3 common myths about buying a flat: management company, repairs, and flooding 

I’m buying a flat so the management company will take care of any repairs 

In some ways this is true, but in most cases the management company is made up of the individual flat owners. In the majority of cases, flat owners each pay an amount of money to the management company to cover items such as insurance, maintenance and repairs. Sometimes additional payments need to be made if there are insufficient funds to cover outgoings such as unexpected repairs.

In cases whee there is no management company, such as with a two storey terraced house which has been converted to two flats, there may not be a management company.  However, in most cases the leases for the individual flats will set out liability for repairs to the building as a whole.  If there are two similar sized flats then it is likely that the cost of any repairs will be shared equally, but the precise terms would need to be checked.

In a nutshell, in most cases the flat owners are responsible either directly or indirectly, via a management company, for repairs to the building.

I’m buying a ground floor flat so it doesn’t matter what condition the roof is in 

If you are buying a leasehold flat then you will need check the lease clauses. A typical lease will clearly set out a leaseholder’s obligations to repairs and maintenance and will state what proportion of the repairs each leaseholder is responsible for. Many leasehold flats have a management company which will deal with certain repairs, which often includes external repairs. It is possible that each flat owner has to contribute to any works to the roof.

If you are having a survey then it’s a good idea to arrange for the surveyor to have access to any roof spaces (possibly via another flats/s or communal areas) to check for any defects.  See instructing a surveyor. Also, you should enquire with the management company to find out whether they are aware of any defects and whether any repairs are programmed in the near future or medium term.

I’m buying an upper flat so I won’t be affected by flooding

While upper flats are less vulnerable to flooding than ground floor flats and basement/garden flats, you should check the terms of the lease so that you are aware of your liability to any repairs to other flats in the block, including ground floor flats and basement/garden flats.

If parts of the building have flooded previously, then the insurance premium may have increased, or there may be a higher excess in the event of flooding.  In some cases flooding may be excluded from the insurance cover. It is likely that you will contribute to the insurance premium either directly or indirectly through the management company and if this is the case then yes, you may be affected by a risk of flooding.

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Buying a flat – lease, management company, asbestos register

The choice between buying a flat and a house not only varies from person to person, but also depends on personal circumstances which can change over time. This article looks at some of the pros and cons of buying a flat compared to a house.

Guidance on buying a flat

The choice between buying a flat and a house not only varies from person to person, but also depends on personal circumstances which can change over time.  This article looks at some of the pros and cons of buying a flat compared to a house.


Advantages of buying a flat

Many people choose to buy a flat for ease of maintenance, particularly flats with no gardens.  Maintenance of the building is normally shared with other flat owners either through a Management Company or by provisions with the lease.  This can be an advantage to those who do not wish to have time to deal with such issues.

If you do not live at the flat or are away for long periods then important issues such as maintenance and insurance will be dealt with by the Management Company or Managing Agent on your behalf, even in your absence.


Tips on buying a leasehold flat

Consider having a survey carried out. This would typically include an inspection within the flat you propose to purchase and the relevant external areas.  As flats vary significantly, including the size of blocks/developments, obtain confirmation from your surveyor as to the extent of the inspection.  The survey will help you to determine whether the block is being maintained by the Management Company and/or the other leaseholders.

In addition, your solicitor should:

  1. Establish whether there is a properly formed Management Company. If there is a Management Company there will be regular meetings and accounts will normally be submitted to Companies House annually.  Where flats are in a smaller block without a Management Company the lease will normally set out responsibilities of the individual flat owners.
  2. Confirm the service charges to the Management Company and what this includes, eg, buildings insurance. Larger blocks with lifts are likely to have higher service charges.
  3. Check the remaining length of the lease of the flat. A property with a short lease may have reduced saleability and in some cases may not be mortgageable.
  4. Check whether any Ground Rent is payable to the Freeholder.
  5. Check details in the lease. Some works may require approval from the Management Company, eg, replacement of windows.  Also, some leases may have a restriction on pets.
  6. Check whether any repairs are programmed to be carried out in the near future.
  7. Check the level of funds available in the Management Company’s account.
  8. Check whether there is an asbestos register for the common parts.
  9. Check whether a Fire Risk Assessment has been carried out on the block. This is particularly important for blocks of 3 storeys and more where escape from the building in the event of a fire may be more difficult.  Check whether any upgrading works are necessary, eg, provision of fire doors, smoke detection and alarm system, etc.
  10. Whether there is an allocated parking space for the flat and/or visitor parking. This is particularly important for flats in a built up area.

Whilst most flats are leasehold, some areas have a number of freehold flats.  If you are considering buying a freehold flat then you must give careful consideration to maintenance and insurance of the building.  You should also consider saleability in the event you wish to resell the property as some mortgage lenders do not lend on freehold flats.

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