WHO is managing your asset or portfolio? You?
Owners of commercial and industrial properties are by default the property manager unless they appoint a management surveyor to fulfil their obligations. Understandably their primary objective is to maintain occupancy within buildings to consistently produce rent. However, property owners have a duty of care and must also be mindful of the range of risks that need to be managed, such as asbestos, electricity, gas connections, appliances and safe water management to prevent Legionella.
Management surveyor Joanne Nuttall, of Breakey & Nuttall, explains more about her firm’s property management services which provide peace of mind to property owners and offers support to help their clients’ tenants comply with the law and their leasehold obligations.
Commercial property management is much more than rent collection and, whilst this is fundamental to property investment, a key area for our management team is to educate property owners and occupiers to ensure that safety remains a priority.
Management services form part of Breakey & Nuttall’s overall commercial and industrial property offering which include sales and lettings, landlord and tenant services, valuation and business rates advice.
THE LEGAL REQUIREMENTS
Fire risk assessments
These a legal requirement for all businesses which occupy commercial property. Assessments identify the steps that are needed, such as weekly testing of the fire alarm to keep staff and visitors safe in the event of a fire. The responsible person within your business should regularly review the Fire Risk Assessment for the building you occupy and complete the necessary actions and maintain evidence of doing so.
Businesses with five or more employees are legally required to keep a written record of Fire Risk Assessments. However, businesses with less than five staff are also strongly advised to keep records in case they ever need to defend a claim.
All business premises should have a fixed wiring certificate, usually known as an EICR (electrical inspection condition report), which confirms that electrical wiring is safe throughout the building. In most instances these are usually required at 5 yearly intervals unless there have been changes in the interim.
Fire alarm systems must be serviced and maintained on an annual basis with regular checks on other items such as emergency lighting, fire doors and door closers. A Gas Safety Inspection should also be carried out annually.
It will never happen, will it? Wrong. Fires do happen and we have had a recent experience. A fire recently broke out within a shared industrial site that Breakey & Nuttall manages. Fortunately, the fire service arrived within minutes as the tenant executed their fire risk procedure with precision, following recent staff training, and a potentially catastrophic situation was averted.
Asbestos management surveys
Whose duty of care is it to find out and manage? White, Brown, Blue or NAD?
Asbestos-containing cement was used in building materials because the fibres provided strength without adding much weight. Its insulating and fire-resistant properties also made the mineral an ideal substance to add to cement.
It was in 1906 that the first report of lung disease as a result of asbestos was brought to the attention of a UK government inquiry into compensation for industrial diseases. It was finally banned some 93 years later.
If you are the landlord of a building that was built prior to the year 2000, it must have an Asbestos Management Survey. Your tenant is likely to be responsible under a commercial tenancy but a copy, along with annual inspection records, must be obtained from them by you.
Asbestos is responsible for more than 5,000 deaths each year, nearly double the rate of road traffic fatalities. Tradespeople, such as electricians, plumbers and joiners, are particularly at risk of exposure to asbestos and should educate themselves on any potential risks.
There are three types of asbestos material, chrysotile, amosite and crocidolite, also known as white, brown and blue. But asbestos cannot be identified just by colour alone.
The law requires the ‘duty holder’ of a property to take responsibility for arranging an asbestos management survey conducted by a qualified surveyor. Once a survey is completed, the risk register will state the condition of any asbestos found and deem whether it should be removed, encapsulated and managed. Where no asbestos is detected, the result will indicated as NAD.
Andrew Grimshaw of Spectra Compliance is a health and safety expert who works with Breakey & Nuttall within several key areas including asbestos management and fire safety. Despite having over 30 years’ experience, Andrew cannot confirm if a building contains asbestos with the naked eye but only if an Asbestos Management Survey is undertaken which includes sampling. Asbestos can be found in a variety of materials such as board panelling, floor tiles, suspended ceilings, pipe lagging, insulation, electrical gaskets, old fire blankets and even stair nosings and toilet seats.
Breakey & Nuttall’s property management services includes supporting property owners and tenants, assisting them with the maintenance of risk registers and triggers for annual inspections by a competent person and record-keeping.
Safe water management to tackle legionella
Legionnaires’ Disease is a potentially fatal form of pneumonia (around 10 per cent mortality rate) caused by inhaling small droplets of water containing Legionella bacteria, which thrives between 20C and 50C. In simple terms, bacteria colonises both hot and cold water systems. It can also grow in working environments where there is stored or recirculated water. Hosepipes, pressure washers, aerosols and air conditioning units have been sources of infection.
