Clear Building Management set out some of the key ‘big block’ considerations for RMC directors considering a change of managing agent.
Large blocks and developments come with their own set of challenges, from large-scale resident communications through to more complex building management requirements. In this blog, we share some tips and advice gained through taking over the management of several large developments that were in need of some managing agent love and affection!
Use multi-channel communications for residents
Larger blocks mean more residents, often with a higher proportion of tenants. This means your communications need to be focused and inclusive to ensure everyone knows what is happening with their home. We recommend using a combination of email and SMS for urgent issues, as well as regular ‘newsletter’ type updates by email and post so everyone is informed.
Remember the tenants
Although they may not be paying the service charge, tenants contribute indirectly to the block’s costs through their rent and have a right to a pleasant living environment. If your tenants believe their ideas will be listened to, then we find they are far more likely to be engaged with your block management plans.
Be smart with the maintenance work
Bigger blocks = more things that can go wrong, so your managing agent needs to have a clear strategy and a roster of reliable contractors that can offer round-the-clock support. Check that your managing agent doesn’t charge extra for this 24/7 cover! If you have lifts, invest in smart lift technology to improve reliability.
Keep the numbers under control
Tight budget control is essential when large numbers are at stake. Transparency is vital – at Clear we operate on an all-inclusive pricing model so leaseholders know there will be no additional fees or charges. We also advocate a fully-costed sinking fund so you can correctly account for every penny that is collected through the service charge. And, whilst it can feel like a bit of a hassle, we would also recommend asking contractors to re-tender on an annual basis to ensure costs remain competitive.
Offer flexible payment options
A key part of good financial management is collecting service charge payments on a timely basis. We recommend offering a monthly direct debit option with a choice of collection dates. This can be helpful for leaseholder landlords who may want to collect in rent payments before their service charges are due.
Consider a “Managed Staffing” solution
This ensures site staff have clearly defined roles, and can receive support in areas such as uniforms, training, holiday pay, sickness cover and so forth.
Focus on the cause, as well as the effect
At the heart of successful management of larger blocks is the ability to focus on the cause and not just the effect of the issues that arise. This approach at Clear is paying dividends at many of the larger blocks that we manage, as highlighted in a recent comment from an RMC director at Hatton Place:
“Our old property manager was reactionary to whatever fad or complaint came in, had no concept of planning, poor contractor management, and spent like the budget was limitless. Clear provide us with professional advice and give options but advise on affordability and long-term impacts. By taking their advice, problems such as anti-social behaviour and poor car parking have been eliminated.”
When you have a managing agent that is proactively working with you to improve your development, RMC directors can then afford to take a more strategic role, overseeing the improvements rather than having to ‘do the doing’.