Sinead Campbell, of London Flats Insurance provides some quick tips to protect your block of flats over winter 2021 and plan for a positive 2022.

If you’ve just started managing your block, or if things have been bit delayed this year (we can’t think why?!), then you may be looking for some quick, easy ways to prepare your block of flats for winter. Now may also be a good time to start planning for any major works you’d like to undertake next spring as the Section 20 process can be lengthy.

We thought we’d give you some tips for both.

Roofs, Terraces and Balconies

With winter comes rain and with rain comes water ingress- a property management nightmare. Often it only takes some simple preventative measures to avoid leaks and other issues:

  • Remove any build-up of leaves or debris that may clog drainage outlets
  • If there are any exposed pipe runs, replace any missing insulation that might expose the pipes and lead to them freezing
  • Repair any serious faults in the waterproofing such as cracks or lifting seams which might allow water in
  • Make sure any rooftop plant rooms are watertight by dealing with ill-fitting doors etc. 

It’s worth mentioning that safety should be your top priority while carrying out these checks. They should only be carried out if the areas can be safely accessed and solid handrails are in place.

Paths, Steps and Railings

Residents or staff slipping on ice can lead to serious injury and to legal claims for negligence. Don’t let something as simple as a frozen puddle cause such anguish! If you notice a stubborn puddle after summer showers, be sure to note it and get the path dealt with. That little puddle will be an icy hazard in the winter months. If the issue can’t be rectified for any reason, either cordon off the area or ensure it’s regularly salted. Steps should be well salted too, and railings should be secure enough to hold firm when they’re needed most.

Check Your Insurance

Even with the best of intentions and with all the preparation in the world, accidents can still happen- would your current cover protect you? Here are some key points to check in your paperwork or with your provider:

  • Check that your policy has public liability cover to deal with any claims arising from accidents on the premises
  • Look at whether you have the correct water damage cover
  • Most importantly, look at the level of the current sum insured and declared value

The policy will have a declared value (which means an overall figure to cover the costs of a hypothetical situation where a total loss has occurred and the building has to be replaced completely). If this is too low, then your premium will be effectively undercharged and, in the event of any claim, the insurers may apply a pro rata deduction based on the percentage under insured. On the other hand, if it’s too high you might be paying more than you need. If you’re unsure, feel free to give us a call.

Looking Ahead

If your block of flats is looking a little lack lustre (or indeed, if the lease dictates a regular schedule for external redecoration) it may be time to start planning for some major works. This will involve working through the Section 20 procedure; a long process that can mean it takes months to get boots on the ground, even with money in the bank and no objections from your residents… Why not start now so your ducks are in a row come springtime?

External works are best done in the summer months for obvious reasons. The duration of the works will depend on the building concerned and the works required, but considering even the most simple jobs can take say, eight weeks, it’s not uncommon for projects to run for up to six months.

If you want the project completed by early October when the weather (normally) breaks, allow plenty of time to get the work done by starting as early as possible:

Appointing a Surveyor

If you don’t have someone in mind already, request several proposals from firms with experience in leasehold properties. Interview them and look carefully at their track record. Proposals should include their initial observations and give a clear idea of their fee structure.

Once appointed, the surveyor should clarify the brief, prepare some ballpark budgets and proceed to draft the specification for approval in line with some mutually agreed timescales. It’s at this time that the first section 20 consultation notice should be drawn up and provided to residents.

Make sure you provide you surveyor with as much information as possible re the maintenance history of the property. If, for example, there have been numerous leaks around the building in recent years, make sure the surveyor has the details so they can properly address any underlying issues.

Consideration of Scaffolding Costs

A large part of the cost of any external project is the scaffolding. There is nothing more frustrating than paying £1500 for scaffolding to fix a £150 leak, one year after a major project has been finished. Make sure that the scope of works to be done is comprehensive and that each element is assessed in terms of whether, if left now, it can last for the next 5 years or until the next set of scaffolding is likely to go up!

Consider phasing the works if the budget is tight. It’s far better to do half a building comprehensively one year and the rest the following, instead of trying to get away with a one-shot job of limited scope. This frequently leads to a disappointing result when the scaffolding comes down.

Obtaining Contractor Bids

Take care when choosing contractors and inviting them to bid for the works- our top tips are below:

  • Request bids from firms of comparable size and that are appropriate for the job in hand- it’s pointless asking a large firm (with high overheads) to bid alongside a selection of small traders and vice versa.
  • Any previously unknown firms should be vetted carefully by your surveyors- even those nominated under consultation procedures may be rejected if they prove unsuitable.
  • Make sure the process is handled fairly and honestly. With such large sums involved, most surveyors will enter into a sealed tender process, and you should be invited to view the bids alongside your surveyor when the time comes.
  • Be realistic about the costs involved and, if a bid comes in that sounds too good to be true, it most likely is.

Save some money on your insurance costs this year. Whether you are looking for:

  • Flats Insurance
  • Directors and Officers Liability Insurance
  • Terrorism Insurance
  • Lift Inspection and Insurance
  • Out of Hours Emergency Assistance
  • Roads and Private Estates Insurance

Call our team at London Flats Insurance on020 7993 3034 or

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