Collateral Damage and Complaints

Complaints. At the time of writing, we are almost 12 weeks into lockdown with the anticipated release of restrictions having been something of a damp squib. We have already written three blogs on the effect of COVID-19. Two of these focused on MIH and how we have coped through the pandemic, with the third about how we are dealing with the problems faced by our clients such as rent reductions etc.

Thankfully, the majority of our clients continue to be satisfied with the work we undertake on their behalf and this is indicated by our Google reviews including those which have yet to filter through the Google censors- we know they are coming through as our clients have told us so.

Although the pandemic has seen a flurry of compliments thrown at MIH for the work they do, this blog will focus on what we call the “collateral damage”.

Putting our client’s best interests first

With the lockdown continuing and more people have time to spare which try as they might they can’t fill (and believe us, the parents amongst us, those dealing with living with parents and siblings or even looking after shielded relatives know how difficult it can be killing time when you are stuck in) we are beginning to receive some more shall we say “testing” emails.

As MIH, explained to the Management Board of one of our properties recently, MIH pride themselves on being able to triumph over adversity and will always put their client’s best interest first in order to Make It Happen.

In most cases, this approach works, and even when we have received negative feedback from a disgruntled client, they will good-naturedly accept that our instructions come from our client and that we are simply working in accordance with these.

Unfortunately, this month has seen two rare instances, where we have been faced with complaints about the actions we have taken and although we have tried to deal with these complaints in accordance with our complaints procedure, we fear that this will not be enough.

It’s all about money

We start by confirming that both complaints are predominantly about money and in fact our successful collection of the same in order to undertake works at our properties. In the first instance, we would like to make clear our appreciation of the old saying that “money is the root of all evil” but are also equally cognisant that money also remains very much a necessary evil- apologies for all the references to evil, we are in no way promoting anything sinister- and that in order to manage our buildings MIH needs to take a somewhat stringent even, touch stance when faced with the opposition about payment.

Major works project

Our first complaint received was in relation to a payment for a major works project due to be undertaken shortly, with the first notification of this being made as far as back as Summer 2019 in an update to all owners (although works were originally mooted in 2016 by the previous agents) in order to give lessees adequate notice to start planning their finances.

MIH working in conjunction with the Directors arranged for the budget to be served early in the Autumn of last year with payments being requested in line with the Lease with follows up via a private Directors Communication in December and further follow up in January and February of this year.

However, despite these reminders and several in correspondence, these sums remained unpaid in March of this year. Furthermore, attempts to recover these monies once a start date was in the offing, via email requests continued to go unacknowledged until legal recovery was presented to the Lessee. Almost immediately, although not without trying to engage other members of staff in this dispute and to take their side, payment was received in respect of the reserve contribution.

Initially, MIH reveled in a job well done as we had, after all, achieved what our client had asked us to do and collected in the final contribution in order to commence the works.

However, this feeling was soon soured when we received a complaint regarding this collection method. In our eyes, this complaint is grossly unfair as it is clear that every attempt has been made to try and recover this matter without legal action and at no cost to either the management company or the Lessee but as a member of a redress of ARMA and a redress scheme TPO, we are required to respond formally to any complaint made. This is despite having the full support of the Board and of Directors.

A small block of flats

Our second complaint is from an owner in a small block of flats that we took over in March of this year. As always MIH had such high hopes for managing this block and have lavished as much attention on it as it were one of our larger clients, on the basis that our service is tailor made to each block. At MIH, we have based our management ethos on Pygmalion and with no excuse for our paraphrasing “treat a flower girl like a duchess and a duchess like a flower girl” with all clients being treated the same.

Unfortunately after around 80 emails cumulatively between the team we have struggled to maintain this mantra with the last straw being an email around 8pm on a Friday night, when we had most definitely “downed tools” for the weekend.

Unfortunately, our desire to improve and to try and be managing agents for all – Hard Rock Café was one of our director’s favourite places to go when she was younger * means that we take all complaints very seriously and both Laurence and Sarah always endeavour to respond to these fully- after all no person should have cause to complain and it goes without saying that the customer is always right! To avoid either the complainant or MIH having to take this further.

In both cases, MIH have been fully supported by the Directors of the Management Company and both have offered to write to the complainants however we would like to think that our comprehensive responses will be enough of a resolution as dealing with the Ombudsman will only result in more time wasted for all.

At MIH we are horribly aware of the consequences of the pandemic and how fragile it has made us all feel, but feel that this should not be an excuse to shoot the messenger. Although we are always willing to listen to complaints and take necessary action we do feel that there should be a right of recourse for agents as we do not get paid for the time we take to investigate these complaints which are often as a result of client instructions. We would also caution that this is not the best way to work with your managing agent and I am sure that our comments would be echoed by other agents who have had to deal with the same complaints which are often a result of the client’s wish to carry out works.

To conclude, we feel that your managing agent should focus on the management of your property and not dealing with complaints so while we accept that we shouldn’t give you anything to complain about, we would also comment that the first steps to dealing with a grievance is to work with your managing agent to resolve it rather than looking for immediate resolution by the Ombudsman.