Everyone in our sector knows that managing agents have a tough deal. Leaseholders mistake flat ownership for freehold ownership; they think all managing agents are the same; and they conflate the service charges they pay with the management fee.
There is no shortage of material for leaseholders to better educate themselves on the property manager’s role and responsibilities yet many would prefer to let their preconceptions about the generic ‘managing agent’ cloud their judgement, meaning they don’t give the assigned property manager a chance.
But rather than acting as a punchbag, there are plenty of ways that a property manager can take the fight to his customers, in the nicest possible way. Naturally.
CIAR was founded by a former block manager and I joined the board in 2018. So as two MIRPM property managers, we are comfortable in taking the risk of teaching grandma to suck eggs whilst offering real, tangible solutions.
Property managers could answer their phone when it rings, rather than avoiding calls and hoping the problem goes away. It doesn’t. And the call is never as bad as you think it’s going to be….remember that the frustration builds if the customer can’t reach someone.
Don’t think that providing a property management service is going to be perceived differently by a customer who might call you about lights out on the fifth floor, then sit in a phone queue to make a doctor’s appointment, then pop into a Caffè Nero for a flat white. You are providing a service to customers, so you need to do the basics well as these days, the basics are completely expected.
Get in there first
Finding and communicating a problem before it’s been noticed by the residents surely earns some Brownie points. Site staff doing regular inspections, noting a door closer needs adjustment and doing something about it, can help to show service charge payers that you’re on the ball. But it’s not good enough just to be getting on with it – the residents need to KNOW that it’s happening, so update the building’s portal with the relevant information including the anticipated date of resolution. If you don’t have a portal, you should do. Ask for line manager when your company is getting one!
Leaseholders care about the service they receive but they care just as much – if not more – about how much they are paying for it. So starting your service charge budgeting early is a good idea. For a 1 January service charge year-end, get the budget drafted in September and agreed in October. Starting budgeting early will give you time to re-tender, test the market, change suppliers and perhaps consolidate/reduce your contractor list.
Being on top of the finances of the building you’re managing will help to improve the relationship with the leaseholders and give them more confidence in your ability.
“What do I get for the money I pay to you guys?”
Every property manager will hear something similar to this at some point or even regularly. Too often, leaseholders don’t realise that the vast majority of the service charge they pay is for on-site staff, insurance, cleaning, repairs and maintenance, accounting/legal/surveyors’ fees and the list goes on. Your management fee is often a small part of the budget and that conflation with the overall service charge needs to be corrected, politely.
Leaseholders may seem like the most difficult people on earth but they aren’t in reality. Like many of us, they need to SEE things happening so give them what they want. Here are some tangible maintenance ideas:
- Be proactive about the internal and external programmes of refurbishment works. Check the lease, plan ahead, get a surveyor involved for their professional opinion. Rather than waiting for leaseholders to be upset about the state of the common parts, get on the front foot and put the ball in their court.
- Do the carpets look grubby? Get them professionally cleaned and if there are any sofas or curtains in the lobby, organise for those to be spruced up too.
- Don’t forget about the hard surfaces. Does the tiled entrance floor need buffing? Are there decked areas that have never seen a jet washer so are covered in a payer of slippery moss?
- What about bulky items dumped? It’s probably time to get rid of them.
- If the gardens are looking uncared for, speak to the gardener – there will be low-cost ways of getting them looking neater and more colourful.
- What about niggly maintenance issues? Hire a handyman for a day and get them all done on a day rate rather than separate call-outs.
CIAR is a cleaning and maintenance contract run by ex MIRPM property managers. We help with the more tangible parts of your job, those that get noticed. Call us to see how we can help you make the right impression with your clients.
Emma Thomas MIRPM is a director at CIAR