FAQ

Why should we use a managing agent?

Maintaining the common areas, the fabric of the building and the grounds are important elements in ensuring the value of your asset is maintained. Poorly maintained and managed buildings deteriorate quickly and become less attractive to purchasers and the costs associated with professional management can be more competitive, particularly where we as the agent have considerable purchasing power. The manager is responsible for ensuring that many essential things are carried out at your development and these are principally:- (1) To make sure the building remains properly insured, at the right level and with appropriate cover. This might include engineering insurance for lifts and other plant, Directors and Officers Liability for Directors of an RMC and of course traditional buildings insurance that will include terrorism cover together with common area only contents cover; (2) To provide services on site including cleaning, gardening, window cleaning, lift maintenance, fire detection systems, entry system maintenance etc, as stipulated in the leases. In fact just about any service that your development requires under the lease. There are also several statutes and regulations that also must be complied with. These include anything from legionella water testing to pigeon control. It depends on your building's needs and what services are agreed with the landlord; (3) Health and safety is an important part of our work. In addition we ensure that contractors who work on your development are properly qualified and insured; (4) All of the above is backed up by an inspection regime that not only provides a visual overview of the property but will seek to maintain and indeed enhance the value of your property going forward by ensuring that your development is maintained at agreed standards; (5) as agents, we are experienced, fully qualified and have a thorough knowledge of the industry and the legislative compliance regime that blocks of flats are required to adhere to. Managing a block of flats is a complex, legally complicated, matter, and amateur management can often result in expensive mistakes.

What if you give advice that as directors decide we don’t agree with?

The advice we may provide is usually in relation to the Landlord’s legal responsibilities, or what the lease stipulates, or in response to issues you asked for guidance upon. If you decide not to act on it, that is entirely your decision. The only proviso we require, written into the management contract, is that we cannot be instructed to carry out any action that is in conflict with a legal requirement, whether in the lease or under various pieces of legislation and regulations.

We have considered moving to a new managing agent, after being with our existing agents for a long time, but fear that it will be complicated, time-consuming and very disruptive for us.

It’s actually quite straightforward to change managing agent. Once you have served a notice to terminate management, we liaise directly with the outgoing agent for the handover of all records and documentation. Obviously we would be dependent upon the agent providing the necessary records, but if they are RICS or ARMA members, they do have to meet their professional obligations. At the start of our management contract, we then set up our management systems for your building, to conform with its legal and financial requirements. We can ensure the move is as seamless as possible.

Can you explain what’s in the Leaseholder Handbook? What is this and why do you have it?

For every building we manage, we produce a Leaseholder Handbook that is specific to your block. This gives a lot of information about the role of the managing agent, the Landlord and the leaseholder. It gives an overview of the responsibilities and obligations of the Landlord and the leaseholders. This is also on our portal for reference, and provides useful reference information.

What if we need work or services that are not listed in your Service Level Agreement?

We can provide additional services outside the Service Level Agreement and these would be for an additional fee. We would only provide such services when we receive instructions in writing from an authorised person, so the Landlord or RMCo directors have control over the costs of the services we provide, so there are no surprises to annual expenditure.

How often would Hunt Property Management visit my block of flats?

For most developments this will be four quarterly property inspections during the year, plus specific visits to meet residents' representatives or the client. Of course, in reality this often means that we visit much more often than this, particularly in the early days of the contract or where there is a specific matter to resolve.

What if I'm not happy with the standard of work being carried out, for instance by the gardener or cleaner?

Of course, whether you are our Client or a leaseholder, if you feel that work being carried out (for instance under a regular maintenance contract such as gardening or cleaning) is not being done according to the agreed scope or expected standards, then we would appreciate hearing from you as soon as possible, so this can be put right by us. In addition, our regular inspections are aimed at monitoring the quality of the work carried out by regular contractors.

I am a leaseholder - can I ask Hunt Property Management, as the Managing Agent, to carry out work?

Leaseholders should report problems or faults they identify in their building so we can deal with these. However, a leaseholder doesn’t have the right to instruct the management agent, that can only be from the Directors. There is a legal framework that all the parties have to abide by, especially the managing agent. There is no contractual relationship between the leaseholder and the managing agent, but mainly it’s because the freeholder/landlord or the residents’ management company is the client and the one with the legal right to make decisions about the block. You can of course make your views or opinions known to the directors of the resident management company.

What do I do if I want to complain?

In the first instance it is best to speak to your property manager for your property. Call or email and we will endeavour to resolve any problem as quickly as possible. If you are not satisfied with the response you receive, then we suggest you follow our Complaints Procedure. Details of the Complaints Procedure are set out in the Leaseholders Handbook, which we provide to every leaseholder on the properties we manage, on this website and on the portal,. All complaints are reviewed by a director of Hunt Property Management and, if necessary, we will arrange to meet you in person to find a resolution. We are, of course, also happy to receive your compliments and any comments about how we can improve the services we offer you.

