Common Problems in Residential Blocks and How to Avoid Them

Living in a residential block is often the only way, or at least the most affordable w...

Living in a residential block is often the only way, or at least the most affordable way, to enjoy living in the heart of a major British city. Cities like London, Manchester, Glasgow or Birmingham are dominated by these often high rise towers or sprawling complexes of multiple buildings. 

At the moment, we’re seeing a boom in the construction of modern high rise flats and residential estates, especially in London and Manchester. And, with the growth of the build to rent model, correctly managing residential blocks is key to minimising problems both in the present and future. 

If you’re a residential property manager, or you’re moving into the industry, these are some of the common residential block problems that we have identified - and ways to fix them. 

Noise complaints

This is definitely a residential block problem everyone will experience, especially for residents. Noise pollution can make life hell for people, but it can be hard to minimise and prevent. Buildings built around central courtyards can act as an amplifier for local noise, and many buildings have poor soundproofing (if any). 

If you’re a residential property manager, you’ll likely have a couple of noise complaints a month. However, some noises are part and parcel of block living, while others can be a problem.

When it comes to one-off parties or loud music during daylight hours, it can be hard to find a case against this behaviour. Likewise DIY noise, footsteps, children playing and having the TV too loud aren’t necessarily social issues - more an annoyance for some that people may need to take up with their neighbours. But if there is persistent, repetitive noise this might be a complaint you’ll need to find a solution for. 

How to prevent it

There are laws against anti-social behaviour, and estate or block managers should be able to make it clear that respect for neighbours is a prerequisite to living in the property. This should normally be included in any welcome pack at the start of tenancies as a condition of their contract.

The first thing to do is make it clear in all communal areas, and on tenancy agreements, that there is a legal obligation to not make any avoidable noise, or to gather, play or loiter in common areas of the building. Legally, this is between 11 pm and 7 am, although some contracts may state the time as up until 8 am..  

Disruptive noise such as DIY, loud music or shouting is technically legal but can cause distress. Most contracts will also state that noise such as music should not be audible outside of the apartment at any time, although it can be tricky gauging the exact decibel level that is deemed acceptable. 

In the case of consistent disturbing noise, it may be worth posting polite notices in communal areas or, if necessary, directly to the parties concerned. Especially if it’s a regular occurrence.  

We also recommend making it easy to report these issues to your estate manager or concierge team. Of course, make sure these complaints are correctly logged so you can refer back to them if you need to serve a breach of lease notice to the tenant.

Waste management

With communal bins, there is lots of scope for residential block problems with waste and bins. Using the wrong bins, leaving rubbish outside the bin room, not cleaning up spillages promptly, or worse still, leaving waste and rubbish in the wrong place such as courtyards or hallways.

One of the big problems is knowing who the culprit is, so this can be a tricky one to solve. If you have a closed-circuit TV installed in the block, this can help solve the mystery. But how can you solve this common residential block problem?

How to prevent it

Regular checks of the bin area are of course going to be the best way to keep tabs on issues with dumping or mismanagement of the waste. Clear communication about how to manage waste for all residents will also help minimise problems, and making it easy to access the code for the bin store too.

Some residential blocks have a waste collection service from the doors of flats, although this isn’t necessarily suitable for everyone. Make allowances for people who are disabled or perhaps have language or communication issues, and see how you can offer them some extra assistance. 

Theft or damage to property

Even in relatively secure blocks, theft can and often does happen. From bikes to flower boxes or communal features or art, if it isn’t bolted down, it can be a target. Vandalism too can come in many forms, from graffiti to physical damage to property. As one of the more obviously illegal problems in residential blocks, minimising theft and vandalism comes with its own set of challenges.

How to prevent it

Having CCTV can be a great help as both a preventative measure and to spot any issues after the fact. Not all areas can be covered by CCTV, so keeping an up to date log of visitors to your premises is an effective way to solve this problem. In fact, logging visitors is a very common residential block problem, perhaps less so in high rise flats.

If you’re managing a large estate, it can be tricky to monitor every point of entry. In this instance, it can be worth discussing with stakeholders about installing CCTV or securing access points with digital entry.

Residents should be made aware that they should only allow access to people they know or are expecting, and to challenge any unknown persons who may tailgate them into the block.

Make sure to log any complaints from residents about theft or vandalism so that you have a record of it for your reference. Take note of any statements about suspected people, events that might have led up to the problem or common problems that might need tackling.

A useful deterrent against theft can also be marking property with either a permanent marker or sticker that identifies items as belonging to your estate or block.

Water, fire and building infrastructure issues

Hopefully, fire or water leaks aren’t common problems in your residential block. With the case of Grenfell highlighting the issues around building safety and high rise flat problems, you most likely have been looking at your procedures with managing the building’s infrastructure.

Older buildings especially have issues around degradation of the building which can lead to burst pipes, gas leaks, faulty wiring and weather damage. Small issues in residential blocks can lead to very big problems, so knowing how to handle these can be the difference between a small job or handling a tragedy.

How to prevent it

Regular checks are of course the best way to monitor the state of your residential block and minimise potential problems. Check fire doors and sprinkler systems and make sure fire extinguishers are professionally checked routinely. Logging any issues identified by your team or those reported by your residents are also going to be very important.

For tenants, they should be aware that smoking on-premises or on balconies can be a fire risk. They should also not store combustible material in their apartments or on balconies and should avoid things like barbecues except in designated areas. 

Tenants should have access to information about how to isolate valves or contact details for maintenance contractors. And, keeping up to date contacts, especially out of hours contacts, has the potential to prevent bad situations turning into a disaster.

Proactive maintenance is also hugely important, so be sure to work with your team and your leaseholders to understand the priorities within your block. 

Software solutions for common residential property problems

Most of the problems on this list can be solved with a combination of good management and communication. Ensuring your team have an effective channel for logging communication and any issues that may arise is crucial for the smooth running on a modern residential block.

Giving tenants a clear welcome pack with all the useful info about living in the block and their lease obligation is essential. Ideally, a hard copy, which is easier to flick through over breakfast or dig out in an emergency, but a digital copy is better than nothing.

Lobital is a block management software that handles all the common processes associated with being a residential property manager. This includes tracking visitors and building access, keeping tabs on tasks and problems that have been identified, and communicating with your estate residents and leaseholders. With regards to high rise flat problems, spotting the issues and acting on them quickly has never been so important, and a good software package can help make your job easier.  

Make sure you minimise the chances of smaller issues becoming bigger problems by investing in a software solution that can help manage daily tasks with greater efficiency.