The building owner should maintain their property because insurance will never cover damage that arises from a lack of maintenance or that can be attributed to natural wear and tear. Insurers expect you to maintain your property and failure to do so may affect any claims you need to make in the future.

An insurance policy is a contract based on your declaration of the risk you ask insurers to cover. It is up to you to ensure you have told the insurers anything they need to know to assess the risk and decide on a fair premium. It also remains up to you to ensure the cover fulfils any requirements laid down in your lease, and to ensure you go on to meet any conditions laid down by the insurer – which often include maintaining the building in good condition.

Your building insurance is designed to cover you for sudden and unexpected events and associated costs. It is not a maintenance contract.  Insurers cannot pay for general repairs, or damage that arises from lack of maintenance. For instance, a roof that is in disrepair could let through stormwater that would have simply run off a sound structure, and loss adjusters might have to reduce or decline a claim for storm damage.

It is up to the freeholder or designated building managers to keep the building in good condition. Doing so may be stated as a condition of the lease, as well as being stipulated as your responsibility in the insurance contract.

Even if there is no specific clause requiring the insured to maintain the insured property in good condition, the duty to do so arises from the general principle of good faith that guides all commercial insurance contracts.

Maintenance work can almost invariably be recharged to leaseholders via service charges, so there is no incentive for freeholders to ignore it. Do bear in mind, though,  that there may be a requirement to give leaseholders a say about significant works using a specific consultation process generally known as Section 20.

How do I identify maintenance requirements?

Maintenance of a block of flats can involve everything from day-to-day cleaning to the periodic maintenance of painting the communal areas, lift repairs and roof upkeep, and dealing with urgent repairs.

A good way to know what is needed to keep your building sound is to hire a professional surveyor to check it over, identify issues and report back to you with a prioritised list of jobs. You can find a surveyor on the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) website.

Even if you don’t do this, it may be that your insurer issues your policy subject to survey and undertakes their own survey at some point (this will be at their expense).  It will not be as thorough as a full structural survey, but if any serious defects are highlighted then it will probably become a condition of your policy that you undertake appropriate remedial work in good time. In some cases, if serious defects are found, it could even be that policy terms need to be renegotiated. That’s where a good broker comes in, as they will help to make sure you understand what needs to be done and keep to the timetable.

These insurers’ surveys may not take place for many months after a policy has been taken out, but you are still covered in the meantime even for any defects that are discovered. This assumes, of course, that you honestly disclosed any relevant information, such as understating the percentage area of flat roofing or not describing the construction of the building truthfully. A specialist broker team like ours can help you to get your original proposal right.

As risk assessments, these surveys will also look at your means of escape and general housekeeping and make suggestions to keep fire risks as low as is reasonably possible.

Any action points highlighted in the report will be divided into requirements for urgent attention or repairs within a specific timeframe, with recommendations based on established best practices.

Routine planned maintenance

Even if the surveyors give you a clean bill of health, you need to keep on top of wear and tear and your legally-required inspections.

Your managing agent will have a list to work from or there are templates to be found online if you are a self-managed block.

Fundamentally what you need is a rolling list of recurring jobs and dates, bearing in mind that some checks, such as for the fire detection and alarm system will involve entry into individual flats. It may include:

  • Electrical installation checks
  • Fire safety and Health and Safety risk assessments
  • Legionella risk assessments
  • Gutter and drain clearing
  • Banister and railings checks
  • Pavements, slabbing, and communal area flooring checks
  • Roof inspections
  • Visual checks of pointing on brick walls and chimneys and around windows
  • Annual heating system checks (including bleeding radiators while checking for valve leaks)
  • Lift and boiler servicing
  • Checking bath and shower seals to avoid slow leaks.

Some of these items may strictly speaking be beyond your remit, because they are behind individual leaseholders’ doors. All the same, it may be worth reminding leaseholders about the need to get these checks done, and perhaps arranging a special block deal with a local contractor. When small leaks end up causing big damage – and big claims – the whole block’s insurance premiums could be affected – everyone needs to play their part.

Having a structured plan also helps you to arrange your service charge budget and to spot any cash flow shortfalls or, even better, surpluses that can be used for building upgrades such as new carpets or lighting in shared spaces. It also lets you see at a glance how you stand with the routine jobs and what you can and cannot postpone if you are suddenly faced with funding unexpected, urgent jobs.

Ideally, everyone living in the block or owning a flat will be involved in the maintenance process and perhaps doing their bit by taking one or two tasks on. Of course, arranging block meetings when everyone is around is notoriously hard to arrange, but with an annual plan in place, you can pick dates early and get them in people’s diaries. Even if the M&As of the residents’ management company only call for a small quorum, it’s always better to get as many people on board with your thinking as possible to avoid queries and confusion over service charges later.

A well-maintained building means better homes and happy residents – what’s not to like?


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 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.