The team at Orchard Block Management Services Limited would like to wish everybody a very Merry Christmas and a happy New Year!
To make sure we are contactable over the festive period, we will be in the office between Christmas and the New Year. Here are our full opening hours:
• We close on Friday 23rd December 2016.
• We are open for business on Wednesday 28th December and Thursday 29th December 2016.
• We close at 5.00 pm on Friday 30th December 2016 for New Year.
• We will be back in the office on Tuesday 3rd January 2017.
Merry Christmas and best wishes for the New Year! From everybody at OBMS.
Orchard Block Management Systems’ Managing Director John Socha presented awards to the Networking Group of the Year and the Overall Winner at the prestigious Business Awards.
The Networking Group of the Year award went to The Business Club Northants, a company that started in 2007 to help Northamptonshire businesses connect. They bring a new and refreshing approach to business networking, holding evening meetings across the county.
This year’s overall winners were Seckingtons Northampton, an accredited Aveda hair salon located on the Wellingborough Road. Seckingtons have built up an excellent reputation in the hairdressing world and they have a loyal clientele, really setting the standard for businesses everywhere. The salon also picked up an award for Training and Development.
All of the 2016 winners can be seen here.
The awards were established to help promote hardworking, ambitious and successful local businesses and support all the good work they do. They are an excellent way to celebrate the achievements of SMEs in Northamptonshire and OBMS Ltd are very proud to have been able to contribute.
We would like to congratulate everyone who took part and made the SME Northamptonshire Business Awards a success. Well done to all category nominees and winners and many congratulation to Seckingtons Northampton, the overall winners.
Upad is the UK’s largest online letting agent, allowing landlords to advertise their properties on all the major lettings portals.
It gives landlords the freedom to choose the right tenants for their property without having to advertise for them.
Once a tenant has been chosen by the landlord, Upad can sort all of the administration and set up.
Here, Upad is reviewed by the Managing Director of Orchard Block Management Services Ltd. (OBMS), John Socha. John has extensive experience in property management and OBMS currently manages 105 apartment blocks and sites. He also has his own property portfolio comprising 23 properties.
“I first started using Upad in 2009 when they became a Recognised Supplier through the National Landlords Association.
Upad does all the work for you by generating high quality tenant applications through their professional adverts on Rightmove and Zoopla.
As a landlord, you meet your tenants face to face. You can then make your own mind up as to who you feel will be the best person to live in your property.
I was impressed with the speed of let – I found great tenants in less than two weeks. Not only did Upad find me great tenants fast, but they saved me money compared to using a traditional letting agent.
I started using Upad after selling my own letting business and I haven’t looked back since. Give Upad a try. You won’t be disappointed.”
We take continual professional development (CPD) very seriously at Orchard Block Management Services Ltd., which is why we encourage our Property Managers to attend, amongst others, ARMA conferences.
CPD is defined as ‘the means by which people maintain their knowledge and skills related to their knowledge and skills related to their professional lives’.
Our property manager, Andrew, attended the most recent ARMA conference in London on Monday 22nd June 2015. Not only was this a chance for him to continue his CPD on a personal/professional level, but Orchard Block Management Services Ltd like to have a representative there to feed back about any recent changes in ARMA legislation. The day included the following agenda:
LONDON (2): 22nd June 2015
• Chair’s Welcome
Noella Morton, Warwick Estates Property Mgmt Ltd
• ARMA Update – ‘Moving forward together’
Michelle Banks, CEO of ARMA
• Technical Update
Helen Christie, ARMA Technical O_cer
• Breakout session, follow up to ARMA-Q
Facilitator: Tony Hymers, Burlington Estates Ltd and
Michelle Banks, CEO of ARMA
• Banking with ARMA-Q
Steve Arundale and Steve Russell, NatWest PLC
• Combined heating & power: how does it a_ect you?
Michael Donnellan, Towers & Hamlin LLP
Particularly in light of recent changes within ARMA-Q, the ARMA conferences are a way for us to keep up-to-date with legislation, changes in block management, and of course our competitors!
We believe that the commitment to ARMA includes a commitment to CDM for all our property managers. Belonging to ARMA is a symbol (and working promise) of our commitment to raising standards of block management.
Not a month goes by when the office doesn’t hear about issues with rubbish or recycling at one of the blocks of flats which we manage:
Rubbish and recycling will always be a contentious issue as it involves both communal and personal responsibility. Particularly in the case of recycling, though also refuse, there is an element of environmental obligation. We all have a responsibility to recycling where we can. Not only that, but communal living necessitates respect for your neighbours. Everyone wants to live in a clean and safe environment, and we can all do our best to make sure that happens.
Orchard Block Management Services Ltd has become one of the first residential managing agents in England and Wales to achieve a highly prestigious accreditation by the industry’s trade body – the Association of Residential Managing Agents (ARMA).
Orchard Block Management Services Ltd has achieved ARMA-Q accreditation – the new regulators regime for residential leasehold managing agents. ARMA-Q has been introduced by ARMA – the industry’s trade body, in the absence of any statutory regulation, with the aim of pushing up standards of property management across the board.
ARMA’s chief executive, Michelle Banks, said: “Choosing the right managing agent can be a bit of a minefield. The industry’s not regulated so they don’t have to belong to a professional body or comply with specific standards. We have introduced ARMA-Q so leaseholders can be confident they are choosing a quality agent.”
She continued: ‘Anyone appointing an ARMA-Q agent to manage their property can have peace of mind that they conform to high standards, are bound by a consumer charter and are regulated independently. Like all ARMA’s members, Orchard Block Management Services Ltd has a clear commitment to providing the best service.
