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GerAldine shortAll offers some tips fordealing with problemagents

A block of flAts is morethanjusta building.Itisaself-contained community whereresidents canbelivingabove andbelow each other, side by side andatthe sametime sharingcommunalfacilities.Blocksneed to bemanagedeffectivelysothatall residents canbefreetoenjoy theirhomes.Ifyou areunhappy aboutthe wayinwhich your building is beingmanaged,itisimportant to knowwhat stepsyou cantake,whoyou can go to andhow youcan complain effectively should things go wrong. Beforemaking anyformalcomplaintit

is always agood idea to take someinitial advice,asthismay help youclear up the probleminformally and more quickly. The Leasehold Advisory Service (LEASE) offers free legaladviceonthe lawand leasehold matters and Citizens Advice can do the same. If yourmanaging agentisamemberofthe AssociationofResidentialManaging Agents (ARMA) then youcan contactthemfor some advice beforemaking a complaint. If youdodecidethataformalcomplaintis

needed,youmust first establishwhoislegally responsible forthe overallmanagementof your block. This might not be as obvious as it sounds.You couldbeinone of several

situations: nYour buildingmaybeowned by an investor freeholder or developerwho has sold all the flats on long leases and retained the freehold as an investment,appointingamanagingagent to look after the block on their behalf. The developerorfreeholderaslandlord stillhas

ultimatemanagement responsibility. nWhendrawing up theleases forthe flats in a block, developer or investor landlordsmay writeinaprofessionalmanagementcompany as “TheManager” of thebuilding.Inthis case it is thismanagement companythatis responsible foroverallmanagement of the

building. nYour blockmay have a Residents Management Company(RMC) or Right toManage Company(RTMCo) in place thatmanagesthe building with resident volunteers. In this case, it is the directors of theRMC or RTMCowho are responsible for themanagement of the building. Even if they have chosen to appointamanagingagent,itis stillthe resident directorswho areultimately

responsible. nIf your block has amanaging agent that has beenappointed by aLeaseholdValuation Tribunal (LVT)tomanageitfor you, then it is themanagingagent that is ultimately responsible.

Flat Living Spring2012 It is common forRMCsand RTMCos to

appointamanagingagent tomanage the property on their behalf. If you are unhappy withwhat themanaging agent is doing it is best to go to theresidentdirectors first as they have themanagementagreement with theagent.Itcould be that theagent is simply doingwhat they have been asked to do by the directorswhomay not be aware it is causing problems. If theparty with overallcontrol of your

blockisunableorindeed unwillingtoresolve your problemyou should then consider making aformalcomplaintdirectlytothe agent. So howshouldyou go aboutthis? First,

checkwhether yourmanaging agentisa member of ARMA.All ARMAmembersneed to have apublished internal complaints procedurethatshouldbepublicisedtoall clientsand leaseholders.Theymustprovide acopyofthisprocedure to anyleaseholder or resident that requestsit.What is more, allARMAmembersmust belong to an independentombudsman schemeso if you arenot satisfied with theoutcomeof your complaint, then youhavethe righttotakeup


thematter with an independent ombudsman with no charge. ARMAchecks on itsmembers’ complaints procedures so if youdonot thinka member is adhering to itsownprocesses, then you should get in touch with ARMA. Should your complaintget that far, the

ombudsman canput pressure on theARMA member to resolvethe issue as promptly as possible;itcan demand themanagingagent provideadetailedexplanation of theissueif required andissueanapology;inthemost serious of cases the ombudsman can order themanagingagent to paycompensationtoa leaseholder. Theombudsman cannot deal with

complaints relating solely to service charge costsasthese fall underthe jurisdiction of theLeaseholdValuation Tribunals(although theombudsmanmayconsiderthe customer serviceelement of thecomplaint).LVTsexist

formalcomplaint it is alwaysagoodideato


It is important to know what steps you can take

specificallytodealwithdisputesrelatingto residential leasehold properties, especially relating to service charges. Youmay be wonderingwhy ARMAdoes

notdealwithcomplaints aboutmembers itself. ARMAis a trade body for itsmembers andsocannotdirectlyresolve complaints betweenmembers andleaseholders.Thisis whyARMAhasmade it arequirement forall itsmembers to be signeduptoanindependent ombudsman scheme; complaints are handled in an independentway andleaseholders can be confident that there is no bias.What ARMA candoisact upon thereports it receives from theombudsmenwhen acomplainthas been lodged against amember. It has the power to fine, suspend or in themost serious of cases expeloffendingmembers. Butwhat are your options if your

managing agentisnotamemberofARMA? Yourmanaging agentmay beamemberof anotherprofessionalortrade bodyandmay be required to have an alternativecomplaints procedureand ombudsman.ARMAcan only take complaints aboutmembercompanies. If you are concerned by the personal conduct of an individual propertymanager, then it is worthcheckingtoseewhethertheyare amember of the Institute of Residential PropertyManagement (IRPM) or theRoyal InstitutionofChartered Surveyors(RICS)and contactthemfor detailsofhow to takematters further. TheIRPMand RICS both provide professional qualifications andmembership services to individual propertymanagers. As afinalresort, youcould always exercise

your right tomanage or go to the LVT to appoint amanager for your building. But remember that it is the landlord orRMC that is challengedhere, notthemanaging agent; theagent is appointedand removedbythe landlord orRMC.●

GeraldineShortall isatechnical officerwithARMA 43

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