|Chapeltown Wharf||Piccadilly, Manchester|
In partnership with urbanbubble, property owners achieved:
- A 15% reduction in monthly service charge
- Major £1 million works to balconies and parapet walls covered by NHBC guarantee
- Leak problems solved with 25% reduction in buildings insurance premium
The full story:
Chapeltown Wharf was one of the first developments to be taken under urbanbubble’s wing in 2009. Situated just behind Piccadilly Station in the centre of Manchester, this gated estate of 103 apartments across three blocks takes pride of place in a former warehouse and manufacturing district, now redeveloped for residential and commercial use.
The two main issues that many leaseholders experience with managing agents were very much in evidence at Chapeltown Wharf: High service charges and a lack of responsiveness in dealing with service and maintenance issues at the property. When it came to the latter, the development appeared to have an ever-increasing list of problems that weren’t just inconvenient, but were also seriously affecting property prices in the development.
Leaks were not just making their way in from the roof and top floor terraces into the apartments below, but the internal plumbing system which was also causing problems that were affecting residents.
Whilst communal areas and grounds had become untidy and unloved, with a resulting ambience that didn’t quite reflect the development’s premium positioning in the Manchester property marketplace.
With an established Residents’ Management Company in place, leaseholders were doing their best to take control of the problems they were experiencing. But with a Leeds-based managing agent who seemed unwilling to help and reluctant to communicate, the distance between them and the only people who could help had rapidly become more than just geographical.
Urbanbubble was appointed managing agent of Chapeltown Wharf in 2009 by the RMC and, following their tried and tested procedure, first produced a comprehensive IPIP to provide a full picture of the development’s current financial state, running costs and problems.
IPIP: This creates a comprehensive picture of the current situation at a development that gives the property management team at urbanbubble a 360° view of all issues, maintenance work and improvements needed. This allows them to apply their experience to quickly solving immediate problems and identifying any issues that may not have been apparent to leaseholders. It also provides all the information they need to begin planning holistically to minimise the risk of future problems.
This immediately indentified that financial improvements were necessary in order to get the development back on track.
A welcome change
Tackling the budget first, new contracts were negotiated with a less expensive local supplier for upkeep of external areas and grounds and maintenance of hanging baskets, trees and the touches that turn residential developments into urban communities.
urbanbubble then focused their attention on the daily maintenance and cleaning of the development; an aspect of building management that’s the most visible and a priority to get right. Making a clean start, they replaced the financially inefficient contractors hired by the incumbent and immediately appointed one of their own Building Services Assistants (BSAs). This ensured more care was taken when it came to caretaking duties around the development, with residents and leaseholders experiencing a positive change within days. The wow factor of the development was further increased with full redecoration and new carpets after the first year to make communal areas bright and welcoming once again.
£1 million improvements leveraged from NHBC guarantee
The new managing agent then looked beneath the cosmetic requirements of Chapeltown Wharf and looked at the underlying leak problems that had plagued residents and caused insurance claims, and annual premiums, to steadily increase year-on-year.
Starting at the top, a survey commissioned by urbanbubble showed that the parapet on the roof of the development had been incorrectly installed during construction in 2004. This had caused leak problems that had gradually increased over the previous years from inconvenient to intolerable.
As the building was less than ten years old, these findings were presented to the NHBC (National House Building Council) whose guarantee should have covered repair. When they initially rejected these claims, urbanbubble persevered and commissioned a further £20K survey from an independent expert to show that roofing work had not been carried out to a satisfactory standard during construction.
This resulted in the NHBC honouring the guarantee and funding a £1million roof renovation involving the complete replacement of the parapet walls on all three blocks that took place over six months. Even better for leaseholders, this was identified and resolved just one year before the NHBC guarantee was due to expire. Which meant property owners avoided a £10K bill each for repairs and could relax that their investments had been protected from both inconvenient leaks and an unwelcome drop in value.
NHBC ten year guarantee: Any new development should be covered by a Buildings Guarantee for ten years. The above example shows, it pays to have the experts on side when making a claim. Part of urbanbubble’s service package on new builds is a pre-lapse survey. This is carried out at year eight of a property warranty to ascertain whether any problems that could be covered by leveraging the warranty and saving owners’ expense.
Inside the property, a full plumbing survey showed that soil stack damage was in danger of getting worse and this was identified and repaired. Many of the historic insurance claims had been due to these soil stacks snapping inside the building, creating thousands of pounds worth of damage causing equally unwelcome insurance claims and increased premiums.
An intervention that prevented a small problem becoming a big one, with no leaks reported in four years. In addition to being a repair that has helped leaseholders avoid large repair bills and expensive insurance claims in the future.
The urbanbubble benefit
As one of the first developments that urbanbubble took on responsibility for as managing agent, Chapeltown Wharf presented a challenging mix of cosmetic issues and more hidden and potentially expensive problems that were solved with minimum impact on financial reserves.
Thanks to urbanbubble’s skill in achieving more for less in day-to-day costs, the service charge was reduced by15% in their first year as managing agent.
With major works carried out to the roof and internal plumbing issues solved, resident insurance claims for water ingress have been significantly reduced, whilst buildings insurance has been reduced from £22k to £19k, saving leaseholders even more on their service charge.
“With a managing agent in place who looks after the building, renting apartments here is even easier.”
Steve Goodman, Chapeltown Wharf apartment owner
“The communal areas have never looked better and it’s a great place to come home to after a hard day’s work, the benefits of urbanbubble are plentiful, including ease of access – we can contact them via phone or email which is great if we are in work as neither of us can use our phone at work; also responses are always very prompt, professional and courteous. Finally they are happy to help with things that aren’t strictly their remit, but will happily act as first point of contact and put us in touch with someone appropriate and reliable. Staff on site and maintenance staff are approachable and reliable and keep the areas looking well maintained”
Phil Brown, Chapeltown Wharf resident
“urbanbubble are always easy to contact and demonstrate a commitment to working closely with the RMC to solve problems, however large or small they are.”
Michael Pollard, Chapeltown Wharf RMC Director