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A bad handover. When we write these blogs, we are often worried about repeating ourselves and becoming boring. It is a common cry that many of the more seasoned members of the team tell the same stories so it would follow suit that the same may be true for our audience whoever they may be.
Although we recall writing a blog about uncovering bad property management – “Getting Property Management Right”– we had to go back to February last year to find it and although it touched on bad property management it didn’t actually explain the handover process and why this can be so perilous.
When MIH became a full member of ARMA, they did so knowing that they were signing up to their Charter. ARMA at present is a professional body, but is the closest thing that we have to the regulatory body, and being a member was important for MIH as we wanted to be part of an association that sets standards for property management and who can take action if they are not adhered to.
The details of the ARMA charter sets out various requirements in respect of how we manage a property, conduct ourselves as a professional agent, train our staff, and deal with finances.
In addition, to the Standards which in most cases are implicit in being a good managing agent, they also set out how to deal with all types of circumstances including handovers and terminations.
When these standards were drawn up, consideration was given to what would be an appropriate Notice period to an agent to ensure a seamless handover. The suggested period agreed was 3 months and assume the rationale behind this was that this would usually be in line with the quarter date.
We believe that the intention was that by giving an extended Notice period, outstanding finance issues, and ongoing matters such as arrears collections, insurance claims could be dealt with prior to handover. Therefore, the incoming agent was starting with a clean sheet
In an ideal world, this works perfectly and is to the client’s advantage but much like having to give three months’ notice when you are looking to resign, it is hard for the outgoing agents to remain enthusiastic, particularly when you are aware that the majority of the works that you are carrying out will not come to fruition.
However, good agents will appreciate that the nature of property management is cyclical and sometimes you can end up managing the same property years later so it is always a good idea to give the property a good send off!
For MIH, if we were to lose a client, we would always want to ensure that the client was not disadvantaged by the handover. After all, if the client is unhappy with the service being provided it is almost certain that the Property Manager is not enjoying themselves either. Still, as a previous employer told our Director once, you are still managing the property until the property hands over and therefore you must continue as if you were not losing it. A mantra that Sarah still espouses to this day.
Unfortunately, we have not found this to be the case with many of the managements we have taken over in the last few months. In fact, we will openly admit that we have been bitterly disappointed by the actions taken by those handing over to us, both from agents that aren’t ARMA and those who are. When we wrote the aforementioned blog, we advised that we didn’t want to be seen as a whistleblower and our objective remains the same. Yet, the truth remains that it makes it very difficult to get the management off to a good start (even if you are known by the moniker of MIH) if you don’t have the relevant information in respect of contracts, staffing details or even finances. Often you can feel that you have been set up to fail before you have even started.
At the risk of sounding like we feel sorry for ourselves and bearing in mind that we refer to suffering in the title of this blog, we would advise that it is not us who suffers- it is ultimately the client, who is often unfairly blamed for the mistakes made by the new agent if the wrong financial information is given, or the staff who are incorrectly paid (or in one particular case are nearly not paid at all due to information not having been passed over) or the residents who don’t get issues resolved as speedily as they should be due to the lack of contract information handed over.
At MIH, with the wealth of experience of our Senior Management, we are lucky enough to be able to overcome these issues and our new clients are all very grateful, often demonstrated in our glowing google reviews. Nevertheless, we know that this is a serious problem for the industry and although we don’t expect or want to lose any of our properties soon by way of this blog we affirm our commitment to adhering to the guidelines for handover and terminations and hope others will do so too. Even if we are a one managing agent army it is imperative that our clients are not adversely impacted by a handover and that the outgoing agent acts with good grace regardless of the circumstances. We only hope others will join us in our commitment