What the 'Quick Facts' tell you about a building.



Lift

'Yes' means the development has a lift or lifts, as appropriate. A small building with a single staircase may have one lift only. On the other hand, a development with several separate buildings, or one long building with several staircases, may have lifts for each segment or building. A lift doesn't necessarily go all the way to the top, or serve all flats.
Listed
A building is a 'listed building' if it has been put on a Statutory List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest. If it hasn't - which is the case for most buildings - the answer is 'No'. If the building is 'listed', the answer is 'Grade II', meaning that it is the lowest grade of listing. Listing often gives a property special cachet, but it imposes more restrictions than otherwise apply on alterations which can be carried out.
Parking

Most blocks have: 'Secure, allocated, underground parking'.

'Secure' means that the public cannot stroll into the parking area, as they could into an 'unsecure' parking area in front of a building. It is not a comment on the level of security.

'Allocated' means that anyone with a car parking space has a specific space which only they can use. 'Unallocated' means that it is first-come first served. Not every flat may have an allocated space. You need to check the lease.

'Underground' not surpisingly means that the parking area is underground. That is the usual arrangement. Sometimes the parking is at ground level, although still under the building. Sometimes there are split level parking areas, even with machinery for moving between them. Sometimes it is 'off street' parking, usually meaning 'outside the building but inside the gates'.

Facilities
This section is filled in only if the development offers the residents some special facilities such as, for example, a spa, a gym, a swimming pool, private gardens, a communal terrace.
Staff

Buildings often have someone who is there to look after the building and help residents. I call that person a 'concierge' if they have a desk at which to sit and greet visitors. I call them 'porters' if they don't have a desk. In reality, there is often little difference between a concierge and a porter. The rarest description is 'building manager' when the job mainly entails dealing with physical problems such as power failures or air conditioning break downs.

If someone is there all the time, I describe the service as '24 hour' concierge or porter. If it's only during the daytime - e.g. 7.00 a.m. to 7.00 p.m. - then I call it 'daytime' concierge or porter. Obviously the services provided and the levels of service will differ from building to building.

Freehold

For most buildings I have identified the freeholder - the company which owns the land, subject to all the flat leases. This was probably the developer when the leases were all created, but the developer may have sold the freehold to someone else later. People buy freeholds for the income from 'ground rent' in the flats' leases, or from commercial premises or parking spaces left to let after all the flats have been sold.

The freeholder is important because it usually controls management, maintenance of buildings, block insurance and service charges. (Let's call all that 'management'). Sometimes, there is a long leaseholder between the freeholder and the flat owners, in which case, the long leaseholder, rather than the freeholder, usually does the management. I say 'usually' because it all depends on the detailed legal set-up in the particular building.

In many cases, the flat owners have got together and bought the freehold, using a company as the vehicle for owning it and running the building. This is what estate agents mean when they say a flat comes with a 'share of freehold'. Sometimes all the flat owners are members or shareholders, but sometimes some flat owners did not participate and their flats do not have a 'share of freehold'. The best set-ups give one vote per participating flat, require the share or membership to pass with the flat on a sale, and require directors to be elected from the flat owners. Owning the freehold is a good thing, but it is communal. You still need a good lease to protect you personally.

Management

In many modern developments and conversions, the developer set up a management company, usually controlled by the flat owners, and this company then controls 'management' (see above) even if it doesn't own the building. I say 'usually' because it all depends on the detailed legal set-up in the particular building.

Even if that does not appy, flat owners have the right to take over the management of a badly managed building. This is called the 'Right To Manage'. If the court orders it, the flat owners set up an 'RTM' company, and this then manages the building in place of the freeholder. They may do this rather than simply buy the freehold - which they are also entitled to do - if the purchase price would be too high because, for example, there are unsold flats or commercial premises which would have to be paid for.

Whether it is the freeholder or a residents' management company which controls the management, they will employ specialist managing agents to carry out the day-to-day management of the building.