I write to ask for guidance on how to proceed with a problem relating to the Covid-19 precautions in my residential blocks of flats in Dorset and in particular the use of lifts.
I complained to the managing agents that as a leaseholder in occupation, mine and my wife’s safe distance was being compromised when we use the lifts to enter and leave the building . My wife is on the shielding list which has been recently relaxed allowing her to leave the building. I requested that the managing agent post a sign at the entrance to the lifts and at the main foyer pedestrian entrance to the effect that use of the lifts is limited to 1 person or bubble. The lifts are small and social distance even at 1 metre is impossible.
The reply I received was beggars belief. The cost of putting down a sticker on the floor in front of the lift entrance and a laminated notice at the lift entrance is minimal. The reply to the effect that they hoped residents were able to communicate in a proper manner is equally flawed. Communication with other Leaseholder occupiers is not a problem but the same cannot be said for rental tenants or visitors, particularly the young, not to mention tradesmen. The problem is made worse by the fact that the building is not secure and the door entry phone is not working correctly so people can enter without speaking to a resident. I actually feel safer travelling in public than I do entering my building particularly as masks are required on public transport.
I understand that the managing agent cannot police the building but I do not understand why they refuse to post signage to assist the vulnerable residents in keeping themselves safe. The development also has a Concierge / security office and CCTV .
Do you have any information or guidance which could help? Information or input from other property management companies would be particularly helpful."
This resident has a very valid point – he and all other residents in the building should have been informed in advance of precautionary measures in order to keep everyone safe, and cost should not be the issue when it comes to Health & Safety - the cost to produce notices, posters and signage is negligible, even better, as we do often they can be produced and printed in-house! There are also plenty of government sites where you can download COVID posters and signage for free, so no excuse really. But it sounds as if communication is not the only issue, the door entry system needs to be repaired as well.
According to the latest Guidance on COVID issued by the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government: “Tenants have a right to a decent, warm and safe place to live. Where safe to do so, it is in the best interests of both tenants and landlords to ensure that properties are well maintained, kept in good repair and free from hazards.” The communal area of a block is officially known as a Work Place under H&S regulations and as such needs to be COVID friendly, just as you would expect any place of work to be. This means that the Managing Agent should have carried out a risk assessment to determine what was required to keep residents and visitors safe. It’s worth investigating whether this has been done or request a copy. Also, speak to the Concierge to see if they have been briefed on informing visitors of lift restrictions, if not let the Property Manager or Client know.
If the Property Manager is not being helpful, or not responding satisfactorily to a complaint, I would recommend this resident speaks to the Client who may be a Freeholder or Resident Management Company – in which case the Property Manager will be able to provide contact details.
Jennifer Holmes, Group Head of Marketing at Fexco Property Services Limited