People at higher risk from Legionnaires Disease include over-45s, smokers, heavy drinkers and those with lung, kidney, diabetes or heart problems or impaired immunity.
Landlords and employers should familiarise themselves with the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974. For example, owners of care homes and nursery businesses have a duty of care to conduct and record the temperature of tap water daily to protect the elderly and children in their care. Other businesses must carry out a monthly monitoring regime and keep good records.
This could be invalidated if up-to-date certifications are not filed. Joanne Nuttall recently reviewed a client’s policy which suggested that Fixed Wiring and Gas Certificates were filed but this was found not to be the case. Accordingly, the team assisted the landlord and liaised with the tenant whose responsibility it was to obtain copies for filing with the Landlords insurers.
Please note: the foregoing paragraphs and commentary are not a definitive guide to the matters covered and are for general illustrative purposes only. Property owners, landlords and occupiers should always seek advice from their own health and safety representatives in the first instance.
The whole team at Breakey & Nuttall have completed asbestos awareness training which is updated annually. The firm also has two fire marshals and one fully trained in Legionella monitoring and testing within their team.
Jackie Blomley is the designated ‘competent person’ for the firm’s Salmon Field Business Village office. She tests the fire alarm weekly and assists Christine, who is the facilities manager for the buildings they manage off site.
Rent collection management
Another fundamental task for any property manager is to provide an arm’s-length approach between a landlord and a tenant who is in arrears. This service is invaluable.
In one example, Breakey & Nuttall was appointed to manage premises for a Self-Invested Personal Pension (SIPP) provider who traditionally managed only the funds held within the pension portfolio and rent arrears in excess of £35,000 had been allowed to accumulate. Within three months of instruction, Breakey & Nuttall’s credit control team successfully recovered the arrears and regularised the account.
Joanne Nuttall said: “Landlords can often be put-off dealing with tenants who become difficult for one reason or another and, in some instances, allow arrears to accrue to avoid confrontation. Where there is a lack of trust with either party, professional advice should be sought as soon as possible to regularise the issues.
“I am always happy to chat to commercial landlords who may have rent arrears, or indeed any management issues, who are seeking to regularise their position and repair relationships.”
Contact Joanne Nuttall at Breakey & Nuttall on 0161 660 3101
Recent land and property deals
Breakey & Nuttall has recently worked with clients on two areas of land within the borough. One is a 3.4 acre parcel in Saddleworth and the other is a two-acre plot in Chadderton.
The Saddleworth land has potential for animal husbandry and rural uses while the Chadderton plot has potential to be used for residential development, subject to planning consents. It has been in family ownership for almost 100 years. Breakey & Nuttall have received serious interest in both sites with sales due to complete shortly.
Over 3,000 sq ft of offices at Ansa House, Chadderton, a shared building managed by Breakey & Nuttall, has been let to Intelligent Gaming Systems Ltd who have expanded their office premises in the Borough. Chartered accountants Edwards Veeder (UK) Limited occupy the ground floor and have been in occupation since 2017 following a letting by the firm.
Elsewhere, Heads of Terms have been issued for a leisure business to take on former bank premises in Shaw and, following best and final offers, the sale of a former Methodist church building at Kirkbank Street, near Chadderton Way, Oldham, has been completed. The building has been unused as a place of worship for 15 years.
Breakey & Nuttall has been appointed as sole agent on behalf of Oldham Council for three sites in the Mumps area of Oldham town centre that are linked to the Princes Gate regeneration scheme.
Glenn Drake-Owen, from Breakey & Nuttall, said: “We are delighted to have secured such landmark instructions of the three sites,at the eastern gateway to the town centre. From former banks and churches to land, industrial and commercial property of all sizes, these transactions and instructions illustrate the variety of buildings we advise on and deal with. We continue to be the area’s leading commercial and industrial property specialist.”
September 2019 was Breakey & Nuttall’s best month for turnover since its foundation. Joanne Nuttall said: “Next year will be the tenth anniversary of the practice and we are optimistic for further growth. As part of our expansion, we are recruiting Nicola Nuttall who has over 30 years’ experience and will join us as business and finance manager. Her role will involve the day-to-day running of the business and dealing with existing and new management client accounts.
She added: “Nicola’s appointment, along with our recent recruitment in the past two years, will allow, Chris Breakey, Glenn Drake-Owen and I to focus further on our individual specialisms of property management, acquisitions, sales, lettings, and RICS compliant valuations.”