News

2nd November 2020
Companies House launches awareness campaign aimed at flat management company directors
 Companies House launches awareness campaign aimed at flat management company directors

New tool will help directors understand their responsibilities better

A campaign aimed at building a better understanding of the responsibilities that come with being the director of a flat management company is being launched by Companies House.

Every year, Companies House receives complaints from residents living in shared buildings or properties such as flats, a significant number of which it has no powers to deal with. These can range from disputes between residents to the poor condition of carpets or paintwork in shared areas such as stairways.

Such properties are commonly run by companies set up by residents – who take on the roles of directors and/or shareholders – to manage communal areas and the overall condition of the building.

Each company is required by law to file accounts with Companies House every year, which can lead to confusion among some directors and shareholders as to where the responsibility for some issues lie. When registering, all companies must agree a set of written rules, or articles of association, about the running of the company.

The campaign includes the unveiling of a free online flat management tool which guides directors through exactly what they need to know. It’s completely free, works on any device and can be completed in just 25 minutes.

Companies House Director of Operations John-Mark Frost said:

“We receive a significant number of complaints each year regarding these companies. Often we find that residents are confused about their responsibilities and what Companies House can or can’t help with.

“All company directors must be aware of their legal responsibilities both to Companies House and to their shareholders or members. This includes keeping information up to date and filing the necessary documents in a timely fashion.

“Although the tool does not replace independent legal or professional advice, we hope it will be of immense help for people who are looking for help or guidance.”

The online flat management tool covers five key parts, namely (i) Companies House and your flat management company (ii) becoming a director (iii) keeping records (iv) filing accounts and types of accounts, and (v) a quiz to test your knowledge.

Start our interactive learning tool about flat management companies

You can find more information in our Flat management and right to manage (RTM) companies guidance. Property management law is different in Scotland. Read the Scottish government’s guidance on property factors.

The tool has received support from the Federation of Private Residents Associations (FPRA), a not-for-profit lease advice, support and lobbying organisation for private residential leaseholders, tenants’ and residents’ associations, residential management companies and flat management companies.

Bob Smytherman, chair of the FPRA, said:

“We very much welcome the introduction of this new online tool from Companies House.

“We represent residential management and right-to-manage company members right across England and Wales and we know all too well some of the difficulties that they can experience.

“Becoming a director of a company is a significant step and the position comes with a number of responsibilities. This additional support to help directors understand these responsibilities will, I’m sure, prove to be incredibly valuable.”

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29th October 2020
Manage Your Block partner with the FPRA to help self-managed directors across the UK

There has never been a more tumultuous time to manage a block of flats. Between the new leasehold reforms introduced this summer to the cladding regulations affecting thousands across the nation, self-managed directors have a massive amount to keep up with. On top of this, the never-ending changes to COVID restrictions mean that managing a block of flats is becoming more complex by the day.


Manage Your Block has recognised how difficult things are and decided to help. They have partnered with the Federation of Private Residents Association (FPRA) to help make things easier for directors across the UK. With a multi-purpose 2020 update, Manage Your Block will help directors with a massive range of functions:

  •  Store and manage your important documents: You’ll have a secure online place for all your records, such as insurance documentation, policy wordings, health and safety reports, copy leases, financial records, fire evacuation procedures, along with other day-to-day procedural documents.
  • Co-manage your portal: Share instant access to your block’s portal with your team of directors. This is especially handy for director handovers and keeping everybody in the loop!
  • Contacts: Keep an up-to-date contact list for all the owners and residents in your block.
  • Alerts: You can send alerts in case of a problem, for example, a power shortage, a broken lift or even crime-related incidents in the local area.
  • Contractors: Keep a list of your contractors’ details, so you’re prepared in case your block needs emergency maintenance work or repairs.
  • Diary and calendar: Set reminders for you block so that you’re always on top of your schedule, including any upcoming health and safety risk assessments, gate inspections and much more.
  • Quotes: Request quotes from you preferred contractors or use one of our recommended contractors if you’d prefer. You can also issue work orders to accept quotes and keep a record of all relevant information.

Even better? Manage Your Block is now being offered completely free of charge to all FPRA members. That means you’ll be able to benefit from the massive range of portal functions as well as the benefits of FPRA membership – at no additional cost to you.

