COVID-19: updating the guidance

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New guidance is being issued daily to help keep the public safe

This week, both ARMA and the Government have issued formal coronavirus guidance. Ringley will be circulating this information to our clients and to directors of management companies. Below is a summary of the most important points.

Payment of service charges and ground rent

While private and social renters will be protected from eviction for three months under upcoming legislation, and homeowners have the offer of mortgage repayment holidays, we are already being faced with leaseholders unwilling to consider service charges an essential payment.  Ringley cannot agree to service charge payment holidays. This is because to keep your building running, we would need client or directors loans to cover shortfalls. 

However, we want to share with you that ARMA is in discussions with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) about any current or future plans to introduce support for leaseholders so that service charges can still be paid to keep essential services going.  Credit control and management of cash flow are vital in these challenging times.  It is just possible that the suspension of all forfeiture cases could mean that lenders become more reluctant to pay arrears and protect their security, as it’s not at risk for three months, so this could have an impact on your accounts and cash flow.

Major works, maintenance, and inspections

Essential works, for example, repairs to leaking roofs, will continue for the time being.
Plant Inspections – most suppliers are continuing plant inspection, testing and maintenance. We are monitoring this.
Statutory fire testing  – is still permitted and is arguably even more important at a time when most people are at home.
Lifts – The government and HSE have both taken a more hard-line standpoint on the requirement for LOLER inspections, as a number of insurance companies have already stated that they will NOT be carrying out inspections (at least until lift engineers are designated as key workers).  Unfortunately, the Government’s latest guidance is that if we are unable to get an inspection, the lift should be isolated from further use.  Our Support Teams are now analysing this and will report any problems.

Supply chain issues

We are beginning to have some trouble in sourcing parts for repairs on-site as, for example, Jewsons and Travis Perkins have taken the view that Government advice requires them to close their outlets. Again Government is being approached for clarification on this.

EWS1 forms, building safety and remediation works

As we reported in this blog yesterday, making buildings safe, including progressing the remediation of high-rise buildings with unsafe cladding – and particularly those with unsafe Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) cladding – remains a priority for the Government. The view is that this work is critical to public safety additional project management support has been put in place together with construction expertise to help oversee remediation.  Read more here.

Key workers and essential services 
The full list of key workers can be found on the Government’s website here and continues to evolve. ARMA/BPF/IRPM/UKAA are working with the BEIS (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) to update the list of key personnel to take account of roles needed in high density residential dwellings.  James Brokenshire, Minister of State for Security at the Home Office, has extended key worker status to all security and fire safety personnel who are actively working to improve public safety.
Waking watches must be maintained as usual, but Competent Persons and Fire Safety Officers must observe social distancing guidance. Should we be notified of sickness or people isolating in any of our buildings that affects a waking watch we will liaise with the local Fire & Rescue Service accordingly.

ARMA are awaiting an answer to their question regarding Key Workers for the Block Management industry. This was raised with the Secretary of State and Housing minister on 26 March.

Common areas and onsite facilities

Given the Government’s enforcement that we practice social distancing, ordering the closure of cafes, restaurants, clubs, bars, pubs, health clubs, and gyms, and other social venues to try and slow down the spread of COVID-19, we have had to severely restrict or close all your communal facilities and amenities with immediate effect. This includes gyms, residents lounges etc.

Confirmed COVID-19 cases in your building

Please do report to us if you are aware of a positive confirmed case of COVID-19 in your block.  If a case is reported, we will be following the guidance from Public Health England on the cleaning required, the appropriate disposal of waste and cleaning materials, the disinfection of equipment and hard surfaces, and the personal protective equipment (PPE) that should be worn.   You can read this here.

Please note that a deep clean of the communal areas may be required in accordance with guidance from PHE. This may result in an unbudgeted expenditure item to achieve this – but is not a choice – please consider it a requirement.