Advice for tenants with six simple steps to preventing mould growth in rented properties

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One of the most common complaints of tenants in rented accommodation is the development of mould in a property – but it is something that can usually be reduced or remedied by the occupant themselves.

Indeed, landlords and property agents should always advise their tenants of how they can take simple steps to reduce moisture levels – as nobody wants mould to develop.

As many regular day to day activities produce moisture, leading to condensation and then potentially mould growth, the key is to strike the right balance between warmth and ventilation.

Here is our simple seven step guide to reducing the risk of mould;

  1. Produce less moisture – Try not to dry clothes indoors, but if you have to do so in a room with an extractor fan or with a slightly open window. Use condensing tumble driers or vent them to the outside, cover pans when cooking and don’t leave kettles boiling.

  2. Remove Excess Moisture - Always wipe windows and window sills of your home every morning to remove condensation. This is especially important in the bedroom, bathroom and kitchen – just opening the window is not enough.

  3. Ventilate – Ventilate rooms as often as you can. Open a window slightly or use the trickle vents often found on new UPVC windows. Always ventilate when using kitchens and bathrooms and close the doors to prevent moisture spreading to other rooms. Continue to ventilate for a short period after a bath, shower or cooking.

  4. Give your property room to breathe - Leave space between the back of furniture and cold walls and clear window sills of clutter that will restrict opening the window. Ventilate cupboards, wardrobes and avoid overfilling them as this prevents air circulating. Open bedroom windows for up to an hour as soon as you arise and throw back the sheets or duvets to air the bed and bedding.

  5. Try and establish a constant temperature – In cold weather it is best to keep rooms warm and avoid condensation with a low, constant background heat on all day, rather than short bursts of high heat when you are in the house. Good heating controls on your radiators, room thermostats will help control heat levels and manage your costs.

  6. Insulate and draught-proof – Something more for landlords than tenants, but insulation, secondary or double glazing, cavity wall insulation and draft-proof windows and external doors make a huge difference. They are investments which can lead to longer term savings, and in some cases, grants are available for insulating your home.

  7. Consider buying a hygrometer – A low cost purchase which will help you monitor the relative humidity in your home, and alert you to the need to take steps to reduce the amount of moisture in the air if it gets too high.

HOW TO REMOVE BLACK MOULD SUCCESSFULLY

Black mould can grow on walls, ceilings, furnishings and even on clothes and toys, which can be depressing and expensive, so if it does appear, here is our advice on how best to deal with it.

  1. Carefully remove excess mould with a damp cloth and throw away after. Or if possible, use a vacuum cleaner and empty after. Do not brush mould as this releases spores into the air.

  2. Wipe down affected areas using a fungicidal wash or diluted bleach – remember always use rubber gloves and wear safety glasses.

  3. Tea Tree oil is a natural antiseptic and disinfectant – and great for cleaning mould or mildew. Try a dilute of three to four drops of Tea Tree oil in two litres of water (hot or cold), but always carry out a test on small area before using more widely. Soak mildewed items in the solution or spray on to trouble spots using a plant mister. Wipe, then rinse off.

  4. After treatment redecorate using a fungicidal paint or wall paper paste – do not paint over using an ordinary paint.

  5. Dry clean mildewed clothes and shampoo carpets.

 

Should you need any further advice, contact or Residential Lettings Team on (01482) 564564

Property market experts who act with integrity – the view of Garness Jones’ customers

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Garness Jones are delighted to have been given the seal of approval by customers in a survey of services across the entire business – with clients highlighting our industry expertise and integrity as a business as our standout qualities.

A fully independent survey was commissioned by the firm at the end of 2018 in which clients, who were able to remain anonymous, were contacted and asked questions relating to our services.

The survey asked for feedback on our market knowledge, the quality of advice we provide, our customer service and professionalism and our costs.

Clients were also asked to give their views on their relationship with key contacts within the business, their speed of response and overall quality of work.

The survey was divided up into clients of our commercial and residential property businesses, with people contacted and asked to provide ‘honest’ feedback.

Able to remain anonymous, they were urged to ensure they raised any areas of concern.

Highlights of the feedback from the clients questioned were;

  • 90% said Garness Jones is a company which acts with integrity

  • 86% said our knowledge of the commercial management and commercial agency property market was excellent or very good.

