How to spot structural problems in apartment blocks

How do you know whether your building is showing normal signs of settling, or sinking dangerously into the earth on which it’s built? It’s a fine line, and as a landlord it’s worth being able to spot the warning signs. If you manage a property or properties in a residential block, then you are responsible for the maintenance and ongoing safety of the building.

What are the types of structural problems on buildings?

Any structural issue should be dealt with urgently and serious problem that can have dangerous implications for a building, so it requires constant attention if it becomes evident.

What is subsidence?

When the ground on which a property is built collapses or subsides, it can take the foundations of the building with it, and compromise the whole structure, causing one side of it to sink.

This causes major cracks to appear and puts the entire building at immediate risk of collapse. Subsidence can happen to buildings of any age, as it is a problem resulting from the ground and soil.

Change in the texture or makeup of the ground underneath your property can cause subsidence. While there are a number of reasons why this may occur, weather is often a major factor. Excessively hot and dry spells can cause the ground to subside and crack as it loses its moisture, especially if your property is built on clay. Equally, large amounts of rainfall can wash away soil and soften the ground to such an extent that it loses its integrity. Other causes of subsidence include nearby plants and trees – when these are too close to a building.

What is heave?

When the ground underneath all or part of a property begins to move upwards and expand this is known as heave. It can cause significant damage to a building and is often linked to changes in soil moisture.

The most common reason that heave occurs is the removal of nearby trees or other vegetation, which causes the ground to gain moisture and swell.

What is landslip?

The term landslip refers to the gradual or sudden movement of soil on a slope. Landslip is usually caused by nearby works which undercut a slope, removal of walls, redirection of a water channel or the overloading of debris at a higher point.

What are the signs of structural problems in a residential apartment block?

Cracks are the biggest indicator of structural problems, but it is important not to assume that all cracks are evidence of a serious issue. Hairline cracks occur in walls as a normal part of a new building’s settling process, as walls naturally swell and shrink slightly according to temperature.

However, more prominent cracks are a sign of serious problems. Cracks are likely to be caused by structural problems if they are:

  • More than 3mm wide (i.e. thicker than a 10p coin)
  • Visible on both sides of the wall
  • Close to doors and windows
  • Wider at the top than at the bottom, and run diagonally

There are other signs to keep an eye out for:

  • Doors and windows beginning to jam as their frames warp
  • Wallpaper crinkling where it meets the ceiling or floor
  • Cracks where an extension joins the main house

Any one of these signs of structural problems is a cause for concern and should be investigated thoroughly without delay. As a landlord you should carry out regular inspections of the exterior and interior of the property in order to spot them before they become a problem.

What to do if you suspect structural problems

If you think that your property may be suffering damage as a result of structural problems, you should contact your landlord insurance provider immediately to see if these issues are covered. The first step will be to have a qualified surveyor visit the property. They may decide that the best way forward is to closely monitor the building for a period of time without yet taking action, rather than taking immediate invasive action which could risk further damage to the structure. The foundations of the building may also need to be closely investigated and soil samples might be taken.

How to fix structural problems?

If the cracks are deemed severe enough to need action, underpinning is the most common solution to structural problems. This is a process which reinforces the structural support of the building’s foundations in order to strengthen them.

In more extreme cases, partial demolition and rebuilding may need to take place in order to ensure the building can continue to be safely occupied.

How Digitisation is Impacting Residential Buildings

Like all UK industries, property is impacted by COVID-19 and the effect of the lockdown on the way it works. But despite this ‘new normal’, we cannot ignore our sector’s other key issues. The use of building technology is changing the way we live. In the last decade we have seen a revolution in technology; in particular the way in which data influences our daily lives. It is increasingly being used by stakeholders across the property sector to inform decision-making and digitise both information flow and transactional business.

In response, today the Institute of Residential Property Management (IRPM) publishes the second part of its 2020 Tech Insight programme. Making the right connections: the impact of technology on building management is a white paper highlighting the key issues raised by the impact of technology on the way our buildings are built and managed. From building management systems to resident portals and from repair reporting to the internet of things, there is a myriad of ways in which technology can be used to improve the pace and quality of service delivery.

The IRPM brought together a group of leading industry experts to discuss the impact of data and advances in building technology on the management of residential blocks. The white paper captures this conversation, highlighting the technological challenges for the sector and sets out next steps for the property management profession.

