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.

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.

Have you reviewed your property insurance?

It’s important you have the right insurance in place for the properties you manage, is it up to date and are you are getting the right cover and best value for you, your leaseholders and residents?

Here are the top 7 insurance tips to consider when reviewing your property insurance:

Specialist advice

Specialist and experienced property insurance providers are best placed to provide the right cover and price. They should be able to search a panel of reputable UK insurers to find the best solutions for you.

Risk Management

Residential managing agents need up-to-date safety and compliance risk management solutions to help clients save money, lives and mitigate risk. Access to expert Risk Management advice should be an integral part of the service offered by your insurance provider.

Insurance Regulations Change

Your insurance provider should keep you up-to-date on any change to regulations, especially after the UK exits the EU.

Specialist covers

Obtain advice on whether the properties you manage need specialist covers such as Directors  & Officers Environmental Liability, Professional Indemnity, Terrorism and where there’s a lift, Engineering.

Client Money Protection

All firms operating within the Private Rented Sector (PRS) in England and Wales are required by law to hold a government approved Client Money Protection scheme membership but there are key differences for managing agents. Letting agents hold around £500,000 of client money whereas residential managing agents may typically hold over £6m and not actually be covered by their lettings CMP scheme.

The “levy schemes” currently available pool the premiums paid by members to pay claims from other members. This works well within the PRS as claim amounts tend to be small, however one claim from a managing agent could cost the premiums paid by all members.

Managing claims

One aspect of insurance that often gives managing agents a headache is having to track the progress of claims which can be time consuming and stressful. The claims management process should offer a 24/7 service for you, leaseholders and residents alike, leaving you free to spend your valuable time elsewhere.

Protect Directors and Officers

Many people don’t realise they can be held personally responsible for errors or omissions when they agree to become a Director of a Residential Management Company or Right to Manage Company. Directors and Officers insurance provide defence costs and compensation if they are held personally liable for a wrongful act whilst working on behalf of leaseholders.

Having the correct level of insurance is essential and should be reviewed on an annual basis.

How to get the most from your Property Management company

GETTING THE BEST FROM YOUR PROPERTY MANAGING AGENT

It is critical to future management arrangements to establish at the outset the role and responsibilities of the property managing agent:

  • what responsibilities and authorities the agent will have;
  • how much service charge money they can spend without your authority;
  • response times and other timescales for action; and
  • the authorised lines of reporting and communication.

Both the individual leaseholders and the agent should be clear as to from whom instructions are to be received. An agent cannot work if expected to receive instructions from all lessees. The usual and most effective arrangement is for the agent to attend, and report to, meetings of the Board of the RMC. In between meetings the Board could nominate one of its directors to be the main point of contact. By treating the agent as a form of general manager, he or she will provide useful input to policy and take overall responsibility for day-to-day affairs. Meetings should be properly organised and the Board’s instructions to the agent clearly minuted. The Board should set clear lines of communication, understood and observed by both sides.

Remember that the agent cannot take instructions from the Board that would put him in breach of any landlord and tenant law, code of practice or other statutory guidance eg health and safety legislation.

The Board should also establish how the agent is to respond to questions from individual residents and his/her accountability to those individuals. The residents should be clearly informed by the Board of the identity of the agent, duties and limits of authority. Although the agent will be working for the residents as a whole, the employer is the Board, and the residents must be clear that the agent carries the authority and support of the Board in respect of all his/her actions. The agent should not be placed in any position of ambiguity in dealing with individual flat-owners and, of course, cannot take instructions from them.

IPM are members of the Institute of Residential Property Management, RICS, ARMA, the property ombudsman and other highly regarding business accreditations. If you’d like to find out more information about our property management service for your development or block of flats, please get in touch on 01302 729 500.

Do you get that sinking feeling with your sinking fund?

You may have seen a line in your development’s annual budget for contributions to the sinking fund – but what is this and why does it matter?

A sinking fund is money earmarked for large-scale or substantial building projects that are carried out to keep your development looking good and working correctly. We refer to these projects as ‘major works’ and these can include things like redecorating the outside of your building, repairing the roof or replacing communal windows.

How is the amount calculated?

When calculating the amount to be taken, the property management company should take into account the potential replacement costs of certain items and the average length of time that passes before each type of repair.

