Poor communication and bad money management make for unhappy homes, so if you’ve got a duff property management company you’ll know soon know about it.
Think you may be dealing with a dud? Here are 10 signs that it’s time to jump ship.
1. My service charges are too high
If it seems like your service charges are much higher than those of friends living in similar flats locally you may start to ask questions. However, before you jump to any conclusions, remember that the devil is in the detail with service charges.
Check the terms of your lease before making comparisons. Just because your flat is similar to others in your area, it doesn’t mean you’re comparing apples with apples. All sorts of things can affect how much you pay.
For example, does your lease allow for the collection of a reserve fund? Is your block older/newer/bigger/smaller than others in the area? Does it have additional features that require extra upkeep (like high-tech security, lifts or a communal garden)?
The important thing is not really how your charges compare to others, it’s whether they’re right for your block and the money is being spent wisely. Your landlord (and by default their chosen property management company) has a legal obligation to provide you with a summary of how your service charge is calculated and what it’s spent on. This information should be provided freely and promptly every year.
If it’s not, and you’re having trouble getting this info, then that’s the real clue that something’s up.
2. I have just been landed with an unexpected bill for £1000 towards a new roof
If the block management agency is worth their salt, this shouldn’t happen. A good agency ‘….should be working with your resident management company or freeholder to plan ahead for major works such as roof replacement. If the terms of the lease permit it (and most usually do) then extra money can be collected as part of your service charge fee to cover these expensive works and ensure no large or unexpected bills crop up.
Of course, there can be those rare occasions when a major, unexpected repair is needed. The roof gets struck by lightening or there’s flash flooding for example. But otherwise, if there’s no obvious reason for a large and unexpected bill, then you’d be right to question it.
Also remember, if your agent wishes to spend more than £250.00 per lease per job, then they must under current legislation consult with you under a Section 20 consultation process.
If you haven’t had any communications from your landlord or managing agent about the need for extra charges (ahead of time) or the charges seem disproportionate in comparison to your regular service charge, then something may well be amiss.
3. The stairwell lights have been broken for weeks now
All issues relating to the comfort and safety of your block should be dealt with swiftly. If your property management company or landlord know there are issues and don’t seem to be taking the right action to resolve them, then that’s just not cricket. At FMS we always have an out of hours emergency contact that can save the day (or night) and we think all agencies should do the same.
If there is no specific reason (such as ongoing major works) that could cause a delay in fixing something, or you’ve tried countless times to request the fix, then it might be a sign that all is not well with your property manager.
4. We have no say over which contractors the property management company employs
If there is a significant cost for a piece of maintenance work or works all leaseholders should be consulted on this (Section 20 Consultation Process). As a part of leasehold legislation, you should also have the chance to suggest contractors invited to tender.
A quality agent will ensure they get the best deal for your block by finding the right suppliers through a tender process and not relying on mates’ rates or gentleman’s agreements. However, they should be willing to consider supplier recommendations from residents in the block and add existing contractors to their panel too (providing they meet the necessary standards).
If this isn’t happening in your block, it might be time to ask why.
5. My complaints always fall on deaf ears
You’ve tried to call the block management company a number of times but can’t get through. Your calls go to voicemail and your emails remain unanswered. Perhaps you’ve been told someone will come and investigate, but then they don’t show up.
It’s hard not to feel frustrated when you’re being ignored. At FMS, we know that a huge part of creating happy homes, is listening to residents and communicating regularly. Your block management company should be doing the same.
I own this block of flats and ....
6. I am having to do all the leg work
You employed a property management company to take away the stress of looking after your block, right? You want them to deal with chasing late payments, managing complaints or sorting out the legal bits and bobs, so you don’t have to, If somehow you find yourself still doing jobs you’ve paid your managing agent to do, it’s time to switch and get the help and peace of mind you need.
7. My managing agent seems to have disappeared
If you find that your agent is dodging your calls or losing track of your emails it can be really frustrating and affect the smooth running of your block. We think communication should be at the heart of every relationship and we make sure we keep our clients in the loop at all times. A good property management company is the lynchpin between you and your leaseholders. A rethink is definitely in order if communication has broken down.
8. My residents seem to be on a revolving door
Are you concerned that that there are constantly ‘For Sale’ and ‘To Let’ boards decorating the outside of your block? Sometimes it’s a sign that these are not happy homes and that something is seriously amiss with the running of your block, causing tenants to up and leave.
Your property management company should be keeping their ear to the ground and sorting minor issues so they don’t become the sort of major headaches that drive people away. If you’ve noticed a worrying trend here, it’s time to take action.
9. I am really worried about the state of the building
If the outside of your building is a bit worse for wear or the inside is starting to look shabby, you’d be right to worry about the impact this has on the long-term value of your investment.
It’s crucial that your property management company undertakes regular site inspections to pick up any concerns and plan works ahead of time, as well as helping you to budget for the maintenance so there are no nasty financial surprises later down the line.
10. I don't trust that my block management company does everything by the book
Perhaps you’ve noticed some health and safety guidelines haven’t been followed or your property manager wasn’t entirely up to speed with your legal obligations as a landlord.
Being legally compliant has to be the number one concern for any landlord. If you have even the slightest doubt that your block management company doesn’t always play by the rules (or even know what the rules are!), don’t leave things to chance. Raise your concerns with them as soon as you can. If they then fall on deaf ears that’s the sign that it really is time to get out and get yourself a new property manager.
How can I get a new property management company ?
If you are a leaseholder or tenant and are worried about how your block is being managed, we recommend that you raise your concerns as soon as possible. If your block has a Residents Association, talk to them. You might find other people in the block have the same issues and your Residents Association can raise these with the Resident Management Company or freeholder on your behalf.
It is also worth checking the Association of Residential Managing Agents (ARMA) website (arma.org.uk) to see if your block management company is a member. All ARMA members must offer access to an independent ombudsman scheme to deal with disputes.
If you feel you’re not getting the service you’re paying for, it’s definitely time to jump ship. Why not give FMS a call and find out how we do things correctly.