Flat owners who use ARMA-Q accredited agents to mange their property will be guaranteed a number of safeguards including:
We at Orchard Block Management Services are extremely proud of achieving ARMA-Q status. We had to demonstrate that we comply with over 160 rigorous industry standards. We truly believe in ensuring that leaseholders receive a high standard of service, from their accounting to their maintenance.
Items in Communal Areas
Having completed some of our regular Fire Risk Assessments on the properties which we manage, it has come to our attention that there is an issue with items left in communal areas.
Communal living can be problematic. While it might seem like a non-issue to leave personal items in communal areas for convenience sake, such as hallways, landings, under-stairs cupboards, it is important to remember some issues:
To this end, our site visit inspector will warn anybody who is leaving an item in the communal area by leaving a note on their item. If they are not removed, then we instruct someone to remove them, thereby incurring a cost on your service charge.
We appreciate that some leaseholders choose to lease their property out. However, if you choose to do this, it is your responsibility to ensure your tenants or letting agents are aware of the issues surrounding communal areas.
On Sunday 15th of March, Greyfriars bus station was reduced to rubble in a long-awaited and planned for demolition.
An exclusion zone was put in place around the site, which affected lots of homes in the town centre. According to the BBC website, 414 homes from around the area were evacuated for safety reasons. This included two blocks of flats which we at Orchard Block Management Service Ltd manage. An exclusion zone was set up around the Greyfriars bus station, which was incidentally once described by TV presenter Kevin McCloud as the “mouth of hell”, included residential homes and some major road closures.
In the run up to the planned event, Orchard was in contact with the various authorities over residential concerns relating to the evacuation. The demolition ran smoothly, with the building collapsing in around 6 seconds after a series of sharp bangs signalled that the explosives had been detonated.
The area is now up for discussion in terms of planned development. The original Greyfriars building has been voted one of the ugliest buildings in Britain, and was once described by the Lonely Planet Guide as “infamously ugly”. It’s an example of the classic Brutalist architecture of the 1970s, and since the building of the new bus station over the site of the Fish Market, had become completely redundant. According to the Northampton borough Council, refurbishment of the building would have cost around £30million. The demolition itself cost around £4million, but the council are hopeful that removing the station will provide room to breathe new life into Northampton.
The council has welcomed suggestions about how to develop the site as part of the Northampton Alive program.
Please see the below link for a video of the demolition and the full BBC article of the event.
During the winter periods, Orchard Block Management Services regularly carry out maintenance work on the properties we manage, and there are some simple tips that can help landlords, tenants and homeowners have a stress free winter.
Protecting your Pipes
Sometimes it is good to accept that you’re going to have to spend some money on heating during the winter months, however, some tenants will often go without to save significant sums. It must be said that having no heating whatsoever during the cold months can be extremely damaging to the property, and pipes can easily freeze and burst without a regular supply of heat. Even if you have the heating on at a low temperature, you can maintain the condition of the pipes and prevent costly repairs.
Checking Drains and Gutters
Soiled dirt, leaves and ice can be three of the main causes for blocked gutters and drains, and these can soon crack and break if they’re not unblocked. This is why it is handy to checkup on blockages during the cold months, making sure you solve the problem before it becomes a bigger, more expensive issue.
Reduce Condensation and Mould
Placing your clothes on the radiator can mean they dry very quickly, however it can be wiser to dry them on a clotheshorse or airer. This essentially helps to reduce condensation, but ventilation is very important too. Opening your windows for just 30 minutes a day can be very beneficial, and while you may not like feel of the British breeze that enters, it can minimise the moisture in the air, preventing the build-up of mould.
Most of the time it’s the small tasks that can help maintain the condition of a property in the winter, and whether you’re a homeowner, a tenant or a landlord, it’s in your interest to make sure the property is well-maintained throughout.
As much as we all love our pets – our pooches and purring kittens – if you live in a flat, having a pet may be more complicated than it seems.
Firstly, most leases will state that pets are categorically not allowed. Although each individual lease is of course subtly different – and as such you should consult your own lease for a definite decision – a standard lease response to pets in your flat may read as follows:
No bird, dog or other animal which may cause annoyance to any owner, lessee or occupier of any other flat comprised in the Mansion shall be kept in the flat; and no bird, dog or other animal shall be kept in the flat without the written consent of the lessors which consent may be revoked at the discretion of the Lessors.
As you can see from this example of a lease, pets are generally not allowed in flats. This is for a number of reasons:
People often ask whether exceptions can be made for a small dog such as a Chihuahua rather than a bigger dog such as a Great Dane. However, it wouldn’t be fair to make exceptions such as this as animals are animals regardless of their size. As a block management company we must abide by the individual lease of the property, as to make exceptions regardless of the lease would be illegal.
Northampton Borough Council’s website states:
As a general rule you cannot keep a dog if you live in a bedsit, flat or maisonette.
The exceptions to this are
• Guide dogs
• Where your GP or other professional has written to recommend you keep one for your health or wellbeing
• Where you are the repeat victim of crime
• Where you can demonstrate that special circumstances exist.
If you already own a dog and have had it since before 1st April 1999 and it meets the consent criteria, permission will only be given for the duration of the dog’s life. You will not be allowed to keep dogs in the future unless special reasons again apply. If you transfer or have a mutual exchange from a house into a flat or maisonette then you will have to accept the no dogs rule as a condition of the move – unless the special reasons apply.
As you can clearly see, animals in flats make for a fraught situation which can include neighbours, landlords, block management companies or even the council. When thinking about having a pet, the first thing you should do is check what your lease says about animals. If your lease states that you cannot keep an animal in your premises, then you cannot, unfortunately, own a pet.