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BobSmytherman 28 JohnWilliams Guest column Letters

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John Williams FightingbackagainstRedTape

InthelastIssueof Flat Living I started off by saying ‘I like to think ofmyself as afairlyplacidperson...’ Iwishtoretract that statement, and

letmetell youwhy: Redtape Theexcessive regulation or rigid conformity to formal rules that is considered redundantor bureaucratic and hinders or prevents action or decision-making.

or Redtape Somethingwhich entangles everyaspectofrunning aresidential block by the use of sometimes excessively complexproceduresand seemingly ever-changing statutory provisions,meaning you have to stay on the ball just to keep up with thelatest legislationbeforeyou can even start on your days work! Thesheer number of regulation

changes in recent yearshas been staggering – more than 34 at the last count - and theyimpact on all of us whetherweare involved with the management,orownership of aflat in a residential block. Areminderofafew of theareas

affectedinclude:groundrent notices;consultationprocedures formajor works; service charge demands; administration charges; forfeiture; asbestos; risk assessments; digitalswitchover; Trusttax;fire safety;regulationof insurance; electrical,gas andwater testing; rules for appointment of contractors; nosmoking; andhealth and safety. Of course - as Flat Living reports elsewhereinthisissue-proper regulation and adhering to best practice is good, but sometimes it seems that bureaucracy has gonemad. Rules for this, checking procedures forthat, formsand rigorous inspectionstoensure everything we do is controlled and monitored.Itwould seem, from what we learn of late, that not even the financial services sector has to jumpthroughquite asmany hoops asmanaging agents,and yetwe still tend to get lumped together with thosewho do notcomply(or even know about) best practice,and are generally lambasted for being charlatans and thieves!

It is not that I don’t agree with all Flat Living Spring2012

Proper regulationand adhering to the rules is good, but sometimes it seems that bureaucracy has gone mad

What set out to benefit leaseholders has led to increased service charge expenditure to simply meet the various statutory requirements

thechanges.Most arelongoverdue and provide better protection for leaseholders.What I do not agree with is howburdensomeand costly it has becomein a relatively short space of time,and this ridiculous concept that anyone with an interest (iedeepest pockets)isdeemed culpable.Whatset outtobenefit leaseholders has led to increased service charge expenditure to simplymeet the various statutory requirements.Thatsaid, thecost of non-compliance canbefar higher with large fines and, in the worse cases, custodial sentencing. Last yearamanagingagent wasfined £100,000 plus costs of nearly £13,000 forserious firesafetybreaches. So our job is to ensure the leaseholders and residentmanagement companies aremade clearly aware of the importance of compliance andmake thewhole process as easy and cost- effective as possible. So here Iamstandingonmy

soapboxagain.Iamgrateful to find youstill readingthis-and equally grateful to discover thegovernment has set up the Red Tape Challenge. This is aboutharnessingthe

experiences andideas of thosewho have to deal with regulation to help cut the red tape.Awebsite has been set up to gather feedback onwhich regulations should stay, andwhich canbemergedorscrapped.Every few weeksregulations arepublished on

the site relating to a specific sector, as well as across allsectors.Comments left there will be collated to provide a clearerpicture ofwhichregulations should stay or change.Ministers will then have threemonthstoworkout whichtheywanttokeepandwhy. But, thedefault presumption will be that burdensomeregulationswill go.Ifministerswanttokeepthem, they have tomake a very good case forthemtostay. This processstarted in April 2011 and will lastuntil April 2013 (www.redtapechallenge.cabinetoffice. So,ifyou,likeme, aregetting increasingly frustrated by thered tape –tellthemabout it,simply getting it off your chest really helps! Providingour expertiseas

managing agents is about giving aprofessionalservicewhich protects our clients’ interests and theirproperty.Unfortunately if leaseholders are not willing to comply with the various testing andinspection requirements,I believe the responsible thing to do is to resignfrom thecontract. Ican moan about red tape, but I cannot ignore it and I certainly would not risk ourreputation, or ultimately prosecution, knowingthatthe buck stops with us as the experts.●

JOhnWIllIaMs Director ofManagement and Professional Services at chartered surveyors Aston Rose Tel 0207 6291533


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