  • 89% of residential lettings property owners taking part in the survey said they were happy with our initial advice and communication

  • 94% of residential lettings property owners taking part in the survey were happy with their relationship with their lettings coordinator

  • 80% of clients would recommend us to others

Dave Garness, managing director of Garness Jones, said the survey had been commissioned as the firm wanted a ‘clear, independent overview’ of how the business was currently perceived by clients.

He said: “As a business, you always feel you have a good appreciation of what you are doing well and what you need to improve, but something like this provides completely independent feedback, which you don’t always get for various reasons.

“Obviously you have to keep in mind that such an exercise can only provide a snapshot in time. Businesses and markets evolve all the time, and that means you face different challenges each and every year.

“Therefore, any business which thinks everything is perfect isn’t being realistic, as it is an ever-changing picture.

 “Taking that into consideration, we are delighted to have had such a good response from our clients and to be so highly thought of in terms our knowledge of the property market and our integrity. They are two key elements in the work that we do.

“We went into this with our eyes completely open and it has certainly given us food for thought going forward in a number of areas also, with some very valid and important feedback secured.

“It is an exercise I’d recommend to any business seeking a completely independent view of their work and current client satisfaction levels.”

Are noisy neighbours the landlord’s responsibility?

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Even the most thoroughly-vetted tenants can sometimes end up causing problems.

Unfortunately, excessive noise is one of the most contentious issues landlords have to deal with - especially if tenants are annoying long-established neighbours.

But is a noisy tenant really a landlord’s responsibility?

In reality, the answer is no, as a landlord can’t actually be held responsible for the actions of their tenant.

However, at Garness Jones Residential we know how important it is to do all possible to ‘keep the peace’, and that is why we work to resolve any issues before the neighbours (or local authority) take action.

Here’s some advice on how to best manage a problem with noisy neighbours;

Adopt a neighbourly approach  

Complaining to a landlord about noisy tenants is not uncommon. Should you receive a complaint, it is best to politely explain that you’re not liable for the noise, but as a responsible agent, you will personally request they reduce noise levels. It is also worth advising the neighbours to try and establish a friendly relationship with the tenant over time, as this makes raising any neighbourly concerns much easier to do.

Remind tenants of their responsibilities

As mentioned, a quick chat between a landlord and tenant to remind them of their responsibilities can often do the trick and prevent the situation escalating. Adopt an understanding approach and try to find out what activities are causing the noise. Usually this will establish whether a suitable solution can be found.

Make things more formal

If the above steps fail and the problem persists, things might need to get a bit more formal by writing to your tenant to outline the terms of their tenancy agreement. Most contracts stipulate that tenants must not do anything which is viewed as being a nuisance to the neighbouring community.

It is also worth making tenants aware that should complaints be made by neighbours to the local authority, and excessive noise levels persist, eviction is a possibility under Schedule 2 (Ground 2) of the Housing Act 1985 in England and Wales.

Councils can often ask complaints to supply evidence of regular noise and make a timeline of events and use this to enforce eviction.

I have even known a local authority to remove every item that was creating any noise, making the tenants pay a fine to the council to release the items back after a certain time.

Councils, housing associations and the police also now have the power to tackle anti-social noise from residential properties under Part 1 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014.

This includes excessive noise from:

  • Unreasonably raised voices

  • Barking dogs or animals

  • Car and burglar alarms

  • Deliberate banging

  • Loud music

  • DIY activities

Preventing problems before they arise

At Garness Jones, we believe prevention is better than cure – and we ask all our tenants to be mindful of other residents.

As a responsible letting agent, we also advise tenants to avoid placing appliances like TVs, radios or speakers next to shared walls as this limits the potential for noise disturbance, particularly at inconvenient hours.

Before agreeing to rent out any property, the first thing we do is insert a noise clause into the tenancy agreement stating that the tenant must agree not to make unnecessary noise or cause a nuisance which may distress any neighbours. We believe this approach acts in the best interests of the tenant, the landlord and the wider community.

In the unlikely event that a problem does arise, we’re happy to act on behalf of landlords and will take every step possible to resolve any issues caused by noisy tenants.

Can a landlord change letting agent mid tenancy? 

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The main reason why property owners don’t change letting agents is because they believe it will be a major hassle. 

