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Residential Property. We are often asked what the most common issues we come up against in property management and after racking our brains and considering the question carefully we have come up with the following.
Perhaps the most common issue we face is a lack of proactive management at a property. This is particularly true of blocks that we have taken on recently. One of the complaints we hear most often when meeting new clients is the lack of direction from the Managing Agent which in turn leads to a lack of communication with owners.
While we appreciate that this can often be the case, we also find that the biggest issue is that the property manager has not spent the time considering the property and its needs and then providing the Directors (or sometimes the Freeholder) with a practical way forward.
When this happens, it leads to the management of a property plateauing with almost a truce being called and nothing happening at all. For a property manager, it’s not much fun writing to owners to tell them nothing is being done and receiving criticism about the level of service charge when nothing is planned. It can also be difficult to stay motivated about a property when you are not receiving any instructions.
The remedy for both issues is to prepare a plan for the building for presentation to the Directors and to provide them with options in respect of that plan. Often once you present this plan to the Board, you will get instructions/direction from the Board as to how they want to proceed and can therefore notify all owners so they can feel confident that the funds that they are contributing are being used for the maintenance of the building. The results of these remedies are that both the Board and the Managing Agent cannot be criticised for a lack of transparency or communication.
The second issue that we come across most often is managing expectations. In general Property Management as industry comes in for a lot of criticism, and if anything, people are more minded to complain about a Managing Agent for what they don’t do rather than what they do.
Obviously, there are occasions when Managing Agents do get complained about for the work they do undertake and sometimes this is justified but, in our experience, it is more often that a managing agent has not acted on a complaint. Re-reading this we realize that this statement is a little cryptic so to elaborate, as much as we would like to get involved between flats when there is a leak, a nuisance, a disturbance or a simple email address would assist- we can’t.
Not only are we bound by various legislation and GDPR, but we are also often bound by our need to protect owners against registering a dispute. We often wonder when owners complain about other flat owners if they realise that by raising this formally, they are also registering a dispute against their flat and we are bound to advise of this in solicitor’s enquiries.
In the same vein when we are asked to intervene between owners, we are required to act impartially and while we may agree in principle with one party in the matter, we do not have the power to act on this. Most Leases will set out a clear process for dealing with disputes and this will require the complainant to indemnify the Company for costs if asked to act for them. The issue is that a matter between flats is not a service charge issue and it can be difficult making owners understand this.
Unlike the first issue, there is no clear remedy for this and the answer relies solely on the Property Manager being able to explain the Lease to the complainant and the remedies available to them. At MIH we also try to provide owners with their options so that they can make the right decision. For us, at MIH we always want to ensure that our client’s best interests are looked after and to explain our actions.
Finally, the most common issue we experience is the inability of residents/owners/tenants to understand what constitutes an emergency. This like managing expectations are subjective, and therefore often what seems like a flood to one person seems like a drip to another.
For one of our tenants, they felt that the second set of keys was required for their single occupancy flat was critical. As this tenant is moving out within a month of the lock having been fitted, we did not deem it to be quite the tragedy suggested. We always find it amusing the calls we receive out of hours which most often relate to service charge queries that can be answered during office hours.
Luckily for us the only real emergency we have had has been a leak into six flats which happened on a working day and which the Building Manager dealt with admirably. It never fails to amaze us that people we speak to on a regular basis and who seem to be completely “au fait” with the role of the managing agent appear to forget the limitations that we are all subject to outside of office hours.
Again there is no real remedy for the above, however, the key to all of these issues is to provide a proactive management service which means that the leaks from roofs, pointing etc have been dealt with and that the issues that arise are more often something that the owner needs to deal with themselves and not the managing agent.
This management is enhanced by regular communication and updates from the Managing Agent reminding owners of their obligations and providing guidance about what they can do to mitigate these issues. It is also incumbent on the Managing Agents to remind owners of how best to preserve the value of the property which is often something as simple as being a good neighbour.
All of these issues can be overcome and MIH would be very happy to help you overcome these using our tried and tested formula.