I think I have damp in my flat. What can I - or you - do about it?

If the damp is the direct result of a leak outside your flat, this may be coming from the flat above. If this is the case, then its responsibility of the leaseholder of the other flat to repair the cause of the leak inside their flat to stop water damage in your flat. Alternatively, the apparent damp could more likely be condensation. It's very common for people to suspect they have penetrating or rising damp when in fact what they’re experiencing is condensation. Problems with condensation are common in blocks of flats. It's created through people simply carrying out the normal activities of living in a property. This includes washing, showering, cooking, drying clothes etc. We can provide you with information on how to deal with or prevent condensation.

FINANCIAL

What is Ground Rent?

Ground Rent is the rent that all leaseholders pay to the owner of the land (this could be a freeholder or a freehold company, where the leaseholders have collectively bought the freehold). Terms for this will be set out clearly in your lease. Ground Rent is payable in accordance with those terms.

Why do I have to pay Service Charges?

Service charges are payments made by the leaseholder for all services in connection with the maintenance and repair of your block of flats. This is a fundamental part of the lease, the contract the leaseholder signed when the flat was purchased, and it will usually state how often these are to be paid and are generally “on account payments", so that funds are available to pay for work as they occur. These services will include maintenance and repairs, insurance of the building, lighting and cleaning of common areas, gardening and, where applicable, provision of central heating, lifts and porterage. The charges also include the costs of management services provided by the managing agent. Service charges can vary from year to year; they can go up or down without any limit other than that they are expected to be reasonable. Details of what can and cannot be charged by the landlord and the proportion of the charge to be paid by the individual leaseholder will all be set out in the lease. All such costs must be met by the leaseholders. We always take great care when forecasting the service charge budget for the next financial year to make sure it includes the costs identified for that year but are kept as reasonable as possible.

Why is my service charge so high when I have a friend that pays half the amount?

Individual properties and leases can vary enormously as indeed the size and number of flats in a block, which makes comparisons of service charges between different blocks unhelpful and almost impossible. There are usually good reasons for the two sets of charges being very different when comparing two different blocks of flats. Here are some typical reasons:- (1) one block may have a more comprehensive set of services funded through the service charge (eg all windows cleaned, lifts, car parking, fire detection systems, entry systems etc); (2) Does your friend's service charge include reserve funds as yours may well do? If not, their charge is likely to fluctuate dramatically from year to year as large expenditure falls due; (3) How many flats in the block? Small blocks tend to have a higher maintenance charge per flat and overall maintenance costs are often disproportionately expensive because the costs are shared by fewer lessees, rather than being spread across a large number; (4) Are there gardens in one block or is one of the blocks an older building? If so, the service charge could be affected by such matters; (5) What size is your flat? Service charge apportionments for the individual flats are often calculated by reference to the floor area of your apartment. Others on a straightforward equal basis - this can make a significant difference.

How is service charge money spent and will I be given information about the budget and expenditure?

The annual budget, including expenditure cost estimates, is prepared and agreed with the landlord for each block or estate prior to the start of the next financial year. The service charges required to fund this anticipated expenditure is calculated and issued to each leaseholder along with the expenditure details.

How safe are the service charge funds?

All service charge are held in a designated client bank trust account, specifically for that block of flats, in accordance with S.42 Landlord & Tenant Act 1987. The client bank accounts are conducted in accordance with the rules of the RICS Service Charge Residential Management Code. We belong to a Client Money Protection scheme (CMP) which protect these funds.

What are Reserve Funds / Sinking Funds?

Many leases provide for the collection of sums in advance to create a reserve or ‘sinking' fund' to ensure that sufficient money is available for future major works. Reserve funds is a general long term fund for capital expenditure. However a sinking fund will related to a specific building asset, ring-fenced for this expenditure only, such as for a lift). Contributions to the reserve fund are not repayable when the flat is sold. This is because the cost of essential elements in the building are spread out over a number of years, allowing for a fairer distribution of financial responsibility between one or more owner of a particular flat. For instance, the cost of replacing a roof can be quite high. It would not be fair for owner A to have the benefit of the roof, free of cost, for several years, then sell his flat to owner B, who then has to pay for a new roof the following year.

Why should we have to pay for a Chartered Accountant to certify the annual accounts?

