As Property Managers we regularly discuss current issues and site matters with colleagues in order to share advice and ideas. It was during one of these Monday morning conversations that something became obvious to us as a group – the role of the Property Manager is changing. It is now less about the management of property and more about the management of people.
The vast majority of our block portfolio have been clients for a number of years, which means that they are well maintained and generally have healthy bank accounts. Most major works are accounted and planned for, which means less levies are raised and even when they are unavoidable, they do not always come as a shock. On the whole there are far less reactive works required than if the blocks were poorly managed.
Of course there are the usual smaller reactive bits of work; replacing light bulbs and fixing doors that don’t close fully, but we are geared up to deal with these items efficiently by using our in house systems and group of trusted contractors. Where it gets trickier is when issues involving a resident are raised with us. As Property Managers, these issues are becoming more and more common to deal with.
A normal working week for a Property Manager is now likely to involve mediation over tenant disputes, for example; determining the owner of the rogue vehicles in car parks, the removal of belongings from outside the bin store, and advising leaseholders why they are in breach of their lease by renting their property out though AirBnB. These are all situations which could be avoided if all residents were a little more conscious of the environment they live in and of their neighbours, whilst also having a little more of an understanding of leasehold property.
Some of you may have seen the government report into leasehold purchasing that recommended that before any leasehold property is bought the buyer needs to be completely aware of what they are committing to by way of the lease. If leaseholders and their tenants had a greater knowledge on what the lease and their rental agreement permits, maybe some of the aforementioned issues would be reduced.
Generally people don’t like to discuss potentially contentious matters with neighbours face to face, and it is far easier to use a Property Manager as a ‘middleman’. There are of course situations where it is completely understandable that someone may not wish to raise a complaint directly with a neighbour. However, in some cases we do find that issues aired face to face are resolved much quicker as Property Managers bring a sense of formality to a situation which can occasionally aggravate a situation.
ARMA, our regulatory body, recently published an article advising freeholders and their leasehold agents to do as much as they can to avoid getting drawn into dispute resolution. This article cited some common lease wording which means the leaseholder must cover the freeholder against all costs and expenses of enforcement. In simple terms this means the managing agent is unable to recover costs from the service charge in connection with tenant disputes.
There are, of course, instances where it is necessary for an agent to get involved, however it would be safe to assume that the number of complaints about troublesome neighbours would likely drop if it was made clear that the any associated costs would be passed back to the leaseholder raising the complaint.
Having worked at Andrews in Leasehold for over 9 years, and taken on a number of different roles, it is clear to me that there is a definite change in the role of the leasehold agent. There is certainly a shift in perception from leaseholders and tenants that we are now more of a people management team than property experts. Of course part of our role does require us to deal with complaints, but the frequency at which that is now necessary has increased. We are still employed by a freeholder or management company to manage the property, it is just that now the role involves managing the people more closely, as well as the property.
Alex Max – Senior Property Manager