The first thing to appreciate is that your emergency repair may be regarded by someone else as just a minor inconvenience because emergency call outs obviously cost more than dealing with matters on a normal maintenance routine.
There are certain sorts of works which are obvious emergencies such as windows that have been broken, possibly due to burglary, doors that have been forced or broken with locks damaged by a similar cause, infestation by some sort of rodent, water leaks which cannot be stopped. You would usually expect that your property manager would have a relevant contractor available to deal with each type of problem. There are specialist firms which provide a complete range of emergency service covering all the main emergency problems and they can be booked on monthly or annual contracts. They will often give a guaranteed call out time and they normally operate through a call centre.
One of the issues, of course, with emergency repairs is to be confident that whoever is doing your repair is safe to let into your flat. Established contractors would normally provide some sort of identification for their operatives. With the increasing use of the Internet it should be possible in the future to see the name and the photograph of the operative that is likely to attend to the problem.
Sometimes there can be an argument about who is responsible for the cost of the repair. Again you will need to look at your lease to see who has responsibility for certain sorts of problems and you will have to consider what the cause of the problem might be. Is it something that you have directly caused? Often insurance is involved particularly with regard to water leaks and the emergency contractor would normally complete a report that would be available for the insurer. Increasingly, in an effort to keep premiums down, there are excesses imposed on policies where you have to bear the first half of the loss yourself.
Springrove is one of those companies that specialise in providing an all-round service within the M25 and life can also be tricky for the operatives. On one occasion one of their staff was held hostage for almost 4 hours by an irate leaseholder who was determined to ensure that his problem was dealt with completely! Obviously steps like those are not recommended because they can land you in serious trouble.
In blocks that are well maintained you would hope that emergency problems are very rare and good managing agents will usually have a risk assessment policy whereby they will consider what are the types of risk to which the block may be subject and what measures are in place to cover expected and unexpected events. Of course you, yourself, may want to call out a particular contractor recommended to you or that you have found through the use of some directory. You hope to claim back the expense later on from the service charge account. Here it is advisable to contact your managing agents first, if at all possible, to make sure that they would agree to bear the cost rather than have no contractor of their own available. You need to be confident that the cost that you are being charged is reasonable and not excessive. We also know that when we are in an emergency it is easy for the contractor to take advantage of the situation.
So what practical advice can be given? Check your lease to see what relevant provisions may exist. Check the building insurance for the block to see what risks are covered. Check your own contents policy to see what you are covered for. Find out from the managing agents whether there are any set procedures for dealing with emergencies.
In very large blocks it is sometimes the case that there is a full time employee who is occupied in dealing with minor repairs but even such person may not always be available and by taking the precautionary steps mentioned here if an emergency occurs then you are likely to be better equipped to deal with it.
Keeping a directory of local trades people to hand is also sensible and using the NOTB website can also be a big help because it can be used to post notices of reliable local trades people who deal with emergency problems at a fair price.