Manage Your Block has also partnered with Block in a Box as part of a nationwide initiative to help make life easier for self-managed directors. Block in a Box is an online toolbox which puts you in touch with a network of the UK’s gold-standard companies. From insurance, contractors and accounting services to legal assistance and much more, you’ll have everything you need at the touch of a button. Visit www.blockinabox.co.uk to find out more.

Bob Smytherman, FPRA Chairman, says: “Manage Your Block is the initiative that the property industry needs. It offers a fantastic range of services which will be welcomed by all those managing blocks of flats in the UK, especially in such turbulent times as these. We’re proud to work together with Manage Your Block to offer this portal free of charge to all FPRA members and look forward to making life easier for self-managed directors.”

For more information call Manage Your Block on 0333 577 9070.

 


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9th October 2020
EK Digital launches and drones are just the start
EK Digital launches and drones are just the start

Earl Kendrick are delighted to announce the launch of EK Digital.

We have, of course, been developing our digital capability for some time. Initially this focused on the use of drones which has transformed our access to elevated areas of buildings. It has reduced the need to erect scaffolding and has removed the need for ‘assumptions’ within project plans.

But drones are just the start.

Our clients are also benefitting from:

1. Video and Interactive surveys, giving clients a running commentary of findings and potential solutions from behind a camera, allowing a virtual ‘walk through’ of a building.

2. Digital mapping, enabling properties and their surrounds to be viewed in high levels of detail.

3. 3D visualisations, creating a real sense of space and perspective before work on a site begins.

With this growing emphasis on digital solutions to deliver a more efficient and effective service, we have teamed-up with Kingfisher APS, the property sector’s leading drone and digital survey suppliers.

This partnership has created EK Digital, enabling us to provide the very highest quality digital services available.

In every instance, this will enable us to do what every chartered surveyor should be striving for every day: to ensure the long-term welfare of buildings and the people who use them. That means creating lower costs, less hassle and more value.

The effective use of a drone survey, for example, can save a huge outlay in scaffolding and manpower before a project has even begun.

A virtual survey can be provided faster, and digested more quickly and effectively than a bulging written report.

Julian Davies, our Group Managing Director, is excited about the potential created by this new partnership. He explained: “There are occasions when the world of property can appear a little behind the times. There are so many stakeholders involved in every project and it’s not always easy to implement change. However, we have invested much time and energy in technology that allows us to provide a better service while saving costs. And that’s how we want all our clients to benefit from EK Digital.”

Adam Bailey who will head-up the new division added: “I am thrilled to be teaming up with Earl Kendrick. I have built-up Kingfisher APS and have been part of the digital revolution within the property industry. Julian and his team were among the first to understand the difference these services can make, and the opportunity to join the team is very exciting.”

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1st October 2020
Specialist Law Firm, JB Leitch, Receives Higher Status in the New Legal 500 Rankings for 2021
Specialist Law Firm, JB Leitch, Receives Higher Status in the New Legal 500 Rankings for 2021

The Legal 500, widely acknowledged as the world’s largest independent legal referral guide, has published it's rankings for 2021. Based on a broad series of criteria, including strong technical ability available for the most complex and innovative work, client recommendation and results, the rankings provide a comprehensive view of the merits of best law firms across the world.

This year, Liverpool based property solicitors JB Leitch are celebrating being elevated to Tier 3 Leading Firm status for property litigation, confirming and consolidating their high level of expertise and strong track record across this specialised area of law.

The firm is also celebrating specific recommendations for leading team members including Associates Camilla Waszek & Kirsten Blower. The published rankings also see Legal Director Phil Parkinson being awarded Rising Star status for the second consecutive year, granted to standout performers who are driving both the business and industry forward.

Director Jonathan Leitch, who founded the firm over 20 years ago, adds: “We are delighted with both the higher status we have been awarded and the accompanying recognition of the team’s dedication by our clients. Phil’s award is not only well deserved, but also indicative of our approach to clearly guiding our clients through ongoing change within the property management industry.”

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30th August 2020
Cardinus and FR Consultants Join Forces in New Alliance to Make Britain’s Buildings Safer

Leading risk management specialists Cardinus Risk Management have formed an alliance with UK’s top façade risk advisors FR Consultants to offer a complete solution to the UK’s crisis with façade combustibility, which has gained significant attention since the Grenfell Tower tragedy in June 2017.

