car washes property management guideThe car-wash industry has evolved over the last fifteen years to more of the hand washes you often see at the side of the road now, and lots of them.

This has come on the government radar to watch in terms of these being run correctly and compliantly, not just from a property and land perspective but from a people and employee one as well.

There’s a new guide here which goes into research and insight, therefore if you’re involved in anyway with these then it’s something to take note of, whether you’re a landlord renting out, an operator renting, or a middle-man advisor.

Therefore, here is our quick overview of the issues you need to be looking at from a property management perspective.

1. Water Discharge

This is probably one of the biggest practical property issues to address that has recently come on people’s agenda, and that’s the way that waste water then seeps into any drain.

There’s obviously going to be a large amount of water resulting from the washes which potentially has all kinds of cleaning substances, dirt and grime within it.

So, an operator needs to apply for a water discharge consent from the local Water Authority, well technically through a new water ‘retailer’ you can see here who administers this application but practically liaises with the actual water authority in that area.

There are then two important stages; firstly, to make sure that water drains into the foul sewer rather than a surface water drain or being allowed to simply seep into the ground.

This is a deal-breaker, as no matter how efficient the operation is then this can’t simply run back into the water system without any kind of treatment like through the sewers. The only possible alternative would be a form of tank storage on site which was collected by a vehicle – very expensive.

And the best way to determine this is to get proper plans and surveys to confirm so. If not already available from the property owner, or water authority, or local authority, then you’ll probably need a drain survey to check and document.

This can be a real problem, as sites like supermarket car parks that were never built with sewer networks in mind and which can suddenly cause problems.

The second point is that even when they are correctly going into the foul sewer, they may still need some for of interceptor or silt-trap to help with some form of initial cleansing.

This can be expensive over-and-beyond the original application fee, probably over £5,000 for some kind of kit to be dug into the ground and pre-treat the water, however in reality a low-risk operation may well be able to argue that it is practical and maybe some form of natural gulley leading to it would suffice to get rid of any big items.

2. Water Supply

A no-brainer really, making sure there is a supply of water to be used to wash the cars.

Cold water should suffice, and to the most convenient point to easily connect into and supply anything like sinks and washing machines.

Also work out how it will be used and charged for, and if some form of sub-meter is required to monitor.

3. Accreditation

The text book answer is that the car wash business will be part of an industry accreditation scheme, for example the new Responsible Car Wash Scheme. The government has talked about licensing this sector, but for the moment not the case.

Reality will probably be different though, therefore alternatively look for any suitable training and qualifications from the individuals or general back-up of the business trading fair and well over the years.

4. Insurance

This is best to consider in three parts. The first is the actual building or land insurance and the landlord or owner notifing them what this new use is and implementing any requirements.

Secondly, there is the usual public and employer liability that the car-wash operators have themselves, plus any contents for their own items and maybe fit-out.

But thirdly, and often missed, is cover of people’s cars and vehicles against any accidential damage when starting or when being driven. This can be costly, and therefore easily be a deal-breaker.

5. HR Issues

Technically you probably don’t have to be involved with this, as you just have a property contract to deal with. Only residential short-term lets currently place an obligation on the landlord to check all adults actually living their under the Immigration Act.

But checking can’t hurt, and defend any claims afterwards. So, ask for their Slavery & Human Trafficking Statement under the Modern Slavery Act 2015 even though they may not be large enough to legally provide.

Also, maybe ask to see passport details and take a photo, and make sure they demonstrate fair wages to their staff.

Getting more practical, see if they can show a proper way of inducting and training staff at the start and pre-shift, and policies are clear such as no smoking in certain areas.

6. Finances

There will be the usual financial checks for any new letting or sale – current accounts showing profit, and references confirming adherence to the right procedures.

However, you could always delve a little deeper, for example clarify that they are registered and comply with HMRC with things like VAT and Minimum Wage, along with other associated taxes like Business Rates and SDLT on property documentation.

