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ARMA_logo_250In the words of the managing agent trade body, ARMA (Association of Residential Managing Agents) the role of a managing agent today is a complex one and requires a professional approach. To carry out the role requires knowledge of landlord and tenant law, building construction, health and safety
regulations, basic accounting and more.

Nevertheless far too many managing agents have been a thorn in the side of leaseholders ever since the creation of the long lease.

The only legislation that applied to the professional standards was that of the requirement of all managing agents to belong to one of the three Ombudsman Schemes, (the Property Ombudsman, Ombudsman Services: Property and the Property Redress Scheme), membership of which became a legal requirement for managing agents on 1st October 2014.

Note: This requirement also applies to managing agents who deal with leases granted under the Right to Buy and shared ownership leases. It does not however apply to ‘informal’ arrangements such as those who are helping out others who own property or who carry out repairs and maintenance on their  behalf on an ‘ad hoc’ basis.

There is still no criteria to meet to become one so anyone (even the criminal or those with criminal tendencies) can enter the market without any qualifications and set up shop. This may however be set to change as on October 1st Sajid Javid the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government launched a call for evidence seeking views on the regulation of letting and managing agents and the approaches government could take to implement any such regulation.

SERVICE PROVISION

ARMA_logo_250The role of the managing agent is wide-ranging and depends on the type and size of the property. The management agreement is the contract between the managing agent and the leaseholders and all managing agents make their money from the fees they charge for their services. These are paid for by the leaseholders and any management fee charged under a long residential lease is subject to s19 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 (limitation of service charges: reasonableness). The RICS Service Charge Residential Management Code states the basis of fee charging.

They can provide some or all of the services listed below:

Common Area Maintenance, Repairs & Health & Safety

  • Preparing programmes of planned maintenance and redecorations;
  • Establishing required repairs and obtaining quotations for the work;
  • Appointing/supervise contractors;
  • Inspecting the completed repairs,
  • Preparing specifications for landscape maintenance, cleaning etc;
  • Placing maintenance/service contracts for equipment (lifts, fire equipment, automatic gates, water pumps etc).
  • Advising on the use of specialist professionals and contractors for plant and machinery.

Financial

  • Administration of Direct Debit payments;
  • Setting the service charge budget;
  • Collection of service charges;
  • Using external solicitors/debt collectors when their in-house service charge recovery process is exhausted;
  • Preparation and production of the year-end service charge accounts, (including dealing with any year-end surplus or deficits);
  • Maintaining estate ‘trust status’ bank accounts;
  • Paying suppliers and contractors;
  • Maintaining financial records;
  • Dealing with independent accountants concerning audits and reports on factual findings;
  • Providing a periodic budget report of income/expenditure and cash flow (quarterly reports);
  • Adhering to the requirements of s20 major works (and qualifying long term agreements).

Insurances

Negotiating and arranging buildings insurance and Directors and Officers Liability Insurance.

Legal Services

  • Instructing solicitors in relation to lease breaches;
  • Representing the landlord at County Court level, arbitration and First Tier Property Tribunals;
  • Providing Company Secretary work (note that not all managing agents will be willing to offer this service);

Visits & Communication

  • Estate inspections on a regular cycle;
  • Meetings with residents upon request during office hours;
  • Meetings with residents’ associations/management co. directors as necessary during office hours;
  • Meetings with contractors, developers and other agencies on site as necessary;
  • Preparing and distribute notices for the AGM/EGMs and arrange attendance at such meetings;
  • Ensuring compliance with the terms of leases and policy agreed with the Board and, where necessary, subject to landlord authorisation;
  • Regulating the use of the flats with regard to  sub-letting;
  • Enforcing the lessees rights to quiet enjoyment (peaceable occupation) in the event of disturbance by other residents.

Note: when the word ‘tenant’ is used, it refers to leaseholders, not renting tenants.

TWO LISTS OF SERVICES

ARMA_logo_250Ideally the agent should agree two lists of services/duties with the client, the first being the standard management fee, which is normally stated as an annual fee for the whole development in total, with increases fixed against the RPI (Retail Price Index). This method is considered preferable so that tenants can budget for the,ir annual expenditure rather than setting it per unit. However, where the lease specifies a different form of charging, this is what will be used by the managing agents.
The second should be for additional fees if carried out such as the handling of major works and qualifying long term agreements under s20 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 (limitation of service charges: consultation requirements) which requires the sending of consultation documents. It is important to note that only the fees for this and those of the standard fee for the provision of services will fall within the definition of management fees used by the First Tier Property Tribunal.

CONVEYANCING

ARMA_logo_250Other areas where fees can be charged occur during the conveyancing process (but are paid by the parties concerned, not from the service charges) are:

  • Answering pre‐contract enquiries;
  • Ensuring consent is required/granted before sale;
  • Deeds of covenant upon sale;
  • Registration of the assignment‐the change of lessee after a sale;
  • Mortgage registration after a sale;
  • Certified copy of a Share Certificate/Membership Certificate;
  • Transfer following sale (including issue of Share/Membership Certificate);
  • Supply and/or administration of Deed of Covenant;
  • Supplying information packs (to answer leasehold enquiries);
  • Remortgage Notice of Charge (including service charge & insurance information);
  • Remortgage Notice of Charge (receipting only).

LEASEHOLD KNOWLEDGE PARTNERSHIP

Not all managing agents want to belong to ARMA so they have chosen instead to gain accreditation via the Leasehold Knowledge Partnership, a registered charity whose role in accrediting leasehold managing agents in a good governance scheme is recognised by the Charity Commission. Their aim is to identify the managing agents approach to residential property management  and those agents who sign up with LKP want to work with leaseholder managed blocks, through resident management companies.

There is a marked difference between LKP and ARMA  in that with LKP the managing agents can’t also be freeholders and LKP is not a trade body, or involved in property management.

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