PREPARING FOR LIFE AFTER LOCKDOWN
Returning to London after lockdown – Is your home ready?
As measures are starting to become eased and the return to metropolitan areas are looking more likely, is your London residence ready for your return?
Like the rest of the nation, we’re looking forward to the lockdown restrictions easing in line with the Government’s strategy. After announcements over the past week, engineers, builders and construction workers are all being encouraged to actively return to work providing that social distancing measures and other protocols are upheld.
Since lockdown restrictions started in the UK two months ago, our services were limited to a reactive and vacancy management service, which included monitoring the security and vulnerability of properties.
Although our lives may still be very much in lockdown, it is important to look ahead and plan for a return to a more normal way of life, following lockdown. With this in mind, we’ve put together our property management recommendations for individuals and families returning to their prime London property.
It’s normal practice for vacant properties to run heating and cooling systems on a reduced but steady mode (often called ‘holiday mode’), which keeps the property running efficiently throughout the year. We would always advise this, as the effects of making drastic temperature changes to heating and cooling systems can create problems which may not always be easy to resolve. Similarly, some properties may have had heating systems turned off altogether. In both instances, the systems will require maintenance before they are completely reinstated. This also coincides with seasonal upkeep as we enter the warmer months of the year, such as maintenance of outdoor kitchen appliances and swimming pool chlorination.
Flushing taps and water outlets to prevent water bacteria developing is essential, if kitchens and bathrooms are not used on a regular basis. Our advice is, please take this seriously. Ask household staff and cleaners to do this on a weekly basis. It’s not just a threat to health but costly and a pain to eradicate.
Security and Safeguarding Measures
Whilst crime rates have naturally decreased in most areas, this is not the time for complacency. On the contrary, it is now more important than ever to ensure that security and safeguarding measures are put in place.
Use this time to check that all your insurances and affairs are in place and up to date, such as car, contents, building, life, fine art, jewellery and any other policies.
At Somerset Estates, we would always complete a full background check on insurance statuses and insist that all covers are in place for all clients. We leave nothing to chance, the risks are simply far too high for an “i” not to be dotted, or a “t” not to be crossed.
Naturally, there is an emphasis on increased cleaning standards in all settings. Employing the same cleaner on a regular basis who understands the importance of using products that kill bacteria without damaging furnishings and materials is paramount.
In communal areas, building management companies have a responsibility to communicate new behaviours around regular and deep cleaning as they will have an increased duty of care to ensure hygiene standards meet health and safety guidance legislation. Measures already in force will depend upon the type of activity and the level of traffic within the building.
Emphasis will be placed on the frequent cleaning of touch points such as lift buttons and door handles, the provision of adequate hand sanitisers for use in communal areas and for concierge staff when handling postal and parcel deliveries.
Whilst residential apartment buildings may have reduced staff and maintenance over the past few weeks, service charge costs, by and large, are likely to remain the same.
In some cases, however, this should not be the case. Prime residential properties located within a commercial setting, such as part of a hotel which has been closed, should not be liable for full service charge costs, due to the building operating in a limited capacity. We would always advise clients to have a conversation early on with the other party, to try and agree a fair and reasonable charge for the affected period.
Be aware of contractual obligations
As builders and other trades are encouraged to return to work, renovations to homes and properties can re-start, providing new safety guidelines are strictly followed.
Whilst there is a collaborative effort for construction companies to get back to work, we recommend reviewing all contracts with respective contractors in detail before works re-commence. This will help to ensure that each party is aware of their contractual obligations, particularly in light of Covid-19 social distancing measures and other restrictions that could cause delays to projects. For larger development projects, new clauses may have to be written into contracts to protect and support both parties.
Your home, your space
Whilst Covid-19 is a new global health phenomenon, we should not assume that this won’t happen again or that we are suddenly going to return to normal life, as we knew it before.
Whether lockdown has meant spending the period oversees, or in a London penthouse, or at a countryside retreat – being at home has become more important than ever. Many of us will have had time to address our main priorities and desired changes to home living environments – whether it’s increased privacy, more outside space, less city living, more features to aid relaxation or adaptations to make working life at home more comfortable.