Is communal clutter giving you a headache?

Flat owners leaving their belongings in communal areas is a problem that just won't go away.

Potentially the biggest impact is how it would affect your fire risk assessment and escape plan for the building. Your local fire officer would be horrified to find bikes and buggies in the common parts so expect a lecture about how difficult  firemen would find it to make their way down the corridor, when they are tripping over bikes and other bulky items.

How to deal with 'communal clutter' is a question that is frequently raised by Flat Living readers and it was one of the subjects dealt with in our last issue on pages 32 and 51. Disposing of bulky items such as bikes, buggies and even mattresses is a costly and time-consuming job that managing agents have to tackle only too frequently.

Those living in unsupervised buildings are the worst culprits

Tori Lax from Rendall & Rittner Regional Ltd says those living in unsupervised buildings are the worst culprits – assuming they won't be caught dumping their unwanted belongings in or around their block. CCTV cameras can help keep the problem at bay but a better, cheaper solution is to find ways to reuse unwanted items. One of the biggest headaches for residents and their managing agents is abandoned bikes. According to Tori, overseas students are often guilty of finishing their course and going back home, leaving their bikes behind – frequently outside their old flat.

Site maintenance experts, WR Limited, have just received a request from two leading property management companies to help them with the problem of abandoned bikes at some of the blocks they manage. WR offers a service whereby they store bikes for 28 days to give the owner a chance to make a claim. After that the bikes are usually taken to the council tip. However, as a result of rising commercial waste charges and the drive towards  recycling, WR director Linda Watson-Murfitt is in the process of finding a more sustainable solution. “I am looking at setting up a link with a local social enterprise company that provides bike repair training courses for school  children,” she says.” If we can establish a link with a company that can recycle these items it makes good sense. Recycling is great for the environment and it will reduce our costs, helping us keep our charges to clients low”.

Rendall & Rittner Regional Ltd has developed a simple four-step strategy to tackle the bike problem, which works like this:

  • Step 1 - Letter sent to residents that disposal of items is to occur at a certain date, say 6 weeks hence and clearly explaining the steps that will be taken.
  • Step 2 - Tagging of suspected abandoned bikes with Tyvek labels - this can be done by the concierge if is there is one, by the property manager or by a resident willing to get involved.
  • Step 3 - Final notice of disposal tagged on abandoned bikes for two weeks
  • Step 4 - Removal of bikes after eight weeks from the start of the process. This ensures that residents have had plenty of time to reclaim their property before it is disposed of. Bikes are then sent to charity after photos have been taken and a record filed at Rendall & Rittner.

“We tend to carry out this exercise every six months and have found it to be very successful,” says Tori. The company has donated bikes and other unwanted items to a range of charities in the past including Sense and the British Heart Foundation.

If your block would benefit from putting a similar system in place, you can download a model policy and sample labels by going to:

www.aber.ac.uk/~reswww/en/houseservices/Abandoned%20bicycle%20guidelines%20E.pdf

For a list of charities that have specific cycle projects, click here

“We also display these charities' flyers on site so residents can contact them directly to arrange collections of their re-usable items,”

Tori explains.

If your problem is storage rather than abandoned bikes, why not consider clubbing together to buy a bike shed for your block. This doesn't have to be an expensive project and could save a lot of arguments between neighbours over bikes blocking corridors and other communal areas as well as reducing the risk in relation to fire. 

See this article in Flat Living Magazine - Issue 18