The role of the managing agent in dealing with disputes

Dealing with disputes. All too often, we have read the horror stories in the press about living with a noise nuisance and how debilitating this can be. However, this is only one strand of anti-social behaviour that an occupier can experience.

Often an owner or a tenant, who practices common courtesy and good manners and observes their contractual terms (whether these be under a lease or a tenancy agreement) can become victims of bullying and harassment from ANOTHER resident in the same block.

We had always hoped at MIH that we would not have to deal with such behaviour but unfortunately, this has been a recent issue for one of our clients.

The situation

We received a call from an owner of a flat within one of our blocks advising that they had received an email from their tenant advising that they had been subject to what they considered unreasonable behaviour. According to the email received by them, the tenant had been subject to both verbal and physical abuse resulting in the tenant feeling vulnerable and at-risk when outside their home. Furthermore, they were concerned about illegal drug use within the flat.

This is obviously very unpleasant for everyone concerned and indeed even more difficult for the owner of the flat who felt powerless to do anything so looked to the management company and the managing agents to provide some advice.

A friendly ear

At MIH we do appreciate how stressful this situation can be particularly as one or two of our staff have experienced this problem themselves. However, as both MIH and our client, the management company are required to act impartially between the two flat owners. There is not much we can offer besides a friendly ear and perhaps most importantly some pragmatic advice such as referring the affected resident and directing them to those organisations that may be best placed to help.

What remedies are available?

There are remedies available in the lease and although most leases will include a covenant requiring ‘quiet enjoyment’ it is likely that this will also include a ‘mutual enforceability clause’ and that in order to administer the clause, the owner of the flat affected will be required to take legal action. Either at their own cost, by indemnifying the management company and asking them to take action on their behalf or taking their own action directly.

The costs of this can be exorbitant, the process lengthy with no guarantee of a successful outcome, and by the time the matter has been referred to the Court to deal with the nuisance may well have abated with the tenants having moved out.

Acting in the best interests of our clients

As managing agents it is imperative that we act in the best interests of our clients, be they freeholder, management companies, owners or tenants and we will always try to help find a solution.

In the aforementioned case, we have written to the owner of the property where the nuisance is emanating from and have asked them to speak to their tenants to avoid a dispute being raised which will have to be disclosed at a later date. We have also asked them to contact the owner of the flat affected, and have provided them with their contact details after getting permission to give these out as per the DATA protection requirements.

To assist the owner of the flat affected we have provided details of those organisation which may be able to assist such as the local council and the Citizens Advice Bureau and referred them to the ARMA website where they can find useful and practical guidance on how to manage this between flats.

Although we may not have achieved a totally satisfactory outcome we feel confident that we have managed a bad situation as well as we can and that some resolution will be found and quickly in order to ensure that their homes remain a nice place to live.

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