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What lessons have property managers learnt from the winter floods of 2013/2014? 15th May 2014

What lessons have property managers learnt from the winter floods of 2013/2014?  Last winter, with winds reaching upwards of 90 mph and hundreds of flood alerts, an increased number of properties (and their tenants) were at real risk from the elements.

This was reflected in the number of calls taken by Propertyserve's maintenance helpdesk, who between 1 December 2013 and 28 February 2014 received a whopping 21,753 calls - a 42 per cent increase on last year - all as a result of the weather.

Thank goodness we didn't have any really cold weather, the floods were enough to manage.

For those affected - whether businesses or householders - the flooding made a hefty dent in everyone's pockets. Accountancy firm, PwC, changed its forecast for the cost of December and January flooding to £630m, which included a £500m bill for the insurance industry.

The weather took its toll on property managers nationwide, who faced with overwhelming weather associated property damage, desperately tried to get hold of contractors and tenants in an effort to make safe their properties. In fact, for many of them it became mission critical and levels of panic set in.

the summer months are the best time to repair pot holesThis lack of planning would have meant risks being taken when it came to adhering to standard health and safety procedures. Due to the nature of the works, especially in emergency situations, it is often difficult for companies to ensure that all health and safety regulations and guidelines are followed, and it becomes even more difficult to control costs. Equally, a number of property managers would have resorted to using contractors not previously approved, because they had no choice.

So, if there is one thing that the erratic weather of the past few months (and years) should teach us, it is that we all need to plan, plan and plan again for any eventuality.

Risk must be assessed, handled, and avoided wherever possible, so make sure the following areas are covered:

  • Contractor insurances and qualifications
  • Contractor risk assessments and method statements
  • Contractor CIS handling
  • Exposure to debt

Management of contractors is arguably the largest risk and the most difficult to control. This is due to the fact that even if all of the documents are collated and verified, contractors may work outside their insurance cover. An example of this would be a contractor accredited to landscaping, being asked to carry out fabric repair works while on site. This would not be picked up by the procurement team, but would signify a genuine risk to the client should the tradesman or member of the public suffer injury.

Protect your property - preparation tips for next winter

  • Consider the worst case scenarios and prepare for them. Decide when is the best time to undertake this work and plan it into a seasonal calendar.
  • Pothole damage - the summer months are the best time to repair pot holes. This needs to be done when the ground is dry and there is no threat of rain or ice.
  • Pointing - the dryer and warmer months are a good time to repoint brickwork and flashings. It's also the safest time for contractors to get up onto roofs.
  • Gutters - the best time to clear out gutters is immediately after the leaves have fallen, usually around late October or early November.
  • External lighting - aim to check and repair all external light, for example in car parks or building entrances during late summer, to ensure that when the days draw in, the lighting is working to full effect.

About the author
Chris MacDonald, PropertyserveChris MacDonald is managing director of Propertyserve UK


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