As regulatory reform (through The Building Safety Bill and The Fire Safety Bill) strives to address issues that are present, those responsible for the management of buildings are having to undertake a process of checking the fire safety compliance of their properties and potentially commissioning remediation work.

As part of this process, Cardinus is identifying potential “at-risk” buildings and will now offer a wider EWS1 reporting service through FR Consultants who can also offer a full suite of services to achieve compliance.

Between the two technical partners, the entire process of ensuring Fire Safety can be covered:

Non-Destructive Fire Risk Assessments, Fire training, Fire Safety e-learning, Reinstatement Cost Assessments, Fire related Insurer surveys and consultancy and Building Health and safety Audits (undertaken by Cardinus Risk Management)

Destructive Fire Risk Assessments, Exterior Wall Systems survey (EWS1), Fire Engineering reports and assistance, Façade Surveys, Remedial Specification, Clerk of Works, Principle Designer, Budgeting Assistance and Lead Consultant services (offered by FR Consulting).

The combination will allow a complete service Freeholders, Landlords and Agents to get assistance to meet any fire safety compliance they may need.

“With legislation surrounding building safety evolving rapidly, Cardinus, as a BAFE GOLD assessor, and RICS accredited surveyor is delighted with this alliance with FR Consultants, who are one of only a few companies with the expertise in building façade fire safety. FR Consultants is respected and trusted in our industry, as safety is at the heart of everything we do. Rather than just seeing the process as a ‘tick-box’ exercise, between us we can offer consultancy and services tailored to each specific building, working closely with clients to help them with every step of their journey to compliance."

– Jamie Truscott AAIRSM, MD Property and Insurance, Cardinus Risk Management.

“We are pleased that, through our technical partnership with Cardinus, we can assist their large client base with our technical knowledge and at the same time widen our range of services to include Cardinus BAFE accredited Fire Risk Assessments.”

– Dorian Lawrence M.C.I.O.B C.Build E MCABE , MD, FR Consultants.

For more information on Cardinus’ fire safety expertise, or to learn more about the services FR Consultants provide, call 020 7469 0262 or email property@cardinus.com.

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29th August 2020
ForHousing Becomes First Social Landlord in the Country to Upgrade All of its High-Rise Homes to Ful
ForHousing Becomes First Social Landlord in the Country to Upgrade All of its High-Rise Homes to Ful

A partnership between ForHousing and Openreach is bringing gigabit capable broadband to 17,000 homes in Salford and Knowlsey, enabling tenants to become more digitally connected.

ForHousing, which is part of the ForViva Group owns and manages more than 24,000 homes across the North West, is having pure fibre connectivity – known as full fibre (Fibre to the Premise [FTTP]) - retro-fitted to all 17 of its high-rise blocks.

To date 12,000 homes have been fitted with full fibre with the rest being upgraded in the coming year.

At some point in the future, the copper network in the UK will be switched off, and homes will need to have full fibre to access broadband, in much the same way as analogue TV was switched off in favour of digital.

Openreach has been focussing on getting the UK ready for the full fibre upgrade, which will bring faster, more reliable connectivity along with greater choice for consumers.

Openreach is an open network so people aren’t tied to one communication provider so can shop around for the best deal for their own needs. ForHousing is also currently looking at fibre broadband products and packages which will be affordable for tenants.

Jenny Chapman, Group Director of Innovation and Excellence at ForViva, said: “Digital inclusion is key to improving wellbeing, fighting poverty, creating routes to work and enabling children to succeed in school. More than a third (37%) of those who are digitally excluded are social housing tenants.”

Having no access to the internet can lead to a ‘digital exclusion tax’ as people who can’t get online can’t get the best deals. This can equate to over £400 per year per household.

ForHousing, like much of the social housing sector, is moving towards providing housing services digitally and many Government services are now ‘digital by default’ including Universal Credit.

Jenny continued: “Providing services digitally is often more convenient and the growing expectation of many tenants who increasingly use digital channels elsewhere. They now expect their landlord to provide similar services. The cost of digital transactions is also significantly lower, which enables not for profit organisations to focus more resources where the need is greatest. We all have a lot to gain from helping people get online.”