By way of an example, a management company should consider the cost of replacing a door entry system of a property as well as the average amount of time before such a repair is usually required. This should then be calculated into a yearly figure and this figure will form part of the total yearly charge that each resident has to pay towards the sinking fund. Other examples of typical repairs and replacements that are taken into account and for which sinking funds are used include drainage, communal lighting, footpaths and certain access roads. Certain repairs which are considered minor are paid for by the service charge. Obviously such calculations can never be precise, but if all the different scenarios are considered properly, a sinking fund can mitigate the risk of incurring large costs on a property.

Benefits of a sinking fund

The main advantage of a sinking fund being collected as part of a service charge is that the expenses for repairs are pre-planned rather than a call for a large amount in one go which may come as a shock to leaseholders, some of whom may not have the funds to pay.

As well as the above, leasehold properties may be easier to sell if there is a sinking fund, which may avoid a buyer being overly concerned about major works expenses.

If you’d like to know more about your sinking fund, get in touch we the property managers at your development or apartment block.

Season’s greetings from IPM

The team at Inspired Property Management would like to wish all of our clients and customers a very

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

We would like to remind all clients and customers that our offices will be closed from the 23rd December 2019 and they will be opening again on the 2nd January 2020.

For any urgent enquiries or our out of hours service, please contact 01302 249349 or 0203 006 8320. This service is available week days between 17.00 and 09.00 and from 17.00 on a Friday evening through to 9.00 on a Monday morning.

If a problem is reported by email the team will review the email within working hours on their return.

Happy Christmas!

The future of EV and apartment blocks

Electric vehicles are growing in popularity but blocks of flats may not be able to handle a smooth transition due to lack of allocated spaces.

Climate change and tackling air pollution are two issues that have been pushed to the top of the political agenda in recent months, with the government calling on the commercial sector to develop eco-friendly solutions that we can adopt without too much disruption to our daily lives. One change that has been noticeable on UK roads in recent years is the increase in hybrid and electric vehicles.

The government announced in 2017 that the sale of new diesel and petrol cars and vans will be banned in the UK from 2040, although there is now a steady push for this deadline to be earlier. Sweden has just announced that the sale of electric cars outsold combustion vehicles for the first time in April this year. But, at present, the market for electric cars in the UK is still relatively small, with around 155,000 of these vehicles sold in the UK in 2018, and around 4,500 more being registered every month. By comparison, there are around 30 million fuel-powered cars (source: Wired UK) in the country. However, during the next 20 years we will all be switching to electric vehicles (EVs) and where there are EVs, there must be charging facilities.

Charging points have already sprung up at motorway services, at railway stations, at supermarkets and in car parks but increasingly vehicle owners want the convenience of charging their car at home. Studies show that 75% of electric vehicle charging will be done at home. The convenience of getting into a fully charged car (rather than standing at a petrol pump) in the morning is a huge appeal to prospective buyers.

This is no problem if you live in a freehold property but leasehold flats throw up more challenges. Developers are now installing electric charging points in new blocks as standard but for anyone with responsibility for an existing development that wants to install charging points, there are a number of issues for property managers to consider.

Start with the lease

As ever, the starting point is always the lease. In the majority of cases, residents will need a license to alter from the landlord to install one or more charging points. This formal, written consent will normally cost around £650, which will need to be covered by the resident/s in question – assuming the freeholder is happy to oblige.

The supply

Once consent is obtained, there are also issues around location of charging points and electricity supply to be considered. Some flat owners may have an allocated parking space or garage demised to them but the electricity supply to that parking space – if there is one – won’t be connected to the electricity meter in their flat. As most leases provide for a right of use of parking spaces without ownership, car parks are normally connected to the communal supply that is covered by the service charge. When only a handful of residents are gaining the benefit from the electricity that is being used by EV owners, this is unlikely to be warmly welcomed by the majority and may not be possible under the terms of the lease.

The good news is that EV charging technology is rapidly evolving to keep pace with demand and there are now options on the market that can get around many of the problems that residential blocks throw up.

Pay-as-you-go solutions working in tandem with cloud-based mobile apps – similar to those now being installed in public spaces and by employers – mean that electricity used by individual residents can be monitored, logged and paid for. Flat owners can use such systems to pay their costs back to their block on a monthly basis, so that residents who don’t use charging points are not subsidising those that do.

