Posted Monday, September 20, 2021
Estate Management refers to the process of managing residential estates on behalf of the Resident Management Company (RMC) or freeholders. If you want to know more about what an Estate Management Company, (often referred to as a managing agent) does, it’s a good idea to understand the estate management landscape and the role of the RMC directors the managing agent works with.
Residential estates have evolved over the years to become environments for many, including those species whose habitat the residents have joined. Respect for the environment (both flora and fauna) has become one of the most important aspects of the role of the managing agent and has led to a whole new generation of property managers geared to maintaining not just properties but diverse ecosystems. Terms such as ‘placemaking’ and ‘public open space' management have become the new norm.
On most residential estates some areas are adopted by a Local Authority, and others are managed by the Estate Management Company (EMC), so it can be less clear to residents what and where the managing agent’s responsibilities lie. For instance, who replaces the street lighting when it goes out? Who maintains the bollards, fencing or play park equipment? Who is responsible for clearing dog mess up? Why do I have to pay for grass cutting and stream clearing when I don’t have any green space outside my house? Common resident queries any property manager may face.
Communication, clarity of information, and transparency of accounts factor high on the list of requirements from a good managing agent, meaning the right communication channels need to be in place to make that vital ‘difference’. On most estates, some homes will be tenanted, which brings a different challenge, as the property owner (the freeholder or landlord) may not live on the estate, the county, or even the same country!
A good EMC should be well staffed with property teams proficient in the necessary skills for managing the estate. For instance, they should understand legal aspects such as freeholder property laws. They should know the estate environment as well as its landscape – a mantra often referred to as KYP (Know Your Property). If any maintenance work requires contractors, the EMC should ensure each project (or ‘major works’) is done effectively, and the service charge funds are allocated efficiently. Staff training and CPD should be a part of the company’s ethos. A good EMC should encourage its property managers to ‘Know Your Client’ and ‘Know Your Budget’. These are the fundamentals that ensure details are never missed; solid principles that often lead to feedback such as this:
“Many people talk about joined-up teams, professionality and customer focus, not so many actually do it. You should all be proud of your team.” Davey S.
Your managing agent should employ relevant teams qualified to provide the following vital services:
Apart from collecting service charges, a good managing agent will be confident in preparing accounting records for the property. The accounts need to clearly state what the resident is paying for and why. A good managing agent should not be asked for explanations of any documents or correspondence that they receive.
Compliance with health and safety standards is essential to ensure the residents’ safety. The managing agent must be familiar with the relevant estate safety legislation and ensure compliance. For instance, open spaces and play areas need to be kept clean and safe, and any equipment repaired or replaced when required. With apartment blocks, they should ensure the building has safe access, adequate lighting, and emergency systems in place and all block residents should be made aware of what to do in the event of an emergency.
An estate manager will hire the right contractors to complete any repair work at a reasonable cost, and within the budget. A good managing agent will have a list of reliable and vetted contractors to call on.
The managing agent will need to visit the premises regularly throughout the year (either as pre-announced site visits or as planned resident surgeries) to carry out a visual check of the grounds and buildings (apartment blocks) and to provide an opportunity for residents to air any concerns or queries face to face.
A good managing agent will prepare a bespoke community engagement strategy for each estate. The plan should be based on activities and events that utilise the environment, its facilities, and amenities and consider the demographic of the residents – what they need and want. It should be flexible to change and respectful of natural habitats. Looking at the site as a whole, as well as a deeper dive into individual areas such as woodland, meadow or a sports field ensures the needs of the whole community can be appropriately met, encouraging interactivity and building a community spirit.
Changing from one managing agent to another is not a complicated process. However, before taking the first step, ensure you read the legal agreements and understand the legal rights. Normally all homeowners become members of the RMC when they purchase their property, so first, find out if you have the power to affect the changes on the estate. Homeowners can propose the changes to the current directors or become a director themselves to effect the change.
You do not have to wait until the contract ends to change agents but ensure you do not violate the notice periods stipulated in the agreement, which often range between 30 to 90 days.
The RMC director can initiate the termination process by writing a letter or email to the current managing agent stating the termination date and reasons for ending the contract. If you send the letter, obtain proof of postage to ensure sufficient evidence of the notice of termination.
The managing agent should confirm receipt of the termination notice by writing a letter to the RMC acknowledging the date that they will cease operations. The confirmation letter also creates a paper trail that can be used in court or tribunal proceedings. However, if the managing agent disagrees with the termination, they can file a dispute with the tribunal.
When the notice is in effect, residents paying the service charge must receive a notification about the change from directors and the managing agent. The message should put them at ease that their tenancy is secure.
The property manager will hand over the balances and provide all the financial records of the period they managed the estate. The transfer paperwork includes certificates, safety and repair reports and inventory details.
If looking to switch, we advise that you choose a managing agent who can demonstrate their expertise in swiftly turning around poorly managed estates. After RMC directors make the first step to terminate the current arrangement, the incoming agent will use the notice period (typically 3 months) to formulate a plan to improve services to you and your estate. They should ensure the switch is trouble-free by liaising with the outgoing agent to transfer account balances, service charges, and the necessary documents.
After the initial assessment, the new agent should compile a list of repairs and maintenance work they see will be necessary to plan in. They should also host a meeting with the directors to determine any challenges facing the residents and may schedule a resident meeting to put faces to the name. We are happy to provide further advice on any of the matters discussed here, simply contact firstname.lastname@example.org