Kim Mears OBE, Openreach’s Managing Director for Strategic Infrastructure Development, said: “By working collaboratively with ForHousing we’ve brought some of the UK’s fastest, most reliable broadband within reach of a further 12,000 homes in Salford and Knowsley, with thousands more set to follow. Due to wayleaves, and often disinterest by landlords, getting this new technology into apartments and high rise buildings can be a challenge. ForHousing understand the importance of ensuring their tenants have access to future proof broadband and have worked with us to overcome obstacles and make it happen. We want to replicate this across the UK. Work of this type is free of charge and our engineers don’t leave visible wiring, or need to access individual properties and, of course, they’re following all current Covid 19 guidance.”

Outside of the high-rise blocks, the rest of ForHousing’s homes will be fitted with fibre in the future.

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28th August 2020
New starters and Promotions Within the Fexco Property Services Group
New starters and Promotions Within the Fexco Property Services Group

Fexco Property Services is delighted to introduce our new Training Manager and announce two important promotions for key members of our Crabtree brand.

We welcome Kelly Banks as Training Manager, Kate Robinson becomes Associate Director – Operations and Hilton Grey becomes Associate Director - Property Management.

Across the Group we aim to consistently provide our clients and customers with top professionals. By creating these new roles we can use our resources more efficiently and work smarter to deliver the best level of service.

Kelly Banks MSc, MIRPM (Left)

Training Manager, Fexco Property Services

Kelly joins Fexco Property Services as Training Manager for the group. Kelly will be developing and administering a Property Management training programme to help individuals and groups develop their skills and knowledge within their role.

She has worked within Property Management for over 12 years, having fulfilled roles within the industry in Finance and has also been a Property Manager for over 7 years.

Kelly is a member of IRPM and also obtained a master’s degree in Property Management and Investment whilst working as a Property Manager.

Hilton Gray MIRPM and AssocRICS (Centre)

Associate Director – Property Management, Crabtree PM Limited

We are delighted to have Hilton return to Crabtree, he is an incredibly trusted and valuable team member.

A driven, team-focused Senior Manager with 11 years’ experience in the Property and Built Environment Sector, Hilton has a proven ability to achieve performance-based targets and to build, sustain and support successful teams.

Hilton has experience across both the private investor, development, and leasehold sectors, and has a distinctive flair for building long-lasting client and customer relationships.

In his new role as Associate Director of Property Management, Hilton will provide leadership to the property team, bringing a professional and creative approach to property management.

Kate Robinson MIRPM (Right)

Associate Director – Operations, Crabtree PM Limited

Kate has over 15 years’ experience within the Property Management market. Her primary focus has been managing large high-end residential developments, but also has experience within the mixed-use market.

Having worked within both management companies and client/development side enables Kate to have a full perspective of what is the appropriate customer service requirements and aims not only to provide this high level delivery to all clients and leaseholders but also to ensure that all team members working within Crabtree understand this requirement and manage accordingly.

In her new role as Associate Director of Operations Kate will be concentrating much more on process and procedure within Crabtree, using her considerable experience to identify better ways to operate within the business.

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27th August 2020
Glasgow Tech Firm Launches New App for Factors and Block Managers as it Celebrates 10 Years in Busin
Glasgow Tech Firm Launches New App for Factors and Block Managers as it Celebrates 10 Years in Busin

Glasgow-based CPL Software, which produces software solutions for the property factor and block management sectors, has launched an industry first with its innovative Blockworx app that allows property factors and block managers to communicate with contractors, and organise repairs and maintenance easily and quickly.

Representing a £150,000 investment for the company and 18 months in the planning, Blockworx – which went live on Monday – connects contractors to property factors electronically, saving time and money. Brian Welsh, managing director of CPL (pictured), founded the company in 2010 following a management buyout. He said: “This is the latest in a series of innovations that has seen us build innovative technologies to streamline and digitise a market that has been manually labour intensive.

“Back in 2015, we introduced a client portal and app to enable factors to communicate electronically with their clients, view invoices and make payments. Blockworx now allows factors to communicate with contractors and further digitises the sector.”

CPL’s software technology arm, designed by its team based in Southampton, manages just over 320,000 properties via a growing client base. Mr Welsh said: “Property factoring has undergone a huge transformation in digitisation and automation across the last decade with CPL Software at the forefront of this change.

