is they who are responsible for their health and safety, maintenance and repairs. These common areas cover the structure, the roof, the land the building stands on, foundations, load bearing walls, gardens, landings, paths, gates, fences, drives, stairways, and any other outbuildings. Inside it covers things such as plant rooms, lift motor rooms, and meter cupboards and any other areas not owned by individual leaseholders. They don’t however pay for anything because the leaseholders do, through the payment of service charges.
As the common parts of residential developments are deemed to be a ‘place of work’ by the Health and Safety Executive and the Courts, it is the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 that requires all employers to assess and manage health and safety risks although there has been a considerable amount of legislation that has been introduced since then.
Risk management involves identifying and controlling, by sensible health and safety measures, any potentially significant risk of accident or ill health to you, staff under your supervision, contractors, leaseholders, members of the public and visitors.
Note: There is a difference between the obligations of just repair and repair/keep in working order with the latter being a higher obligation requiring those areas to be capable of functioning for the purpose of which they are intended.
There are always going to be building issues which won’t necessarily be confined to a building aging, as new-builds can also experience defects. Issues such as damp, of which there are two types, penetrating damp (which can be found at any level) and rising damp which is often found on the ground floor of blocks of flats but rarely seen in flats above the ground. Defective/degraded brickwork, flashings, downpipes, gutters and damp proof courses can all cause problems if not repaired, maintained or replaced and can impact of flat interiors, whether owner-occupied or rented.
So, the following broad guidelines on how to manage the building and when, have been sourced from the Federation of Private Residents’ Associations (FPRA). Not all will apply, (depending on the type of the building) and it is the terms of the lease that should be the definitive guide.
Asbestos Review Report
Buildings Insurance (a condition of purchasing a flat)
Water Risk Assessment
Every 6 Months
Jet Wash Paths
Every 3 Years
Health & Safety – Major Review
Buildings Insurance – Alternative Quotations
Every 5 Years
Communal Electrics – Full Inspection
Every 7 Years