Consequently, some landlords appoint a letting agent and stay with them for years – even if they receive a poor service. Others simply don’t realise that it IS possible to change letting agency mid tenancy. 

Unfortunately, this mean some agents become complacent (especially once a tenancy starts) because they’re not worried about losing their client. 

In our experience, there are 5 main reasons why a landlord might consider changing letting agency mid tenancy: 

  • Unhappy with service provided 

  • Property empty for long periods between tenancies 

  • Expensive maintenance charges 

  • Found a cheaper deal elsewhere 

  • Lack of communication 

Regardless of the reason why things are not working out, changing letting agent during or at the end of a tenancy is actually a fairly hassle-free process - both for the landlord and their tenant. 

4 simple steps to help you switch letting agent 

There’s a common misconception that landlords must wait until the end of a tenancy to change letting agent. However, this is not the case – you’re free to do so at any time. 

This is because the ‘Tenancy Agreement’ is a contract between the tenant and landlord – not the agent. The letting agent simply works on behalf of the landlord and a change in agent will NOT affect the rights or obligations of the landlord (or their tenant). 

At Garness Jones, we often receive enquiries from property owners who are frustrated by the service they receive from their current agent. In our experience, it’s actually easier to change letting agent mid tenancy - because the fact we don’t need to find a new tenant simplifies the handover process. 

If you’re ready to switch agents, here are a few simple steps to take… 

STEP 1 - KNOW YOUR NOTICE PERIOD 

Check your Terms of Business document as this will detail your agreement with the letting agent and tell you how much notice you must give to lawfully end the contract. 

In most cases, you’ll be committed to an initial fixed-term period as this protects the agent from the risk of a landlord leaving almost immediately after a new tenant has been secured. At Garness Jones, we have a notice period of three months. 

STEP 2 - ISSUE YOUR NOTICE 

Once you’re clear about the terms of your contract, issue your notice to the agent in writing (via letter or email) and request confirmation that they’ve received it. 

This does not have to coincide with the end of a current tenancy agreement, but it’s worth scheduling your notice period to correspond with the rent period as this allows the change to be made without altering your tenant’s rent day. 

STEP 3 - GET YOUR TENANT’S DETAILS 

It might sound simple, but it’s important to make sure you’ve got the most up to date contact details for your tenant. Don’t forget to make sure that you’ve got the right bank details for them too - or that all-important rent may arrive later than expected! 

STEP 4 - INSTRUCT A NEW AGENT 

Appointing a new letting agent as soon as possible is the best way to ensure a seamless switchover. Before making your final decision, carefully review their Terms of Business and ask how they’d deal with the issues which led you to look for a new agent. If they’d do things differently, you probably won’t find yourself in a similarly frustrating position in future. 

At Garness Jones, we’re vastly experienced at taking over the management of properties and portfolios from other letting agents. We try to make the process stress free and straightforward by handling all aspects on behalf of our clients – including: 

  • Contacting your tenant – to let them know we’ll be managing the property if they have any issues or emergencies. 

  • Obtaining tenancy documents - including Tenancy Agreement, references, deposit details etc. 

  • Securing property documents - including warranties, compliance and safety certificates. 

  • Collecting all sets of keys held by previous letting agent. 

  • Arranging a property inspection and inventory check list. 

Don’t settle for less than the best 

Most reputable letting agents are committed to providing the very best standards of service to both landlords and their tenants. Unfortunately, some landlords do experience problems with their agent which are irreconcilable. 

At Garness Jones, we’re open and honest with our clients because we feel it’s the best way to build trust and develop a successful long-term relationship. 

If you’re thinking about switching letting agents and this sounds like an approach that could work for you, don’t go it alone - call 01482 564564 for more details

Tenants Fees Act – Time for agents to truly make landlords and tenants the top priority

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There has been plenty of media coverage with regards to the recent Government announcement that the Tenant Fees Act will come into force on the 1st of June 2019.

Without doubt, it is a change that will have a major impact on many lettings agencies across the UK and how they operate day to day.

I would expect the impact may be felt most in the more affluent areas and cities across the UK, such as London, where demand for lettings properties has enabled agents to charge significant upfront costs for issues such as credit checks, inventories, chasing references and administration.

Whilst this issue has caused some controversy – with suggestions that tenants are currently being charged £337 in fees on average across the UK – the new law should bring benefits to both landlords and tenants also.

