If you want to avoid unnecessary extra work and stress by pre-empting problems, then you may like to take heed of an old saying which goes: “Make sure you’ve got all your ducks in a row”.
An Internet search tells us that this phrase refers to being well prepared or well organized for something that could happen. In short, be prepared!
For property management agents and residents management companies, this also means quick and easy access to all the information you are likely to need in the event of an emergency – and encouraging every leaseholder in the building to keep copies too.
It’s common sense really, but it’s always worth reviewing your preparedness. Here are a few tips to get you started from the Claims Team at Deacon:
Residents of the building
- Have you got an Emergency Contact List: names, phone numbers and email addresses? And the contact details of your managing agent if you use a property management service? Are you sure it’s up to date so you can contact people quickly?
- Make sure they also know your details as the RMC director or managing agent, and how to contact you.
- When did you last talk to each of your fellow leaseholders? Over the years, a distance can build up between residents and RMC directors or managing agents. You could become faceless people who only ever send them bills! It is always helps to put a face to a name.
- Another benefit of having a chat is that you get to know them and they get to know you. You can build up a picture of, say, who is likely to be away for extended periods, or who might not really understand the way the building is run, or they may be confused about who you are and what your role involves. Sometimes, leaseholders don’t realise how much work goes into block management, or that RMC directors are volunteers.
- Check that they have read and understood their lease. Maybe remind them of the key covenants that ensure the building remains in good condition and is a pleasant place to live.
- Remind them, too, that they have a duty of care. Escape of water, for instance, is still one of the most common causes of insurance claims, and repeated incidents can result in premiums going up for everyone else in the building. It’s in everyone’s interest to maintain their own pipes and appliance hoses and know the basics like the location of their stopcock. We’ve some more guidance here.
- If they are going away for more than 30 days they need to know that they must tell you, so you can inform the insurer (some policies specify longer periods). Encourage them to give you, or neighbour, spare keys for access in the event of an emergency and a number they can contact to let you know.
- Not least, remind them that you are there to help!
- Have you got the insurance company’s contact details to hand? Other than any requirement for the emergency services, this will probably be the first call you make after an incident. Deacon claims team and 24/7 out-of-hours emergency helpline will be able to provide you with useful guidance on how to manage the immediate aftermath. To help at a time when you are dealing with anxious leaseholders who may not even be able to get back into their flat.
- If you’ve got all the information about a block together, be sure to share it with other people who may need to know and use it! It’s not much use locked up in a computer.
The long view
There’s another wonderful saying about how “when you’re up to your neck in alligators, it’s easy to forget that the initial objective was to drain the swamp.”
- Are all your Companies House returns up to date? It’s an admin job that you may be tempted to put off, but being struck off for forgetting may be a nuisance. Getting re-registered can be a real chore.
- Are you content that there are no elephants in the room such as a 10-year external decoration required by the lease that you haven’t budgeted for?
- When did you last revalue the building? Undervaluation can creep on you over the years and could affect any insurance pay out proportionally.
- Are all your RMC directors happy to continue their voluntary roles? Do you need to start succession planning? Have a chat, see what their plans are. They may be moving or just too busy at work, or they may be concerned about the liability they are taking on, and could be reassured with Directors & Officers cover.
The sole purpose of this article is to provide guidance on the issues covered. This article is not intended to give legal advice, and, accordingly, it should not be relied upon. It should not be regarded as a comprehensive statement of the law and/or market practice in this area. We make no claims as to the completeness or accuracy of the information contained herein or in the links which were live at the date of publication. You should not act upon (or should refrain from acting upon) information in this publication without first seeking specific legal and/or specialist advice. Arthur J. Gallagher Insurance Brokers Limited trading as Deacon accepts no liability for any inaccuracy, omission or mistake in this publication, nor will we be responsible for any loss which may be suffered as a result of any person relying on the information contained herein.