We understand that the management of blocks of flats can be complex to navigate and we have collated some Frequently Asked Questions which we hope will help to provide answers to some questions you may have.
What is Leasehold?
Leasehold is the system in place for the long-term exclusive right to live in and maintain a property for a fixed amount of time (usually 99 or 125 years) also known as the “Term”. The overall ownership remains with the Freeholder sometimes referred to as the Landlord, in leases. As a long Leaseholder you have bought the exclusive right to live in and maintain your property for a fixed number of years. The structure and common parts of the building containing flats remains under the Freeholder/Landlord’s ownership. Please note we do not manage leasehold houses.
What is a Lease?
The lease is a legally binding contract between a Leaseholders and a Freeholder containing covenants that dictate what the Leaseholder can, can’t, and must do during their term as Leaseholder. It also dictates what the Freeholder/ Landlord can, can’t and must do. For the managing agent, the lease sets out what we need to do and/or arrange on behalf of our client and what our client needs to do for you, the leaseholder.
What is a Leaseholder, and what are they Responsible for?
A Leaseholder is literally the holder of the lease. As a Leaseholder you are responsible for obligations laid out in your lease including paying service charge (see financial questions) and maintaining everything within your flat. This usually includes pipe-works that serve solely that flat, windows and the flat’s front door. For more details please read your lease – if you do not have a copy of your lease, you can obtain one from the land registry website.
The Leaseholder’s responsibilities are laid out more specifically in the lease.
What is a Freeholder, and what are they Responsible for?
The freeholder is the person or company that owns the land the property is situated on and the external and communal parts of the property. This will normally include the gardens and the communal internal areas. It is these areas where the freeholder is obligated (by the terms of the lease) to maintain on your behalf. In return you as the leasholder are obligated to pay for these works through the service charge, again which is a covenant of the lease.
What is a Managing Agent, and what are they Responsible for?
A managing agent is a person or company hired by the freeholder to act on their behalf and to carry out their obligations under the terms of the lease. The freeholder is therefore our client and we ultimately take instructions from them on how the property is managed. We will usually be responsible for producing a budget, collecting service charges and ground rent, organizing gardening, cleaning, window cleaning, arranging repairs and major works such as replacement roofs etc.
Why do I need permission to alter my flat?
You will need written permission from your Freeholder (a licence to alter) as they are required to ensure that the proposed works do not affect the structure of the building or the rights of other Leaseholders. You must always seek consent when the lease requires you to do so.
Tenants & Neighbour Disputes
What do I do if the flat above mine is causing a leak?
Many people are confused about the role of a managing agent. One of the things were are most contacted about is leaks between flats. As we only manage the communal areas of the flats, a flat to flat leak is outside of our remit. Therefore we can only pass this on to blocks insurers who normally have a specialized department to deal with this.
We are often contacted by tenants of flats with regards maintenance issues or complaints. However we can only take instructions from the flat owner (leaseholder).
Why do my tenants complaints about the block need to come through me or my lettings agent?
We have no contract with Tenants and therefore cannot take instruction from them, we will take a report but cannot action a request unless it comes from the Leaseholder or an authorised representative (partner or letting agents) as the service charge is paid by the Leaseholder.
As we do not hold Tenant details (unless the are provided by the Leaseholder) we cannot confirm they have any relationship with the block at all.
Can you arrange for repairs inside my flat?
The freeholder and managing agents’ responsibilities stop at the front door to your flat. We only manage the communal areas of the building
Section 20/Major Works
What are 'Section 20 Works'?
When major works are required to your property you will hear the terms section 20 works. This is a reference to the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 which dictates that leaseholders must be consulted before any works which will cost any one leaseholder £250.
What is the 'Section 20' process, and how long does it last?
There are 3 stages to the section 20 process:
Stage 1 – Notice of Intention
This is a notice that lets Leaseholders know that works are needed and allows Leaseholders 30 days to make observations about the works proposed and also invites them to nominate a contractor they would like to quote on the proposed works.
After the 30 days, there will be a gap in which the works proposed will “go out to tender” meaning we will obtain quotes from nominated contractors who are given a deadline to quote – usually 4 weeks.
Stage 2 – Notice of Estimates
Once we have the quotes back in from contractors, we will send out the 2nd notice to all Leaseholders which is a notice with quotations obtained. Leaseholders are again invited to make observations on these quotations within 30 days of the notice.
Once observations have been received, the Freeholder or managing agent acting on behalf of the Freeholder, will choose which contractor to instruct on the works based on the quotations and observations made by Leaseholders. If the chosen contractor is not the cheapest or is not one that was nominated, then the stage 3 notice will be served.
Stage 3 – Notice of Reasons
This is a notice which shows acknowledgement of the observations made and explains why the Freeholder/managing agent has chosen a contractor who was not nominated and not the cheapest. If the Freeholder does choose the cheapest contractor or a contractor that was nominated, they do not need to action stage 3, but it is best practice to let Leaseholders know which contractor was chosen.
Holding Service Charge funds
For your peace of mind, a secure, dedicated client account has been opened for your property, and will be used to hold service charge payments on your behalf. This account is held in trust.
Any interest earned on these monies is credited to the service charge account. The account is held at the following branch of NatWest: Boscombe Central, Southampton Customer Service Cent, Brunswick Gate, 23 Brunswick Place, SO15 2AQ. There are no bank charges for keeping this account.
What are Service Charges?
The service charge are the funds required under the terms of the lease for the maintenance and management and sometimes insurance in order we can manage the block.
The amount of service charge payable will depend on the terms in the lease and your apportionment and is based on the budget calculated for the property.
What is Ground Rent?
Ground rent is in effect what the leaseholder pays to the freeholder to rent the ground the property is built on. Ground rents run throughout the term of the lease and can be anything from zero (peppercorn) to £300 per annum.
What is a Reserve Fund?
The reserve fund is usually detailed in the lease and is essentially a savings account used to build reserves of cash for future repairs and improvements.
Building and contents Insurance
The freeholder insures the building and the premium is either split equally between the flats or as apportioned in the lease.
The freeholder however does not insure the contents of your flat and you must make your own arrangements in the regard.
How do I make a claim?
In the first instance please check the policy wording which is available on your online portal. If you are not registered on the portal please email our office. Details of the claims procedure is usually noted on each the policy.
Health & Safety
What are Health and Safety and Fire Risk Assessments?
A Fire Risk and Health and Safety Assessment is a report carried out by a qualified risk assessor that identifies any fire risks and/or safety hazards that could cause injury or death.
Things like exposed wires, lack of nosing on the staircases, breaks in compartmentalisation, and much more will be raised so that the Freeholder or their agent can action any items that could prove potentially dangerous to residents. Essentially these reports flag anything that could start, aid or fuel the spread of fire and anything that could block an escape route.
These assessments are important as the Freeholder is required to comply with relevant fire regulations and legislation to ensure the safety of all residents and/ or visiting persons in relation to the building.
Keeping you safe is a top priority.
Why are my belongings being removed from the communal areas?
We do not allow any items to be stored in the communal areas as these may become an obstruction should the property have to be evacuated.
Why do fire doors have closers on them and have to be shut?
The closed fire door is in place in case of fire and restricts a fire to stop it spreading. Removal of the door closer or the propping open of a fire door is prohibited.
Why don't we have Fire Extinguishers fitted?
Over the last few years the advice from the fire service is to remove fire extinguishers from all communal areas. The reason for this is that the fire service do not want untrained people attempting to extinguish fires when they would rather they vacate the building and call 999.
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