At Garness Jones Residential, we see that as a positive step.

A warning has now been issued to lettings agents to review their tenancy agreements to ensure they are fit for purpose when the fees ban takes effect in June.

Effectively, the only upfront money agents and landlords will be allowed to take from the summer onwards will be payments for rent and deposits from tenants, with deposits limited to five weeks in all cases where annual rent is below £50,000.

Our lettings properties across Hull and East Yorkshire can vary in cost for rent from as little as £58 a week in areas within the city itself to £120-£150 a week in popular East Riding towns and villages such as Beverley, Cottingham and North Ferriby.

Given we have only ever required a month’s rent as deposit before handing over the keys to our tenants, as an agency we are well placed to meet the new requirements already.

We have always recognised that the original outlay of cash, particularly for those on low incomes or with little to no disposable money, can prevent people getting the property they want, and that is not what we are in place to do.

Our role is to ensure landlords have rented properties, and that tenants are supported every step in finding a home.

It has been with that in mind that our total administration costs have been as little as £150 – probably one of the lowest of all agencies in the last few years – and why we as an agency have less to worry about than many others.

Effective property lettings agents will still be needed by landlords

Moving forward, there has been some suggestion that some landlords may now look to cut out the agencies they use and go it alone.

However, effective and knowledgeable agents should be much more than a costly middleman, and should be the people who can make property port-folios work, keeping both residency levels and returns high.

The onus is now on agents to do exactly what they should be, providing a great service to landlords. They now need to demonstrate their worth by proving how their specialised and knowledgeable support helps.

Agents must offer an effective management service, taking away the stress for property owners by marketing properties effectively and finding suitable tenants at speed.

They must manage properties to ensure they are well maintained and appealing to prospective tenants, ensure they are priced at the right level and collect rents effectively for landlords to minimise arrears.

Our properties are all marketed on the websites Rightmove and On The Market, services which ensure the highest volume of potential tenants given the huge numbers who scour them for homes.

Such a service would prove very costly for individual landlords to use with a low number of properties. We also conduct viewings on behalf of our landlords, ensuring their properties are presented in the best possible way.

Alongside this, many landlords will not be keen to take over roles such as credit checks, references, and arranging and managing the tenancy.

Now is the time for residential lettings agencies to prove their worth. They can do more so than ever following these law changes, and our team at Garness Jones Residential is confident we will continue providing a great service to those who turn to us for our expertise.

10 top tips for professional landlords

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Being a professional landlord is far from easy. Just like with any other type of business, managing lettings comes with responsibilities and risk.

But if you’re passionate about property and up for the challenge, it can also be very rewarding.

Whether you’re new to the lettings game or someone with years of experience under their belt, here’s our 10 top tips for landlords to be a success - with happy tenants and profitable properties.

1 - Always make rent your top priority

Never lose sight of the fact that rent is your revenue. Always pursue it (and any late charges) immediately or your business will suffer. If this is something you know you’ll struggle to stay on top of, consider appointing a specialist company to take away the hassle.

2 - Be a landlord, not a friend

Whilst it’s important to be respectful and helpful to tenants, you should never get to the stage where you’re forming friendship with them.

Remember, you’re running a business venture, so it’s important to keep things strictly business. Stick to this approach and you’ll never end up out of pocket by late payments or a request for a rent reduction.

3 - Only invest in the ‘right’ interior improvements

Most experienced landlords know that going over the top with property renovations can be a waste of money.

Before installing a new kitchen or retiling the bathroom, think about the reason for doing it - and only press ahead if it’s going to result in a rent increase or secure a letting which will justify the initial outlay.

4 - Fit smoke alarms in every room

The cost is minimal and it’s a no-brainer. Go beyond just having one alarm on each floor of the entire property to meet the law and demonstrate your safety first approach.

If your property has a solid fuel source, go the extra mile and install carbon monoxide alarms too - it could help to save someone’s life.

5 - Get a Gas Safety Certificate and service boilers regularly

You won’t get very far without a Gas Safety Certificate – you need one to be able to let your property. By law, every gas appliance must be inspected by a Gas Safe-registered engineer each year. Once the engineer classes them as being safe, you’re Certificate will be issued and you’ll be good to go.

