Health and Safety for residential blocks – who is responsible?

Health and Safety for residential blocks – who is responsible?

When you’re living in a block of flats or shared property, health and safety might not be at the top of your to-do list. Accidents in a block of flats do occur but thankfully things rarely go wrong. In the unlikely event that there’s a fire or injury, the consequences can be serious – not only for those living at the property, but for landlords too. We’ve put together a quick overview of Health and Safety for residential blocks that you may wish to read through!

Here are some of the key things you need to know:

  1. Health and safety risk assessments are a legal requirement. They need to include all areas including the grounds, meter cupboards, storage areas, lifts, gardens, roof, structure and all communal areas (not just internal parts of the building). * Please note, in the unfortunate circumstances of an accident, if no risk assessment (and proof) has been carried out, you are far more likely to be held accountable.
  2. Fire risk assessment – are also a legal requirement. Remember, this applies to communal and outside areas not individual flats. It’s also an obligation on the landlord or managing agent to carry this out.
  3. Electrical safety – as standard, we instruct a ‘Landlords’ Inspection’ every 5 years to test the communal electrical supplies and fittings such as the sockets, fuse board, car-park lights etc. Are you also aware that it is a legal requirement to ensure you have emergency lighting in your communal areas?
  4. Substances – it’s vital to recognise if any substances are being stored in communal areas. For example, gardening chemicals and cleaning fluids may be stored but it is the duty of the landlord or managing agent to ensure risks are identified and mitigated.
  5. Asbestos surveys – are required for any building constructed before the year 2000 and applies to all common areas of residential buildings. The landlord/managing agent must be aware of any materials that may contain asbestos and identify how this is monitored and controlled. When working with contractors – this is especially important to keep them informed in case of any contact.
  6. Water tank systems – must be kept free from risk of legionnaire’s disease and once again falls under the responsibility of the landlord/managing agent. Control measures need to be in place so that pipes, taps and tanks in communal areas are kept free of bacteria. Therefore, regular water testing must be put in place.
  7. Work at Heights Regulation 2005 – if there is work required at the property that is of a certain height, there needs to be an assessment made and completed to reduce the risk. In the main when working at heights safety must be the main priority.

Healthy and safety legally binding acts:

There are number of legally binding acts that you may not be aware of. They apply to blocks of flats as well as houses that have been converted into flats and include:

  • The Corporate Manslaughter and Homicide Act of 2007 is very clear that directors of Residents’ Management Companies can be prosecuted under criminal law for serious breaches of Health & Safety. This means that responsibility can lie with you.
  • The Health & Safety Offences Act 2008 raised the maximum fine for offences in the lower courts from £5,000 to £20,000. It also increased the number of offences for which an individual can be imprisoned. Directors of Residential Management Companies will always retain responsibility for the health & safety of their block, whether they delegate to agents or not.

Ultimately, the landlord or person responsible for managing the building has a duty to comply with health and safety regulations. This could be the Managing Agent, a Management Company, or a Right to Manage Company. Whilst the above might seem a little daunting – and even somewhat scary – rest assured that at David Charles Property Consultants, we make sure that you act,  and are continuously within regulation guidelines as well as arranging Directors and Officers Insurance so that you are offered some protection should the worst occur.

At David Charles Property Consultants, we take health and safety seriously. For all our residential and commercial block management clients we regularly assess risk and maintain a health and safety checklist. The team are kept informed of any legislation changes and will act accordingly. This also means that from time to time we have to remind everyone to keep communal spaces clear. Whilst leaving bikes and buggy’s in the hallway may seem ok; as it is a shared space, it could impact on the buildings insurance and overall safety of the building causing problems for your Directors. Whilst the overall responsibility lies with Directors and/or the managing agent – everyone has a part to play in keeping homes safe.

If you’re concerned about health and safety at your property or how it might impact you as a freehold, landlord or tenant, feel free to talk to one of our management team or email us here.

For any further information on health and safety matters head to www.hse.gov.uk for the latest and up-to-date information.

Please note that on certain matters (for example, the control of water systems) each lease will have different conditions so if you are ever unsure, we always advise to check responsibility in your lease and/or call an expert for clarification!