“The property factoring industry is complex because businesses must carefully manage the needs of homeowners while working with contractors on a daily basis,” he added. “Our success lies in the fact that we have developed our software over the last 10 years to offer solutions which have often led to the development of other industry-leading developments.”

CPL has maintained service levels during the coronavirus pandemic. “With Blockworx launching at the same time as the pandemic hit, it has shown just how important technology is in our sector,” said Mr Welsh, who believes that technology will play an even bigger role in helping property managers and block managers work effectively in the future.

Over the last 10 years, the team has grown from three in 2010 to 15. Mr Welsh added: “We will continue to focus on enhancing efficiencies for our clients and providing more joined-up electronic communication methods throughout the factoring and block management space.

“Getting through the pandemic has been a challenge for the team and me but we have learned a lot. This is still an exciting time for us and we are looking forward to growing the business over the next 10 years and beyond.”

About CPL Software

CPL Software was established in April 2010 with offices in the west end of Glasgow and Southampton. CPL Software designs and produces software solutions for the property factoring and block management industries. There are about 650,000 units in Scotland factored by 400 companies – approximately 350,000 units are managed by private factors and 300,000 by housing associations and councils. CPL works mainly with private factoring firms and power about 90% of that market.

Sister company, INSPCT Ltd, launched in 2019 offering a flexible, bespoke reporting app for property factors, block managers construction, contractors and letting agents. The company supports the PMAS (Property Managers Association Scotland) in and is an associate member of ARMA (Association of Residential Property Managers) in England and Wales.

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4th August 2020
New IRPM white paper: how data is transforming customer service in the property sector
New IRPM white paper: how data is transforming customer service in the property sector

 Like all UK industries, property is impacted by COVID-19 and the effect of the gradual lifting of lockdown on the way it works. But despite this ‘new normal’, we cannot ignore our sector’s other key issues. For property managers, the pandemic has elevated customer service to prime position and technology is now key to the ways in which our customers’ property journey can be enabled and enhanced. 

In response, today the Institute of Residential Property Management (IRPM) publishes the fourth part of its 2020 Tech Insight programme. Consumer experience counts: how data is transforming the customer’s property journey is a white paper focusing on the ways in which technology can support the transition of property management from a mainly technical operation to a far more customer-facing business, while at the same time empowering residents and promoting their wellbeing. 

The IRPM brought together a group of leading industry experts to discuss the way in which digital solutions can be used to communicate with and provide more carefully tailored services to customers. Property managers must rapidly become more consumer-focused and building management services must be moved up the value chain via carefully considered use of technology. If this isn’t clearly demonstrated to the customer, there is an increased risk that roles will be replaced by AI.

The white paper captures this conversation, highlighting the challenges now being faced and sets out next steps for the property management profession.

Key points are that:

  • Two-way communication and transparency of information are central to building trust and meeting consumer needs.
  • Effective use of the digital toolkit to power-up service levels is likely to be one of the future benchmarks against which the value of property management services will be measured.
  • Having a coherent and cohesive vision for the future across the sector is crucial. 

To address these challenges, the paper pinpoints the need for:

  • Cross-industry collaboration to identify the actions required to promote transparency and inter-operability of the platforms we use.
  • Property industry professionals to come together to protect customers’ data and create effective standards to govern the way we operate.
  • Improved communication channels to find out what customers, managers and regulators want from technology and work collaboratively with providers to deliver the right solutions.

Launching the White Paper today, Andrew Bulmer, CEO of IRPM said: “These discussions and white papers are intended to kick-start the conversation on how technology is already impacting residential building management services and how the sector will capture the best possible outcomes from future changes coming towards us. Customers are now benchmarking their customer service expectations against Amazon, Google and Netflix. These businesses are built around the customer experience and property management services will follow suit.  

Read the whitepaper here

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31st July 2020
The Leasehold Group warns fight for leasehold reform is not over as new laws may be “several years”

The Leasehold Group of Companies has said the Law Commission’s recommendations for enfranchisement reform could pave the way for a comprehensive overhaul of the leasehold system but has cautioned that the fight for reform is not over and any legislation is still several years away. 

