We live and work in a society rooted in portable and high speed technology. We face an ever increasing, and confusing, level of choice in pretty much anything we want. Technology not only offers us all more choice and accessibility to everyday products but we have vast and rapidly evolving selection in the technology itself – each new innovation promising some functionality bigger, brighter and better than the next.
Anyone living in a residential block (big and small) has come to expect a wide range of entertainment services in their apartment, borne out of the accessibility that our pocket and portable devices provide. The bar has been set high and it’s getting higher. The humble TV with its 4 channels is no more. Streaming movies through numerous providers; pause & record set-top boxes; High Definition (4K) signal; Smart TV’s; and thousands of international channels beaming from over 100 countries, are all on offer. Add to this all the entertainment sent over the internet it can all become confusing, so what is your end goal?
To help property managers get to grips with what is achievable, we have compiled a list of questions each managing agent should be asking. Bear in mind that any system may be operational for 20-25 years, so investing a little time to get it right is best done before engaging a contractor – who may offer the moon but deliver a little less.
The Lease – What is the landlord obligated to provide? This is often overlooked but it is essential, from the outset, that this is understood. Is the lease silent on TV antennae? Does the lease refer only to TV antennae vis-à-vis basic service? Is it a modern block that has specific performance covenants? Will installing a comprehensively designed system be an improvement and could this be challenged under Section 20? The alternative may be to seek consent from the landlord for a new system to be installed on their building.
Is the building listed? Does the local authority have certain limitations / restrictions on what they want to see within a locality? This may impact on the type of external equipment fitted on the building and force a rethink if residents only want channels that require a huge dish. Do not assume that wires are a ‘nominal’ change to a listed building. Conservation officers will not simply approve this and you may be forced to demonstrate that wires and dishes will be minimised from being viewable or asked to remove them if you don’t have approval.
Is the system intended to clear the clutter of unregulated dishes and aerials? If there are no dishes on the building – then you have a potential blank canvas. If you have existing dishes, the short answer is yes, you need to remove the clutter. To do that you will need to understand what is working and who it serves. Then ask if the resident(s) concerned if they had formal consent to install their equipment. Establish if there are any cable routes running within the building. A preliminary survey would help. Review whether or not TV / Satellite signals can be received over broadband.
In such cases, look at cable TV or satellite via broadband. Leaps have been made towards getting signal sent via the internet. For cable TV, the supply cables will enter the building underground but will need a riser within the building to allow these cables to extend to the flats. This is disruptive work and best done in tandem with a major internal works project.
What do the residents want? Are they content with basic packages like Freeview and broadcasted channels (in line with the lease)? Or do they want the complete range of programmes from around the world and programmes in the highest resolution? If everyone does not agree then the needs of the few may not be met by the needs of the many. What is the equitable balance?
Have a plan of cable routes. If the cables are being fitted outside, and have approval, have a plan provided by the installer. It’s very important to know this rather than leave it in the hands of the installer. Will they use abseil or scaffold when doing this work. Abseil may be less disruptive but it is harder to regulate the quality of the work. Scaffold may not be economically viable for a straightforward satellite install. We would always consider a satellite upgrade/new installation during a major external works refurbishment.
Only deal with approved installers. There are many rogue installers who will sell the moon and deliver a block of cheese. However, there are professional trade associations that require members to perform a benchmarked level of service. Recommendations are fine but speak with other buildings you know of and ask about any problems they have experienced rather than on how amazing the system is. Learn about technical glitches, as these are what will make residents raise complaints. Ironing out problems at design stage is best. Having a single combined system may be compact but if it fails it means all channels will be off. Look at ways of diluting the risk so that residents have something rather than nothing if there is a technical issue in the future.
Decide on the equipment and remember that systems do need to be earthed. Installers will commission their system but ensure that you have an electrical certificate provided as well.
Manage expectations. A resident might want a signal in every room of their apartment. Can the incoming signal be extended from inside an apartment? Or will it disrupt high end finishes inside? Additional work is not chargeable to the landlord so be clear on what is included and explain clearly the likely cost of extending cables inside a flat at the request of a leaseholder.
Mazhar Farid is a building surveyor with Earl Kendrick West (Bristol). Please feel free to contact Mazhar Farid via email: email@example.com or call us on 020 3667 1510.