Key points are that:

  • Assets that are digitised will yield higher values.
  • A cultural shift is needed if the property management sector is to reap the benefits of digitisation – and in turn deliver value for residents.
  • If property managers can effectively harness the data they hold and use it to drive innovative customer-facing products, in future this will act as a differentiator between technical competence and technical excellence.

To address these challenges, the paper pinpoints the need for:

  • A platform for tech and software providers to communicate with the property industry.
  • Cross-industry collaboration to determine what is needed by operators and occupiers and avoid development of unsuitable and ineffective solutions.
  • Government intervention to unleash the potential of this market segment.

Launching the White Paper today, Andrew Bulmer, CEO of IRPM said: “These discussions and white papers are pivotal to start the conversation around the ways in which technology is already impacting our residential buildings and will change the way they are built and managed in the years to come.”

Please click here to download the full white paper.

Certificate of compliance: what is this and why do we need to pay for it?

Question: We are buying a leasehold flat and our solicitor says that he needs to get us a certificate of compliance, and we will have to meet the cost of this. What is this certificate?

Answer: In the course of the conveyancing process your solicitor must have discovered a restriction on the title to the flat in favour of the landlord or the management company that would prevent you being registered as the new proprietor or owner unless the Land Registry is provided with a certificate of compliance.

In general, this is a document which confirms that you and your solicitor have complied with the various covenants and obligations listed in the terms of the lease.

Common requirements for a certificate of compliance would be that you have to enter into a deed of covenant with the landlord or managing agent in which you confirm you will observe the terms of the lease.

This deed of covenant should be signed by you and sent to the landlord or managing agent by your solicitor together with a notice of assignment and/or notice of charge, and any fee that is due to the landlord or managing agent for issuing the certificate of compliance.

Once you and your solicitor have complied with the requirements, the landlord or managing agent should issue the certificate of compliance which your solicitor can produce to the Land Registry. The registry will then remove the restriction on the title so that you can be registered as the proprietor.

These answers can only be a very brief commentary on the issues raised and should not be relied on as legal advice. No liability is accepted for such reliance. If you have similar issues, you should obtain advice from a solicitor.

5 Ways to Reduce Stress and Improve Your Mental Well-being

Stress is a natural reaction of your body when it adapts to changes or adjustments that are required in life, this is now more prevalent than ever finding the new ‘normal’ for people. Our body reacts to these changes in multiple ways, some changes can be physical and some changes can be mental or emotional.

A person can experience both good and bad types of stress. For example, “good stress” might result from getting married or having a baby. And “bad stress” might result from the death of a loved on, a break-up, or an unexpected job loss. While the causes and emotions involved can be very different, stress can have similar physical effects no matter the cause.

The human body is designed to handle stress

Stress is necessary for us, as it keeps us alert and motivated. It’s part of our natural “fight or flight” response that protects us.

But too much of anything is bad for you, and stress is no exception. Too much stress can cause damage both physically and mentally.

In this chaotic world, it is difficult not to get overwhelmed by stress. The struggle of adjusting to the new changed in your work life, managing and supporting your family, and not being able to interact socially with friends can cause an abundance of stress that your body might not be able to handle. That makes it essential to take some time out to address these new changes and relax, reduce stress, and focus on your emotional and mental wellbeing.

Learn to cope with, and reduce, stress in your life

Here are five ways you can reduce stress and live a happier, more relaxed, life.

1. Eliminate unnecessary causes of stress

One of the easiest ways to reduce stress is to find out what’s causing it and eliminate those root causes wherever possible. Is it your work, your school, or your commute? If you can figure out what stresses you, you can work to eliminate those things or make positive changes.

Try to accept that the current situation will not be forever and it’s just for a period of time.

2. Go easy on yourself

You need to accept that you will never be able to control everything. Also you can never do things perfectly no matter how hard you try because perfection lies in the eye of the holder. Learn to accept these realities and stop beating yourself up over these things.

Also, it’s important to maintain a sense of humor. Laughter can go a long way toward reducing stress and keeping you relaxed.

3. Take time for yourself

To reduce stress and find more mental peace, you need to spend some downtime with yourself. Going outdoors, even if this is juts in the garden or for a brief walk will have many health benefits for both body and mind.

Or if you are a music-loving person you can listen to music that relaxes you. Meditation and prayer are also great restful things you can do to reduce your stress while enjoying some peaceful time by yourself.

4. Eat well

Eating a well-balanced meal is an essential way to keep your stress levels low. Eating healthy, fresh, whole foods not only helps your body feel well in general but also reduces stress and can help regulate moods.