Installation

Set-up is simple, with very little electrical work needed to install a simple pay-as-you-go charging system. Your existing landlord/communal area supply service distribution equipment will hopefully be extended and a dedicated distribution board installed to feed the new charging points. Sizing will depend on how many charge-points you require now or wish to allow for future expansion. It should be possible for all wiring to charge point locations to be run using the building’s existing wiring containment system where feasible, ensuring the installation is as discrete as possible. If not, then galvanised cable tray may be needed to disguise any additional wiring.

Cost

Of course the other big question that residents will be asking property managers to answer is how much will the installation cost and who pays? And costs to residents may be partly covered by a government-subsidised grant from the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV). The OLEV Grant is also known as the Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme (EVHS) and provides £500 off the cost of purchasing & installing a home charging point. However, as with all government grants, this one won’t be around forever, so if you are considering EV charging points, now is a good time to think about installing them, while financial assistance is still available.

One exciting aspect of EV charging technology is that in future, once charged, EVs will be used as mobile batteries that, rather than just taking an electrical charge from a residential supply, will also be able to put electricity back into the system, making charging points carbon neutral – or even carbon positive. New storage batteries currently in development are expected to unlock a range of in-home energy production methods. These batteries will be able to store power at a local level and further down the line, may even distribute power across a community.

Conclusion

Now is the time for property managers and landlords to start thinking about providing charging facilities and to have the conversation with residents – whether or not anyone in your block/s owns an EV. In future they will and it is well worth being prepared to deal with the questions that will be asked by residents about installing them – in 10 years’ time they will be standard too.

Best practice advice for fire safety in flats

ARMA (the Association of Residential Managing Agents) has issued a ‘Fire Safety Management in Flats’ Guidance Note to share best practice with professional Fire Safety personnel involved in the residential leasehold sector, including managing agents, developers and landlords.

The Guidance Note has been produced in line with statutory guidance and industry best practice and independently reviewed by Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service, ARMA’s Primary Authority Partner and can be accessed by clicking here.

Dr Nigel Glen, CEO of ARMA, said: “ARMA members have access to over 100 Guidance Notes on a wide range of topics affecting leasehold properties. This is the only one that has been made available to non-ARMA members, as we wish to promote Fire Safety industry-wide.
Information courtesy of News on the Block.

Top 10 tips for fire safety in flats:

  1. Ask your managing agent to provide you with a copy of the building’s latest fire risk assessment. It is, effectively, a guide book for fire safety plans in your building.
  2. If your managing agent won’t provide you with a copy of the fire risk assessment then complain to the individual agent directly. If that does not work, then make a formal complaint through the internal complaints procedure at the agent’s company.
    If you are still unhappy, you can complain to a redress scheme. All managing agents in England must be a member of one these redress schemes:
    o The Property Ombudsman
    o The Property Redress Scheme
  3. If there is no fire risk assessment and the responsible person will not conduct an assessment, then contact your local fire and rescue authority (FRA). Your FRA is responsible for enforcing fire safety regulations. They can make the person responsible for fire safety in your building carry out a fire risk assessment.
    Your local fire service can tell you who the FRA is (it might be your local council). You can also search on the National Fire Chiefs Council website.
  4. It is recommended that for low-rise blocks of up to three storeys above ground, built in the last 20 years, fire risk assessments should be:
    o reviewed every 2 years
    o redone every 4 years
    For blocks with higher risks (for example, because of the age of the building), or those more than 3 storeys high, it is recommended that assessments should be:
    o reviewed every year
    o redone every 3 years
    In extreme cases (for the highest-risk buildings), a new fire risk assessment is recommended annually.
    When you receive your building’s fire risk assessment check when it was last redone and/or reviewed.
  5. If you have received the assessment, check that the managing agent has or will act on its recommendations.
  6. Fit smoke alarm(s) in your flat and test them monthly.
  7. Be vigilant that the communal areas are free of obstructions to your escape from fire; and that fire doors in communal areas are not propped open.
  8. If a specific ‘evacuation plan’ is agreed with the Local Fire Authority then you should read the plan carefully, so you know what to do if you ever need to evacuate.
  9. Check that the managing agents have regular testing and servicing arrangements in place for any fire-fighting and detection equipment.
  10. If alterations to doors or the internal layout of the flat are planned, consider implications on fire safety and check any issues with your managing agent.

If you would like to know more about the safety standards undertaken by Inspired Property Management in managing your development please get in touch with a member of our team.