Part 3 – Changing Managing Agents – Top 10 Things to Consider
8. Client Login
Personally, if I could not administer and carry out certain fundamental functions online for my banking, utilities, mobile phone and so on, I really would despair having to make the time to have to phone the relevant institution instead. If you want a basic statement of your account as you’re filling in your tax return, you should not need to be dependent on making the call, getting through a quagmire of telephone options, speaking to the right person, and then relying on that person to do as they said they would in the timeframe that you need it. So don’t. Ensure that online account management with access to all the important and useful documentation you might need is a service that, is not only provided, but provided as standard as part of the management fee.
9. Memberships of Professional Bodies
Within residential leasehold management, there are a few bodies that should be noted as having some degree of importance:
- The Association of Residential Management Agents (ARMA, and now their more stringent self-regulatory arm, ARMA-Q)
- The Institute of Residential Property Management (IRPM)
- The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)
- A relevant Ombudsman scheme, such as Ombudsman Services: Property
We’ve written an article on the importance of ARMA (or perhaps lack of) back in April (click here to read it), so I won’t go into much detail on this subject now. It is important to assess which bodies a managing agent is associated with, but with a common-sense approach applied. The worst managing agent in the country could be a member of ARMA-Q, while the best might have nothing to do with any of them. Given, this is unlikely, but the point is that not too much importance can be attached either way. For instance, despite a firm’s best intentions, the quality of work, and best practice being adhered to, a managing agent cannot be a member of ARMA for their first two years of trading.
A quick run-down of the relevance of each of the above:
ARMA: It is a trade-body. It is not an official regulatory body and in reality it represents their members more than it does their members’ clients. There are agents that choose not to be ARMA members and they have their reasons.
IRPM: The professional training organisation for the industry. It would be rather undesirable to have anyone running your block/estate that is not a full member of this organisation as it proves a certain level of competence and technical knowledge has been obtained.
RICS: Certainly the most well-known and respected entity of this group, but it does not necessarily carry the same weight in the world of residential leasehold management. Firms can be members of the RICS through other areas of expertise, so an assured level of competence in block & estate management is by no means guaranteed.
Ombudsman Services: Property – Perhaps the most important of them all, as this gives assurance that if your managing agent is perceived to have performed poorly on an issue, then there is a path for recourse. If you have a complaint that has not been resolved to your satisfaction having gone through their internal complaints procedure, the next step would be to approach this 3rd party. They would then independently adjudicate on the matter and can hand down ruling to the agent.
10. Independence from All Other Services / Companies
It is not necessarily the case that every managing agent that has ties with other firms, whether they’re insurance companies, accountants, solicitors, or contractors, is doing any wrong. In fact, there are genuine pros for such relationships. Unfortunately, the idea of such relationships has been tarnished over the years through news of those that have abused the position / relationship. However, we feel personally that block management is better when all services aside from the fundamental day-to-day management services are outsourced to 3rd party service providers. This allows complete objectivity. It allows swift recourse should performance levels drop. It allows for competitive pricing, and it enables services to be adapted to changing markets as best possible.
If you have any questions or observations relating to any of these points, please contact us at JFM and we will be happy to help, or if we’re unable to ourselves we’ll signpost you to others that can.
Written by James Farrar MIRPM AssocRICS
Partner of JFM Block & Estate Management