If you’re living in a flat as the leaseholder, one thing which can often seem unclear is where responsibilities lie in your building, and who should be taking care of what.
Here, we try and clarify some of the key areas, so read on if this situation applies to you. Ultimately, each building will have slightly different arrangements, but the general pattern should remain broadly similar.
Defining our terms
Just to be clear, in block management, the owner of a whole building is known as the site’s landlord (or freeholder), while those who own individual flats are called leaseholders, and may sometimes sub-let their property to tenants.
So, while in renting generally the term landlord usually refers generically to a building’s owner, here by landlord we mean the owner of the entire block, responsible for its structure and so on. Meanwhile, the leaseholder is the owner of an individual flat.
Often, a landlord will use a managing agent to take care of day-to-day running of a building on their behalf.
Landlords are usually responsible for taking care of a property’s physical external structure. That should include:
- Repairs and maintenance
- Care of any communal machinery such as lifts or boilers
- Outdoor facilities like common gardens, car parks, play areas etc.
Typically, these expenses are recovered in the form of the monthly service charge which leaseholders are obliged to pay.
Inside a home
It will usually be down to you as leaseholder(s) to keep the inside of your property clean and in good order generally. Your list of responsibilities is likely to cover:
- Internal walls
- Wall and ceiling plaster where these separate your property from neighbours’
- Hot water boiler
- External areas such as balconies, which only you use
Equally, in most cases you’ll need to take care of the service pipes bringing gas, electric and similar utilities to your home, from the point where the supply leaves the joint one to reach the property you own.
If your building has a TV aerial serving multiple units, the cost of its upkeep is reflected in your service charge. However, you will be liable for the cables serving your flat. It may be that you have to contact the supplier of the system if any repairs are needed, to ensure an uninterrupted service for everyone in the building using the aerial.
Windows and front doors
Responsibilities can vary significantly when it comes to non-communal windows and entrance doors.
If the liability is yours as leaseholder, you’ll typically need to get the landlord to approve anything that isn’t a straightforward repair. For a start, you’ll have to meet proper fire safety standards, but, in any event, the landlord may place their own limits on what you can do.
Unfortunately, if the responsibility is the landlord’s, you’ll nonetheless be contributing to the cost of work via your service charge.
It’s worth discussing this with your landlord before you take on a property’s lease. You must insure your own belongings, of course, and your policy may need to cover items such as flooring, kitchen units and the like. You will probably also want to insure yourself against leaks from any flats above yours.
Under the terms of your lease, it will be up to the landlord to insure the structure and communal machinery and plant, including things like lifts, and covering a number of standard things. Equally, if staff such as gardeners or cleaners work on-site, employers’ and public liability insurance is required.
These days, even risks which may seem remote, such as terrorism, are regularly included. And your landlord may be able to recover these costs under the terms of your lease, via the service charge.
If you want to see a written summary of insurance cover, you’re entitled to receive this within 21 days of any request.
The main thing, clearly, is to ask if you’re unsure about anything, and seek clarification before you sign a lease. Any reasonable landlord will always gladly supply answers promptly.
How we can help
At Oakfield, our offices across Hastings, Bexhill and Eastbourne have been brisk serving leaseholders all year, and we fully expect that to continue.
Samantha Hensher commented: “We always like to be very clear about where responsibilities lie when it comes to apartment blocks. But we’d urge anyone taking on a lease for a new place to go through all documents carefully before they sign on the dotted line. In all the excitement of having a new home, things like insurance or who pays for a leak may seem dull or unimportant, but they really do matter. Don’t wait until something happens before clarifying.
“We work hard to keep things clear and straightforward for everyone, and will always happily answer any questions people have.”
Browse our available properties online, or email the relevant team in the area you’re hoping to move to in the first instance. We’re only a few clicks or a phone call away.