property manager dispute property management guideWhen you have a managing agent acting for you, they’re the ones responsible for all the nuts-and-bolts of managing your property interest, whether you’re the owner with a single property and tenant, or you’re part of a separate management company.
If you come across tell-tale signs that the agent is not doing what they’re supposed to, it can actually take a long time to do something about this. Often you need to build up details of these issues, dig a little deeper, and then liaise with them over these.
You can compare it to your bank account, where you might bank with, say, Lloyds but suspect that you’re not getting the right service and interest and therefore look to move to Natwest, for example. Even when you do get this all stacked-up and making sense to move, it can actually be a whole lot of hassle to do it, often causing people to just make do with the status quo.
Well here are some pointers for being proactive with your managing agent and therefore how to get them back in shape and performing. Hopefully it won’t lead to you having to change agent, but worst-case scenario is that this has to be the case.
However, before you go in heavy-handed, there’s a fair and calm process to go through in order to get things resolved. It’s being straight and to the point, but still in a fair and professional way.
So here goes, eight factors to consider.

1. Have a Meeting

To begin the ball rolling, look to have a meeting with the agent and go through things, ideally on site as you can refer to any actual issues.
Alternatively it could be a meeting place somewhere, maybe as part of a regular review or timed with a booked property inspection.
Whenever and wherever this is, the idea is to just have a genuine dialogue with them, to be honest, raise issues, and receive their feedback and proposed action

2. Back Up in Writing

This often gets missed or misunderstood, but it’s an important stage that you may need to rely upon later.
Simply jot down in writing what the outcome of the meeting or conversation was. Ideally this is to send the agent, maybe even a quick friendly email rather than formal letter just summarising what you went through.
Or, at the very least a form of file note or internal email will still help, not only to remember yourself if needs be but refer to in future if things do start going pear shaped.

3. Different People

If things don’t get resolved from a meeting, consider different people and roles, a classic one being the good cop and bad cop.

So more behind the scenes you could have a grumpy and picky-person who is calling the shots and keeping the agent on their toes, whereas a friendlier person as the one liaising with them and trying to come to a practical solution.
If there’s other people involved with the client interest this is easy to do, particularly those behind the scenes, although if not you can always refer to other appointed advisors such as the accountants or solicitors (ideally with their permission of course).

4. Formal Notice

Okay, time has gone on and the agreed action has not been taken – now it’s time to ramp things up, but still being friendly and professional.
Placing them ‘on notice’ can help, and although this isn’t necessarily a legal stance at all, unless a lease or documentation allows otherwise, it has the important result of looking more serious.
Just focus on being short and sweat, so maybe referring to the original meeting and documentation, but clearly stating that this now needs resolving by a certain time in a certain way – or else.
And this ‘or else’ can remain ambiguous, such as ‘further action’ or ‘to look at other options’ – or it could be more to the point.
Either way, you’re now starting to bring things to a head - nicely.

5. Complaints Procedure

So you’ve come to the end of the above deadline, and still no action – one way is to now ask for a formal complaints procedure from the managing agent in order to have this addressed further.
Now although this can be gone through if needs be, it often boils down to informing the next line manager or person in charge, so if you wanted to be sneaky you could just copy them in anyway, although only do this in drastic circumstances as it has a sledge-hammer effect for what can hopefully still be an easily resolved matter.
In reality, just the serious threat of action can work. The agent knows their card is marked, and it’s time to get answers.

6. Accreditation Schemes

This kind of works alongside the complaints procedure using a similar tack, and that’s complaining to someone else.
See what regulatory body they are part of, and consider contacting them regarding the issues.

Again, this can be heavy handed and not actually required, its more the threat of it that will help.
In terms of who these people are to contact, this information should be available with any details from the agent and, say, their website, or you could just ask them which acts as a form of warning anyway.

7. Re-tendering Exercise 

Looking to other managing agents to take over means things are serious now, and it is obviously bringing things to a conclusion.
Although this can take time to do correctly, it may well be worth doing of course, and even the threat of it, as already mentioned, can have an effect.
You’ll have to consider how openly you do this, and whether you invite the current agent to pitch or not. Hopefully so, and based on current issues being resolved, although be careful to make clear that the reason for this is poor performance so far and therefore this is the first thing to resolve before any other issues such as further service and costs.
Make sure the other quotes are comparable, and don’t get carried away by apparently great deals from other agents as they simply try and get the work. Consider all factors, and take your time.
And when you do decide, check what time and notices are then needed to dovetail everything together.

8. Final Legal Recourse

This is the final and last resort, and that’s taking legal action to get things resolved. Although this may ‘end up going legal’ with solicitors, you must first see what re-dress schemes exist within your property interest and documentation.
So with a residential property it may be a First Tier Tribunal, or with a commercial property a form or arbitration to decide matters.
If this is part of a new agent taking over as per above, then you may want to deliberately delay this until a hand over to the new agent to keep things amicable.

But after then, be clear that unless specific things are issued within a certain time frame then that’s it – you’re pressing the legal button.

Managing Your Managing Agent

As you face issues with the current managing agent, don’t have a knee-jerk reaction to things, but rather spend time getting all the facts and actually going through things logically. There may well be genuine issues to clear up, and the whole process of changing management-arrangements is just not as clear-cut as say a letting or sales agent where they’re done after one instruction.
Therefore go through these factors and drill-down into what’s needed and the best way to deal with, remembering the principle of good-cop and bad-cop.
And if all else fails, you’re ready to take further action and even change agents and have no risk of falling foul of this by missing essential steps beforehand.

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