Frequently skipping meals or overloading on sugar and junk foods can increase your body’s stress reactions over time and waistline!

5. Exercise

Exercise a vital part of your life. It keeps your body healthy and helps reduce stress. Exercise can help reduce stress because it releases endorphins in the brain and makes you happy. And being happy is the key to reducing stress.

Exercise is one of the best ways to reduce your physical stress and elevate your mood. An average person needs to exercise at least three hours each week to maintain a healthy lifestyle and reduce stress. To maximise exercise’s stress-busting effects, choose activities you love. That might include a favourite sport, running, cycling, yoga or you can even get on-line with Joe Wicks PE for the nation.

When you focus on these five things, you should feel less stressed and more relaxed in no time.

Update from IPM – COVID-19 Leaseholders pandemic policy

COVID-19 Update

As COVID-19 (coronavirus) continues to impact people and organisations globally, we would like to update you on the further steps that Inspired Property Management is taking to ensure business continuity for our clients.

Inspired Property Management is taking the necessary steps to ensure that our business services remain uninterrupted during this time, regardless of whether our staff are working in an IPM office or remotely. We are equipped to provide the high-quality service you have come to expect from us, and our support teams will remain available to users for the duration.

We will continue to communicate with our residents through email, phone calls and via the tenant portal and we are sourcing offsite printing facilities.

As the situation on COVID-19 is still evolving and further government measures have yet to be confirmed, we will continue to monitor the information provided.

For further information please read our Pandemic Policy Leaseholders 17 March 2020

Thank you for your understanding in advance.

New double instruction for IPM in Manchester

New double instruction located in Manchester

Inspired Property Management are pleased to announce the new instruction of two buildings as part of this development totalling 24 apartments located in Manchester.

The property is now under the management of Inspired Property Management.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Advice for residents and tenants

What’s the risk of coronavirus in the UK?

The UK Chief Medical Officers have raised the risk to the public from low to moderate.

Health professionals are working to contact anyone who has been in close contact with people who have coronavirus.

What’s the risk of coronavirus for travellers?

There are some countries and areas where there’s a higher chance of coming into contact with someone with coronavirus.

See our coronavirus advice for travellers.

Symptoms of coronavirus

The symptoms of coronavirus are:

  • a cough
  • a high temperature
  • shortness of breath

But these symptoms do not necessarily mean you have the illness.

The symptoms are similar to other illnesses that are much more common, such as cold and flu.

How coronavirus is spread

Because it’s a new illness, we do not know exactly how coronavirus spreads from person to person.

Similar viruses are spread in cough droplets.

It’s very unlikely it can be spread through things like packages or food.

Do I need to avoid public places?

Most people can continue to go to work, school and other public places.

You only need to stay away from public places (self-isolate) if advised to by the 111 online coronavirus service or a medical professional.

How to avoid catching or spreading coronavirus

Do

  • wash your hands with soap and water often – do this for at least 20 seconds
  • always wash your hands when you get home or into work
  • use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available
  • cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze
  • put used tissues in the bin straight away and wash your hands afterwards
  • try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell

Don’t

  • do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean

Check if you need medical help

NHS 111 has an online coronavirus service that can tell you if you need medical help and advise you what to do.

Use this service if:

  • you think you might have coronavirus
  • in the last 14 days you’ve been to a country or area with a high risk of coronavirus – see our coronavirus advice for travellers
  • you’ve been in close contact with someone with coronavirus
Information: Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital. Call 111 if you need to speak to someone.

Getting help in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland

  • Scotland: call your GP surgery or call 111 if your surgery is not open
  • Wales: call 111
  • Northern Ireland: call 111

How to self-isolate if you’re asked to

If there’s a chance you could have coronavirus, you may be asked to stay away from other people (self-isolate).

This means you should:

  • stay at home
  • not go to work, school or public places
  • not use public transport or taxis
  • ask friends, family members or delivery services to do errands for you
  • try to avoid visitors to your home – it’s OK for friends, family or delivery drivers to drop off food

You may need to do this for up to 14 days to help reduce the possible spread of infection.

Read more coronavirus self-isolation advice.

Treatment for coronavirus

There is currently no specific treatment for coronavirus.

Antibiotics do not help, as they do not work against viruses.

Treatment aims to relieve the symptoms while your body fights the illness.

You’ll need to stay in isolation away from other people until you’ve recovered.

More information

You can find more details about the advice from Inspired Property Management here in their Corona Virus Advice download.