Are Residential Freehold Management Services Improving?

Daisy Ratnasari

As director of a leading property management company I am acutely aware of the need for improvement to freehold property management services. Whilst the property services profession in this specialist field requires to repair its tarnished image, may I suggest that clients can play a key role in this process by increasing their awareness. Landlords, leaseholders, freeholders and resident management companies are, after all, instrumental in choosing their block management agent.

When appointing a freehold manager or managing agent to look after your service charge monies would you, as a client or landlord, not stand to benefit by more carefully considering the fundamentals? Why not think about how you can better define your property services requirements? By applying a few relatively simple, common sense measures you might well avoid the trauma of employing a sub-standard block manager. Freehold companies, landlords, residents and leaseholders would surely be well advised to make a concerted effort to seek properly qualified and regulated managing agent firms. Easier said than done I hear you say?

The apparent decline in managing agent professional standards could most certainly be influenced, if not reversed, by clients refusing to make do with cheaper, poor quality, property service providers. When employing a new freehold agent, clients should be asking candidates to clarify the property services standards they operate to. It is essential to ensure that the service levels offered will meet requirements and that this is ultimately borne out in a formal service agreement. There are various codes of practice which might be considered however the RICS has arguably led the way forward.

The latest RICS Service Charges Residential Management Code was approved by Parliament in 2009 with the aim of setting out the standards of the profession taking account of new legislation. If your block management agent falls short of this code, questions should be raised and any concerns investigated and clarified. If any firm purporting to be a competent residential freehold specialist does not comply with this RICS code, I would strongly suggest that something may be amiss.

Looking now to the ever increasing legislation which applies to residential property services there have been some quite significant changes introduced in recent years. New and specific block management and service charge regulation exists under the Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act 2002. Revised health and safety regulations have also been brought in to force which impact on how the freeholds of blocks of flats are treated. Landlords and managing agents must now provide workplace and fire risk assessments for the freehold or landlord communal areas The effect of these changes should help improve service quality by making block management agents more responsible for their actions,

As the new legislation takes effect the better qualified and experienced professionals should be well positioned to advise and guide clients through the new requirements. The latest RICS Code should also assist in weeding out those freehold block managers who are unable to come up to the necessary standards.

As a result of the changes being implemented across the sector, building owners and freeholders should increasingly be able to add value to their property assets through effective and efficient management.

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