It’s always best to avoid boiler breakdowns too - they’re expensive and stressful and will without doubt lead to very unhappy tenants should something go wrong. Getting one serviced once a year (which can cost as little as £60) will often save you money in the long term.

6 - Never neglect your roofs

Broken tiles and little leaks are relatively easy to fix. Rotten joists and collapsed ceilings aren’t.

Make sure your roof is in a good state of repair and you’ll never need to pay out for costly maintenance which could have been prevented.

7 - Encourage occupants to spot maintenance problems

If you’re one of those landlords who worries about getting calls for maintenance issues, you need to adopt a different mentality - and start to see them as a good thing.

At Garness Jones, we encourage tenants to get in touch as soon as they spot a problem because it’s usually better to identify them early on when they’re smaller (and cheaper!) to fix.

Prevention rather than cure is always a good motto as a landlord!

8 – Act fast on emergencies

Often the only time a tenant may call on you for your help is when they face an emergency, and it will often be your response that they judge you on as a landlord.

Being able to respond at speed is crucial, as tenants expect you to be on hand 24 hours a day should they have an emergency.

Never lose sight of how it feels to be a tenant in need and have a system in place to ensure such situations are always in hand, whether that be organised by yourself, or a dedicated management company.

9- Look after your tenants & extend lease terms

Finding new tenants is always much harder than keeping your current ones happy. If you’ve got a lease which is set to expire, opening negotiations early can sometimes pay off - particularly if rental prices are dropping.

Sometimes a simple offer – like a month’s free rent or a payment cap – can entice a tenant to sign a six or 12-month extension. A small price to pay for financial security.

10 - Monitor the market

Being a landlord can be very addictive. Once you’ve been bitten by the bug, you might want to expand your portfolio.

Whether you own two or 200 properties, it’s important to monitor the market to ensure you get the best return from your portfolio - and help find your next investment.

At Garness Jones, we work with many professional landlords, helping to assess their strategy and asset management, identifying new investment opportunities which we know are right for them.

Hassle-free property management in Yorkshire

If you’re a landlord who needs a bit of advice or support, call 01482 564564 – our experienced property management team can manage portfolios of all sizes.

How to change property management company

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Thousands of leasehold flat and apartment owners are far from happy with the way their block is managed.

Some are paying excessive service charges. Others are handing over vast sums to their property management company for maintenance work they don’t feel is being carried out to the expected or required standard.

Thankfully, it doesn't have to be this way, as under the Right to Manage regulations, it is possible for leaseholders to break away from such companies.

At Garness Jones Residential, our specialists regularly advise unhappy property owners across Yorkshire who find themselves in this difficult situation.

What is the Right To Manage?

Under the Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act 2002, the Right to Manage (RTM) gives leaseholders the right to remove the company managing their property and take over the management of it from the freeholder themselves.

This is done by setting up a special company – known as a Right To Manage (RTM) company.

RTM is an important right which was introduced to empower leaseholders, giving them a way to wrestle back control from bad landlords or managing agents. It is only available for leaseholders of flats and apartments, not houses.

A building can be part-commercial, but if more than 25% is non-residential, you cannot apply.

Serving notice on your property management company

As a leaseholder, you are likely to have a majority stake in the overall value of the property. So, it’s probably in your interests to be responsible for managing the block where it sits.

You don’t need the landlord's permission to do so. You don’t have to obtain a court order. And you don’t need to prove any mismanagement because your Right To Manage is unaffected by whether the property has been managed poorly or effectively.

However, if you are thinking about exercising your right, don’t take the decision lightly. If the takeover is to be successful, a fair amount of work must be done before serving notice.

Should you wish to press ahead, here are 5 essential steps to follow:

1. Assess the level of concern by calling a meeting of fellow leaseholders (some properties may be rented)

2. Find out who’s willing to assist in a challenge - the move must be supported by more than 50% of leaseholders to go ahead.

3. Form a Recognised Tenants' Association (RTA) – giving you the right to be consulted by the freeholder about any major issues.

4. Set up an RTM company with fellow leaseholders.

5. Exercise your Right To Manage by serving a formal notice on the landlord.

What happens next?

The landlord may challenge the notice, but a valid application tends to see the RTM awarded to leaseholders.

After a period of notice, the property management responsibility will transfer to the new RTM company.