7. Planning Permission

Not only check whether this use falls within any existing planning permissions directly or an associated use, but also when this is due for renewal.

If you do need to apply, then it may be worth taking planning advice to make sure this is smooth running, as car washes are one of those visible uses that can crop on people’s radar.

8. Landlord’s Consent

Standard stuff under a lease really, the main one for an existing lease is the ability to ‘alienate’ and sub let the premises.

But check others as well such as the user clause which is a separate obligation than planning, and whether landlord’s permission is required for any proposed alterations and fit-out works.

9. Cleaning and COSHH

An obvious one of course, and having a clear policy on how they safely deal with potentially dangerous cleaning substances.

Particular issues to check are safe ways to store flammable substances, and regular water hygiene reports and actions.

10. Health & Safety

Part-and-parcel of every business, and although there may not be a legal obligation to even have this in writing with small operations it’s worth asking if it can still be completed due to the potentially higher risks here.

In addition to the main Health & Safety Policy for the business which focuses on their best practice, ask for a Risk Assessment just covering issues at this particular property.

Also, see if other assessments are appropriate as well, for example Noise Survey, Water Risk Assessment, and even regarding Disability Access.

11. Electrical

The main distinction here is permanently-fixed electrics at the property, as opposed to more portable items like vacuum cleaner which the operator will be directly responsible for and require say a regular PAT test.

The landlord and land owner may well be still responsible for a Fixed Wire Test on the main electrics but check that no ‘modifications’ have been added to affect this, for example extra extension cables, and new sockets.

Also, ensure a good level of lighting to cover times when dark say in the winter and late afternoons.

12. Fire

Similar to electrics, check what is the direct responsibility of the operator under their own Fire Risk Assessment and things like fire extinguishers and Fire Marshalls, as opposed to building-wide ones.

Even if the property issues such as operating fire alarms and Fire Evacuation Procedures are the landlord’s, ensure these are effectvly communicated and applied by the car wash operator.

13. Security

In addition to communicating any wider property access and security arrangements, clarify what systems of the operator you also need to be aware of.
So, knowing how they safely manage people’s keys for cars is important, and if they want to install their own CCTV cameras then knowing how this relates to yours and their GDPR procedure.

14. PPE

Something more to do with individual operations, and their Personal Protective Equipment but this can have an effect on the safety and appearance of the wider property.

Examples include a high-viz jacket and durable shoes, and making sure these are actually used by all staff on site.

15. Access

Access at all levels needs consideration. Customers and vehicles need to not only come onto and leave site, but may require parking elsewhere until the customer arrives back.

Staff may also need their own access and parking arrangements, and all the correct signage in place.

Also watching out for issues such as pedestrians still being in the area and maybe needing access here as well.

16. Welfare

Although the responsibility of the operator, they may well need help to arrange wider property facilities.

So suitable toilet facilities and kitchen and refreshments are the main ones to look into.

17. Signage

These can be wide ranging right from Health & Safety warnings, to those directing vehicles and people. There are then advertising banners or say A-boards outside.

Even where they are temporary for the day, make sure it’s clear where they go, if permissions are needed, and where they’re kept.

18. Rubbish

A simple thing that can be easily missed, knowing what rubbish they will generate from their staff and inside cars being cleaned.

Maybe there are arrangements and bins on site they can use or maybe they need to take away and deal with themselves; either way it’s important to clarify.

19. Alterations

And finally, see what alterations and fit-out works they plan to do at the property or land, and how this will be completed.

Asbestos surveys for the property may need checking, and larger items like a storage container or canopy also need looking into.

Washing Cars Correctly

When it comes to car washes operating from a property or land interest, then these above issues are the sort of things to be aware of. No matter what interest you have, at least some of these should be on your radar.

Whilst these do focus on a typical hand car wash operator on maybe a piece of land, these can also refer to other more permanent uses on all kinds of property interests.

And even though these may well take time to clarify and educate people on, its essential to start going in the right direction and have a reality-check of these right at the beginning of any new agreement.

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