The Law Commission published its long-awaited report on leasehold enfranchisement reform (“Leasehold home ownership: buying your freehold or extending your lease”) on 21 July 2020. Spanning 860 pages, the report offers more than 100 recommendations on enfranchisement reform for the Government to consider. 

Belinda Walkinshaw, Managing Partner of Leasehold Law (part of the Leasehold Group), said: "We have taken time to digest the Law Commission’s recommendations and its comprehensive analysis of the inconsistencies and unfair aspects of the existing law, which have denied leaseholders the opportunity to purchase their freeholds or extend their leases for many decades.”  

“Leasehold reform is a complex process, and we expect it may be several years before any of these recommendations become law. The fight is far from over and there is no guarantee that the outcome of this process will deliver the reforms needed to make the property market fair for leaseholders.  

It is very important to stress that although the Law Commission’s report is the result of a very extensive consultation process, it is only a set of recommendations. These proposals are not law, and the next step will be for the Government to decide which recommendations to put forward to Parliament as a draft bill. 

“We now call on the Government to fulfil its promise to make extending a lease or purchasing a freehold ‘much easier, faster and cheaper’. It is essential that decision makers reform the law as quickly and effectively as possible, as any protracted delay will only work against leaseholders.” 

Following its review of The Law Commission’s report, The Leasehold Group notes several key recommendations, which it says would significantly strengthen leaseholders’ rights: 

 Lease extensions 

  • Abolishing the requirement for leaseholders to own their flat for two years before they can apply to purchase the freehold will enable leaseholders to enfranchise immediately and reduce the potential for the freehold to be sold on to other investors during the initial two-year period. 
  • Increasing the term from an additional 90 years to a new term of 990 years will save leaseholders the considerable cost of repeatedly extending short leases. 
  • Restricting non-statutory lease extensions to only include the same (or very similar) terms as the existing lease will deny a landlord the opportunity to introduce new onerous provisions into the lease terms. 
  • Buying out the ground rent under the existing lease will provide a cheaper alternative to paying the premium for a lease extension and free leaseholders from the ongoing responsibility to pay ground rent, especially where they already have relatively long leases and so don’t require an extension of the term but have onerous ground rent provisions. 

 

Belinda continued: “The Law Commission’s recommendations in relation to leaseholders’ rights to extend their lease would provide welcome opportunities for leaseholders to take back control of their properties, should they eventually make it into law.  

“However, we caution any leaseholder whose lease is approaching the 80-year mark not to rely on the Law Commission report and wait for any reforms, but to move swiftly to extend their lease now, as the cost to extend their lease will skyrocket once it falls below 80 years.” 

Freehold purchases 

  • Raising the non-residential use threshold from 25% to 50% will enable enfranchisement by leaseholders who were previously excluded and bring the law in line with the right of first refusal enjoyed by the majority of residential leaseholders under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1987 when the freeholder wants to sell. 
  • Removing the resident landlord exclusion which many landlords rely upon to deny leaseholders’ rights will enable more leaseholders to apply for the Right to Manage. 
  • Including live/work units (which will only become more prevalent in a society of remote working) and shared ownership leases will enable enfranchisement by leaseholders who were previously unable to by their freehold under existing laws. 
  • Removing the charitable housing trust landlord exemption, given that the grant of a residential long lease is a commercial enterprise, and often freeholders may have charitable status but remain under an obligation to get the best possible price and so can hold their tenants to ransom if they wish to extend their leases or purchase their freeholds.  

A number of key recommendations will also improve the enfranchisement process, including: 

  • Introducing a single set of prescribed Notices for both lease extensions and freehold purchases for flats and houses to ensure consistency and make the process clearer for all parties involved. 
  • Limiting the pitfalls and trappings which prevent leaseholders from progressing their claims such as removing the requirement for two years ownership and limiting the ability for the landlord to modify the lease, even when the extension is agreed on a voluntary basis. 
  • Allowing claims to be transferred to the leaseholder automatically on assignment of the lease, which will reduce the complexity of the enfranchisement process.  

Belinda concluded: “We are delighted that the strenuous and continual efforts of The Leasehold Group, and the many other campaigners who fight passionately for the rights of residential leaseholders, have caught the Government’s attention and moved leasehold reform up the political agenda.  

“It is now essential that we keep up the pressure on Government, to ensure leaseholders’ views are represented throughout the legislative process.” 

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