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Opinion


What big teeth you have Mr PM


Steer clear of the wolves in sheep’s clothing, says John Williams


It is becoming increasingly difficult for leaseholders seeking a good, honest service without it costing the earth, to find the right property manager.


Not only can finding the right managing agent for your block be a challenge in itself, but leaseholders are also faced with distinguishing the sheep from the wolves. It is not always easy to avoid being bitten by one of a small minority reported, among other things, to be charging ex- tortionate levels of commission on insurance services and not declaring additional charges. The introduction of the Com- monhold and Leasehold Reform Act 2002 has given leasehold- ers the right to form an RTM company which allows lessees to have their say in how and where their funds are expended. When faced with malpractice or just a shoddy service from exist- ing managing agents, residents may be tempted to go down the RTM route. But not all blocks want or are able to self-manage and despite recent press reports there are plenty of good property managers out there. The key to finding one is for leaseholders to ensure that transparency plays a vital part when appointing their chosen agent.


TRANSPARENCY


Like many others, we are a company striving to achieve high levels of customer service. This can only be accomplished by ensuring transparency in the way we present ourselves and by adhering to the codes of practice set by our regulators. We would always recommend that lease- holders appoint an agent who is a member of the Association


14 www.flat-living.co.uk


of Residential Managing Agents (ARMA), where all members have vowed to ‘endorse, accept, and comply’ with the RICS Service Charge Residential Management Code It is this code that sets the highest standards of service and establishes the practices expected throughout the sec- tor, whether this is the agent’s financial duties for service charge accounting, how their client funds are held or ensuring the client is fully indemnified against any claims which may arise. Those managing agents who


are regulated by ARMA have a contractual duty to make clear the fee structure and the catego- ries of other services for which additional fees may be charged, bringing transparency to the agreement for both parties. Leaseholders should also be


aware that it is the managing agent’s duty to ensure that they declare any interest in any con- tractor or business employed to provide services at the property that may be associated with the managing agent. This of course includes commissions obtained, so it is important that they always


ensure and agree the exact charges and/or commissions prior to signing the Management Agreement.


As agents, we believe that membership of these govern- ing bodies (ARMA and RICS) is our symbol of commitment to providing our clients with the very best standards within the sector. It is with these standards and practices that we continue to safeguard their investments.


BEST PRACTICE


Unfortunately - despite es- tablished best practice within the sector - without further intervention from government, a small minority will continue to take advantage of the un- suspecting. A handful of agents remain unscrupulous in their dealings with leaseholders, enticing them with the promise of low management fees, only for them to find out later that they are being over-charged for additional services.


Contrary to the negative press


surrounding this sharp prac- tice, the majority of managing


agents are continually working to enhance their established repu- tations through trust, honesty and good communication with residents. They are now finding it increasingly difficult to gain the much needed confidence of those leaseholders who have been misled in the past. Bringing this issue to the


surface is undoubtedly painful for those of us striving to offer the best possible service. But the up- side of all the bad publicity is that it further emphasises the need for statutory regulation across the board and the importance of of- fering leaseholders the degree of protection they require.


John Williams is Director of Management and Professional Services at chartered surveyors Aston Rose Tel: 0207 629 1533 www.astonrose.co.uk


Go to www.flat-living.co.uk / information/service-charge- residential-management-code for a link to purchase a copy of the code.


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