Annual service charge accounts would be stipulated by the lease or, if the lease does not stipulate certified accounts, legislation requires that all flats with 5 or more leaseholders must have certified accounts produced. Following the end of the financial year the Chartered Accountant will produce a full set of certified accounts showing the total service charges received for the year against the total expenditure. The accounts are produced in accordance with the TECH 03/11 Guidelines and the Landlord & Tenant Act. The client bank accounts are conducted in accordance with the rules of the RICS Service Charge Residential Management Code and of S.42 Landlord & Tenant Act 1987). If there is an overspend on the year's expenditure, there would have to be a deficit balancing charge payable by the leaseholders. If there is an underspend, the lease will state how this is managed - this could be transferred to the reserve fund, or it is credited back to the leaseholders, as a balancing credit. Less frequently, the lease may actually stipulate that the accounts must also be audited. In fact "audit" in the case of service charge accounts will not be the same as it would be for a trading company. Nevertheless, the cost of audited accounts are still much higher than for certified accounts. Even if the lease does not stipulate that accounts must be certified, if there are five or more flats in a block, then by law (S.21 Landlord & Tenant Act 1985) the service charge annual accounts must be certified by a Chartered Accountant.

The balancing charge on my annual accounts relates to a time before I purchased my property. Do I have to pay it?

Technically yes, because as an Assignee of the lease, you have taken on the obligations under your lease. However, as part of your contract of sale there may have been an agreement the previous leaseholder would lodged a proportion of a possible balancing charge. You should contact your solicitor in order to check whether they hold a sum to cover such a balancing charge.

Why have my service charges increased?

This could be for a number of reasons. The cost of providing maintenance services is assessed annually. The costs of repair in one year may be minimal but may be greater in the next year. Additionally, we may have to take into account periodically recurring statutory inspections, inflationary increases, outside influences such as changes in Government legislation which could result in increase in the costs. Insurance renewal increases have increased due to such things as the rise in terrorism, global climate changes, the increase in personal injury claims etc, and these have led to increases in premiums beyond just inflationary causes. At the start of a new contract it’s initially based upon our knowledge and experience with other similar properties. In future years we have the benefit of actual expenditure, but even with this, there are some matters that are impossible to accurately predict.

If I am selling my flat, do I have to pay the charges in full?

Yes, you need to pay service charges due on the property on the due date for those charges. If there are existing arrears, we would not be able to supply the pre-sales management pack because we are required to protect the Landlord’s rights. We would have to wait for the arrears to be settled before pre-sales management packs can be supplied. In addition, to protect the purchaser's own interests, their solicitor will expect to establish that there are no debts outstanding on the property. If you have not paid in full it will in most cases delay the sale of your property. Service charges paid for a particular period will be apportioned by your solicitor according to the sale completion date.

How can I pay my Service Charge?

You can pay by bank transfer online or by cheque and send it to us by post. Details are provided on your service charge bill. Unless the client allows it, standing orders are not normally allowed as these could cause cashflow problems with the available service charge fund. Normally payment is expected to be made in accordance with your lease terms. Standing order payments could be arranged if you are temporarily experiencing difficulties, but the client makes the decision.

What happens if a leaseholder doesn't pay?

It is a leaseholder's obligation to pay the service charges and ground rent promptly by the due dates stated on the invoices. We have an arrears process which is effective in ensuring in most cases, there are few arrears where the leaseholder genuinely forgets to make the payment on the lease due dates. Worst case scenario is that if the arrears continue despite reminders, the landlord may decide to take legal action to recover these charges.

LEGAL

How do I go about appointing Hunt Property Management?

Property owners considering a change of managing agents might be discouraged by the thought of having to devote significant and very precious time and effort in securing the benefits offered by a new management company. Hunt Property Management sets out to ensure this process is made as simple and easy as possible for our prospective clients. We recognise that certain fundamental issues will require client input. However, by obtaining information directly from the outgoing agent we aim to minimise the need for direct client involvement in the handover process.

What if some of the flats are being rented, even though there is a covenant in our leases to say this is not allowed?

Normally a lease will state that sub-letting is not permitted without the landlord's written permission, others will allow it for a minimum period, but there will still be stipulations about how it's done. Once we are contracted to take over the management of a block of flats, we ensure that, for the sake of all the leaseholders' “quiet enjoyment” of their properties, we take the details of all the existing sub-lettings, so we know who to contact if there are any issues relating to a sublet flat. Nowadays, the landlord cannot unreasonably withhold consent, if the lease requires this. It's also worth remembering that many leases also require the leaseholder to enter into a legal Deed of Covenant with the sub-let tenant and supplied to the Landlord – this has to be forward to us for registration.

What can I do if I have really noisy neighbours in my block?

