Legislation stipulates that there is certain documentation that must be in place to ensure that a Block and/or Estate meets current health and safety regulations. The duty to comply with this legislation falls to the Landlord or the person(s) responsible for the property this could be a Right to Manage Company, Residents Association or the Managing Agents.
There are a number of documents that must be in place to ensure the building is compliant with regulations. Many of the required documents have action points and time scales of which these must be complied with, it is essential these action points are carried out. Furthermore, these documents often have expiry dates so you must ensure that new ones are in place following the expiration of the existing ones.
Risk Assessment of Communal Areas
The Management of Health and Safety at work regulations 1999 requires all blocks of flats must have a health and safety risk assessment of the communal areas. Whilst the communal areas of a block of flats are not a workplace for the residents, the property is regularly visited by tradesmen, gardeners cleaners and managing agents for whom it is a place of work hence the requirement to have the assessment in place.
The communal areas of a block are not simply the internal parts of the building but also the roof, structure and other external areas of the building so the risk assessment must cover all of these areas as well as any plant rooms and meter cupboards etc. Risk Assessments will come with action points and a review date, any recommendations must be undertaken in order to be compliant with the regulations.
As well as a health and safety risk assessment there is also a requirement to have a fire one in place, again this applies to the communal areas, not the individual flats. Fire Officers have the right to enter any block of flats to inspect the building, they may ask to see a copy of the risk assessment to ensure that the property meets fire safety requirements.
Legionella is a bacterium commonly found in water systems, which can cause Legionnaires’ disease. Once again there is a duty to control the risks of legionella in any pipes, tanks and taps in communal areas (including a cleaner’s cupboard). Coldwater tanks, taps and showers within individual flats are the responsibility of the leaseholders unless the lease puts responsibility for repairing them on the landlord. A risk assessment must be carried out along with regular inspections and testing of the water.
Landlords and agents have a duty to be aware of any material that contains asbestos in the communal areas of a block of flats. Remember that this includes the roof and main structure of the building as well. To identify asbestos, it may be necessary to carry out a survey. If it is found, it’s a good idea to maintain a register and to have a policy for the management and control of the material. There’s no duty to remove asbestos. In many cases, it’s far more dangerous to do so than to leave it. But it’s important to inform any contractors working in the block if asbestos is present.
These are just some of the legal requirements relating to health and safety within blocks of flats there are many, full details can be found on ARMA’s website.
Neil Newstead, FARLA MNAEA
CEO – Oakfield Estate Agents