Had a bad experience with your managing agent? You are not alone. Research by consumer group Which? found that unfair practices can lead to as much as £700 million of unnecessary service charges being paid each year. What is more, in the summer of 2017, the UK Government announced it would be launching a consultation setting out radical proposals in order to restore power to the tenant and leaseholder.
Not only that, but a study by the Government found the following examples of poor management:
- a London-based property agent who tried to charge a leaseholder almost £5,000 to transfer ownership of a parking space to other leaseholders
- a group of leaseholders charged ten times the market rate to have a new fire escape fitted – with the £30,000 contract handed to the freeholder’s brother
- one landlord charged £500 by his agent for repairing a shower door
Fortunately, not all managing agents behave in this way. Town & City Management Ltd, for example, has over 17 years’ experience of providing a responsive, effective, and transparent service to its clients and is working hard to improve the reputation of the sector.
That is why we have put together a guide to help you improve the service you are getting from your current managing agent. Alternatively, please click here to learn about switching to us. We would be delighted to help you.
How to get the best from your managing agent
Ensure clarity over what they should be doing
This sounds obvious, but far too often, expectations are not set correctly at the beginning of the relationship, ultimately leading to disappointment. Be sure to set out a clear brief at the start and get a full breakdown of everything else the managing agent intends to do to your property. This will then make it easier to assess their impact 6, 12 and 18 months down the line.
Also, make sure it is clear to the managing agent what they have authority to do. For example, if they are to be responsible for chasing late ground rent and service charge payments, what is the procedure they will put in place to do this and at what point do solicitors need to get involved?
They should also demonstrate a full understanding of all the leases for a building (as they may have different terms). If they do not have that understanding, help them. A little time spent doing this at the beginning will save you wasting a lot of time later.
It is also worthwhile discussing with them what your expectations of their service are or what you would perceive as “good”. This shall either help them to raise their standards to keep you happy or give them the opportunity to set you straight if any of your expectations are unachievable.
Get to know your contact and if you don’t like them, ask for someone else
To get the most from your managing agent, you not only need to trust the individual who is assigned to your development; you also need to want to work with them. This is because a successful managing agent contract does require your support and engagement, as well as theirs.
It may be the case that you have not met your contact yet. Perhaps a senior representative met with you to sign the deal and now you are left with another more junior member of staff whose preferred form of communication is email. This is not good enough.
The managing agent acts as representative for you, as the landlord, and should always be acting in your interests, so there needs to be complete trust and clarity over everything being decided upon and communicated. How can this happen if you have never even met?
Make it so that you have regular and frequent meetings with them either face-to-face or by video call so that you can establish a solid working relationship and good level of trust. They should also share with you their working hours, response times and alternative contacts so you have peace of mind that you are represented 24/7.
All lines of communication should be open
Aside from face-to-face meetings which may happen no more than once every six months, do you have a way of communicating daily if you need it? How are they sharing urgent information with you, lessees, or tenants?
A number of agents have online portals which they use to store valuable building information, issue service charge or ground rent demands, and to get updates of issues or maintenance requirements, and this may be a perfect solution for you, particularly if you have a large property portfolio.
If this is not going to work for you, say so and find a form of communication that will work better. And whichever platform you do opt for, portal or otherwise, make sure you try to use it as it could make your life easier, as well as your managing agent’s.
Get to know your lessees a little
Happy lessees mean a happy landlord because if a managing agent does not deal with a complaint appropriately, it may result in a claim against you to pay the losses the lessee has incurred.
Give your managing agent the opportunity to flag any issues they have faced with leases. If there are any breaches of lease, they should make you aware immediately, but it is also smart to ask to be kept in the loop of any properties they consider might become a concern. If they seem to have a lot of concerns, then perhaps the problem lies not with your property but with its management.
We hope this guide has given you a fresh perspective on any woes your experiencing with your current managing agent. If you would like to hear more about our approach to block management, click here.