As Managing Agent, we have no legal ability to deal with matters like this. There are a number of organisations able to deal with this problem, such as the local authority's Environmental Health Department or the Police. The first thing you could do is to knock on their door and politely inform them that they are creating too much noise. If they ignore you or you don't feel able to do this, then you could contact these organisations, who should be able to help you. If the offending flat is rented to tenants and you don't know how to contact the flat owner, because of GDPR you will need to contact us and we will forward an email to the that leaseholder to let them know about the problem. Whether the Landlord is able to enforce any covenants regarding noise nuisance depends on what your lease specifies. It remains a leaseholder's responsibility to ensure his tenants do not cause disruption to other residents. We strongly advise you to keep a diary of events, which would give the relevant authorities the right information. If action has to be taken eventually against the leaseholder for breaching his lease, then this evidence will be necessary in court, the lease will usually have a covenant relating to a leaseholder asking the Landlord to take breach of lease actions.

Can I sub-let my property?

Most leases allow sub-letting of property, subject to obtaining prior consent of the landlord/directors of the RMC, which cannot be unreasonably withheld. Some leases have variations on these requirements. It is not allowed to sub-divide or sub-let part of the flat - all leases have a very clear covenant against this. Any resident wishing to sub-let their property should contact Hunt Property Management.

Can I make alterations to my property?

All leases include restrictive covenants prohibiting alterations to either the floor plan or the internal parts of the property without the Landlord’s prior written consent. This is to protect the building’s structure, to protect the interests of the rest of the leaseholders in the building, and to ensure leaseholders don’t undertake work that changes or undermines their lease conditions and covenants. Residents wishing to make alterations should apply to Hunt Property Management in writing, letting us know of these plans. Detailed information will be needed about the precise works to be undertaken including the appropriate plans and specification relating to the proposed works and any Building Regulations and Planning Permission required. You will need a Licence to Alter before you start the works. Carrying out unauthorised structural alterations could also cause problems with any future sale of your flat, particularly if the unauthorised alterations include changing the floor plan of the flat so it does not match the floor plan in the lease.

Can I keep pets in my property?

This depends on the terms in the lease or transfer document. Most leases prohibit pets or require written consent of the landlord/directors of the RMC before a Pet Licence can be issued and a pet is allowed to reside in the property. But the Lease will usually have a caveat that even if permission is given, if the pet causes noise nuisance or results in complaints from other residents, the Licence can be withdrawn and the pet may have to be removed from the premises.

I own a share of the freehold, with the leasehold of my flat. Does that mean you work for me?

Yes – and no! The management contract is with the Landlord or Resident Management Co or Right To Manage company (RMCo). The company acts in the legal capacity of the Landlord, and its directors are the only individuals with the legal right and duty to make decisions on the management of the building.

What is a Section 20?

This is a statutory requirement under Section 20 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, which means any work that will cost more than £250 per flat, must go through a formal consultation process with all the leaseholders. During the process, leaseholders are able to make their observations on the proposed works or to nominate an alternative contractor to tender for the work. If there is more than one nominated contractor, the client selects one out of these to add to the contractors already invited to quote, or if a nominated contractor receives many nominations they must be included in the tender. This is provided the nominee contractor complies with liability insurance and health and safety requirements and can demonstrate the same quality standards expected of all the other contractors. Once quotes have been received from the selected contractors, and again communicated to the leaseholders, one quote (usually the lowest) would be accepted and the work would commence once funds are available.

How long does a Section 20 Consultation take?

This is a fairly involved and legally prescriptive process, so it can generally take between three to four months from the client’s decision to carry out the work to when the contract can commence (as long as the funds are already available). If the work in question is urgent, and any delay would have a serious or detrimental effect on the building, then a dispensation can be applied for from the First Tier Tribunal (FTT) to bypass the Consultation process and enable to work to be carried out quickly. Even so, the FTT discourage the use of dispensation applications if they appear to try and circumvent the normal consultation process, so this is not an option to be taken lightly.

I want to change the address my invoices and statements are sent to

Please advise us of any change of correspondence address in writing. We are unable to accept such advice over the telephone. You must write or email us at info@huntpm.co.uk and we will then make the necessary amendments. Also for legal reasons, any new address must be within the UK.

What are my responsibilities as a Residents' Management Company Director?

In your capacity as a director, you are effectively acting as the Landlord, so your decision making has to take into account the Landlord’s obligations stipulated in the leases, the company’s Memorandum & Articles of Association and your responsibilities as a company director under the Companies Act 2006, as with all company directors. Consequently you have statutory and fiduciary duties that should not be taken lightly. In simple terms however you will be responsible for ensuring that the development is managed properly and cost effectively. Hunt Property Management takes its instructions from the directors, and part of our responsibilities would be to advise the board of directors on their responsibilities and to consider issues as they are identified or arise. When we forecast and draw up the draft annual service charge budget, this will be forwarded to the board for approval. We also recommend

Get in touch

Speak to our property management team

Eastbourne: 01323 644288 • Hastings: 01424 404004 • Hove: 01273 634000

Eastbourne: 01323 644288
Hastings: 01424 404004
Hove: 01273 634000