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Do not neglect the common areas in your building

With summer is on the horizon, this spring may be just the time that you realise how dark, dated or tired your internal common areas have become. Now could be the perfect time to address this with your fellow tenants and managing agents.  

When we talk about the common areas to a block of flats, we typically think of entrance lobbies and corridors, fire doors, lifts, car park, basement storage, plant rooms and even leisure facilities such as swimming pools or gymnasiums. These are the parts of a building that are not demised to individual leaseholders and are the responsibility of the landlord/RMC/RTM to maintain, check, clean, insure etc, usually delegated to managing agents.

The common parts are, too often, seen as merely a means by which residents travel through their buildings and access their own flats. They are assigned far less importance than, for instance, the décor within the flats. The common parts can have a significant importance of your building and can help add not just the 'wow' factor but also value to your property. Here are some other reasons why the common areas of your building should not be neglected:

Five Reasons Not To Neglect the Common Parts

First and foremost, the requirements of the lease may dictate how often the common parts should be redecorated. If the landlord fails to comply with the covenants of the lease, it could be held in breach.

Secondly, the value of the individual flats will inevitably be affected by the state of the common areas. First impressions last, and prospective purchasers (or renters) will look at the state of the common parts and come to their own conclusions about the quality of building management. Just think what the flat would be worth if the wow factor was experienced immediately when stepping in off the street.

Thirdly, it’s not just about the décor. The internal common parts of a block of flats are subject to numerous pieces of health and safety and compliance legislation, so ensuring these areas are safe for residents, their visitors, site staff and contractors, is of paramount importance. Similarly with security: The front entrance door ought to be very secure to keep unwanted people out, yet easy to access for residents.

Fourthly, attention on the common parts may save service charges, through a focus on energy efficiency. The cost of electricity and gas is likely to remain high and unpredictable for some time to come, so combining a refresh to the common areas with a focus on reducing energy costs, will only please your leaseholders.

Fifthly, the common parts should still be regarded as part of someone’s home and the wellbeing factor of walking into clean, uncluttered, nicely decorated, and homely common parts should not be underestimated.

Sustainability and Affordability

Internal common parts refurbishments tend to be classed as ‘major works’ by most managing agents and surveyors, not least because ‘section 20’ notices are likely to be served and reserve fund monies are expended. But to make a tangible difference, the expenditure need not be ‘major’, depending on what you have to work with. For instance, exchanging traditional halogen lighting for LED replacements will reduce the energy consumption within the building resulting in cost savings for service charge payers. Lighting controls within the common areas can also impact upon the atmosphere and feeling of security within the common parts. Motion sensors can illuminate the passages ahead whilst the “corridor function” of the light fitting at say 25% output, ensures that the common areas are never fully in the dark.

Steam cleaning of carpets can extend periods before replacement and refresh the appearance of common areas, yet the option is often overlooked. And unknown to many, high quality carpet roll laid to stairs can be reserved so with some investment in labour, turning the carpet over will make the pile feel luxurious underfoot once more!

Elevate Your Common Parts

In blocks with lifts, the stairs are used infrequently, with the majority of residents opting for an easier ride. Lifts must undergo statutory inspections and maintaining them to ensure a clean bill of health from the inspector is essential. Maintaining lifts over the long term is costly and there is concern in the industry that some parts are becoming harder to find which will push prices up further. The mechanics of the lift and its safe operation are of primary concern, that but does not mean the aesthetics of the lift car should be ignored; the condition of the lift car may leave a lasting impression on a resident or visitor. The improvement of lift cars can be relatively easily achieved through improvements in lighting, addition of a new mirror or replacement laminate or tiled flooring. Lift improvements should always be conducted with the help of the contracted engineers, as the lift may require re-calibrating as a result of a change in the load.

New Fire Door Legislation

With the Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 coming into force on 23 January 2023, there are now quarterly fire door checking requirements for common parts doors in blocks of flats over 11 metres in height. Ill-fitting or damaged fire doors can seriously compromise compartmentation and can hinder safe escape. If you are planning a common parts refurbishment, it may be an opportunity to replace older, non compliant doors with new, modern, effective units, rather than piecemeal remedial repairs.

So why not take this opportunity to view your common areas a little differently and see what and where improvements can be made.