Once RTM has been acquired, the freeholder is entitled to become a member of the RTM company.

Although the Right To Manage process is fairly simple, complying with all the necessary rules and regulations can be a bit daunting.

At Garness Jones Residential, we can help take the stress and hassle out of changing management company by acting on your behalf.

We currently provide leasehold management services for blocks and developments of varying sizes.

Some of the larger well known buildings we manage include Queens Court Apartments in Hull (a building the BBC occupy part of), City Exchange Apartments in Hull, Raywell House in Raywell and St Mary’s Manor in Beverley, East Yorkshire.

For help or advice about the Right to Manage process, please call 01482 564564 – we’ll be more than happy to help.

The improvements you can (and can't) do after buying a leasehold flat

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Moving in to your own home is always an exciting time. Wish-lists and grand plans are often drawn up before the keys have even been handed over.

There’s nothing wrong with thinking big. We love it! But if you own a leasehold flat in a shared accommodation complex, it’s important to understand which improvements you’re allowed to make under the terms of your lease.

Here’s a quick look at the most common alterations that you can (and cannot) do without asking the freeholder/management company for permission…

Re-decorating

Leaseholders are usually responsible for looking after the areas of the building they own or lease – including any internal plumbing, wiring, flooring, plasterwork and painting or decoration of their flat.

If you want to replace the carpets or completely redecorate it is unlikely you need to ask the freeholder/management company for permission. Get creative, crack on and let your imagination run free!

Knocking down walls

If you’re keen to get your lump hammer out and alter the internal layout of your apartment, you’ll probably need to ask the freeholder/management company for permission because it’s classed as a structural alteration. Some leases do allow internal walls to be removed without consent, so check your terms carefully before doing anything. If you’re unsure, ask the freeholder – it’s usually a safe option.

In theory, the freeholder/management company has the right to refuse the work – but reasonable requests are often permitted, especially if they can be approved by a structural engineer beforehand. In most cases, the reason for making this check is to determine whether the wall is loadbearing and ensure any work complies with the appropriate Building Regulations.

Fitting a new kitchen or bathroom

Ripping out and replacing a tired or dated kitchen is a guaranteed way to improve the value of any home. The same goes for a bathroom. Not only does it make your home more luxurious, it’ll usually increase the asking price if you decide to sell and move on.

Thankfully, it is very rare the lease requires you to seek permission to overhaul your kitchen or bathroom, but it’s worth checking. – Then simply draw up the design of your dreams and transform your home from drab to fab!

Updating a front door

We agree changing your front door is one of the quickest ways to create a good first impression and make your home more welcoming.

However this area can be a tricky one because leases are not always clear about who’s responsible for the front door of a leasehold flat in a shared complex. There may be situations where the door is owned by the leaseholder, but on other occasions the freeholder/management company may be responsible for ownership. The second being, many leases do not allow the appearance of the building to be altered. As you could imagine if everyone had different style and colour doors it could look quite an eyesore. In our experience, studying the terms of your lease is the best way to find this out. If you’re still in doubt, contact the freeholder to discuss what you want to do and why - we usually find a suitable agreement can be reached in most cases.

Installing new windows

For most modern apartments, the windows and all their parts (units, seals, handles and glazing) are the responsibility of the leaseholder - unless stated otherwise in the lease.

For older leases, this may differ slightly because (in the days before double glazing) the freeholder/management company was usually responsible for the frame and the leaseholder was responsible for maintaining the glazing – to prevent freeholders/ management companies being bothered by broken glass issues.

No matter which category your home falls in to, you cannot usually install replacement windows unless they are made to the exact specification detailed in your lease. Obviously, they must also comply with Building Regulations.

In our experience, the reason for this is to maintain high standards and keep a uniformed look to the shared building – which helps the homes within it to maintain their value.

 

Hassle-free block management for landlords

In our role as leasehold management agents for shared apartment blocks and developments of various sizes, we know how important it is for freeholders and property owners to reach an amicable agreement which is in both their interests.

Whilst this is not always easy, we believe it’s the best way to maintain long-term relationships and ensure communal areas remain in tip-top condition.

If you’re a Freeholder or a Leaseholder, who wants to learn more about the block management services we provide, please get in touch or call 01482 564564 for an informal discussion – we’ll be happy to help.