We've recently gone RTM with a Property Management Company, which I chose and agreed a pricing strategy last October for a fixed overall charge for Service charges - being £1500 (+vat) divided by six leaseholders.
Before signing up, one of our colleague directors expressed concern that the PMC apparently have a past reputation for lumping on extra charges which had not been agreed with leaseholders.
It rang alarm bells when our Chair received an email from Oakfield stating that we would need to pay additional £120 banking charges and further £360 accountancy fees for sending our individual leaseholders accounts detailing what we annually pay them. Naturally, we have disputed this and we may put them on early notice as a result. There are no other optional services requested such as sinking fund or other ad/hoc maintenance fees (such as £500 per annum for incidentals which was recently offered but we have declined).
My other concern is their charge for a Health & Safety inspection which they want to charge us £360 +VAT. As Treasurer, I feel this charge is unreasonable and bearing in mind there is only one communal area external to the building (apart from the lawned garden), which is a concrete and brick staircase providing main access to three of the six flats.
Finally, according to ARMA's website, although vague, the health and safety inspection appears to be unnecessary as it states that a health & safety inspection need not be reported if the Freeholder does not employ anyone at the block.
Could you please advise where we stand on charges that have not been agreed and what is the legal position with regards to Heath & Safety in a converted house (now self contained flats) which neither have any internal communal areas or shared internal stairways?
With regard to the charge of £360.00 plus VAT, whilst it is probably towards the high end of what most consultancies would charge, it is not excessively high. Much of the cost is consumed in travelling to the property and producing the report, so the small size of the property in question is only a part of the cost. Aside from the cost issue, it is important that the assessment is of a good quality and meets the criteria of ‘suitable and sufficient’.
The advice offered on the ARMA website to ensure that the report is in writing is good advice. This is because the report would be highly supportive as a defence in the unfortunate event that someone is injured and wishes to pursue the matter through the civil courts or indeed in the case of a State prosecution. Of course the actions arising from the report must be undertaken to demonstrate that risk has been reduced and these actions should be recorded too (either on the report itself or elsewhere).
A report is also necessary for the fire risk assessment and in fact is an obligation under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order.
With regard to a health and safety assessment for a converted house with no internal areas, the same advice applies, as any risks from the external areas including the roof and the structure should be addressed and dealt with.
Clare Smart, Director, Smart FM Limited