Scotland has always been at the forefront of property management legislation. The Property Factors Act 2011 was the first of its kind in the UK and was introduced as a result of the growing number of private landlords and Buy-to-Let properties. The last 20 years have seen more and more changes within the industry, and of course, properties have changed and are now older. Particularly in Scotland, we see the effects of the lack of maintenance of traditional sandstone tenements.
Revisions to the Property Factors Act Scotland are being introduced (subject to approval) from 16 August 2021 and replaces the original Code which applied from 1 October 2012. As you will know, “all registered property factors are required by law to ensure compliance with the Code in terms of section 14(5) of the Property Factors (Scotland) Act 2011 (the 2011 Act).”
Many of the revisions place further requirements on property factors to be more transparent with owners. This will require property factors to be even more organised than they already are, with more attention to detail, and with the information they need easily accessible to all who need it.
Our team has picked through the revised Code of Conduct with a fine toothcomb. Not only do we like to keep ourselves informed, but we know we can probably make the revisions that little bit easier to manage and implement.
Let’s take a look at how CPL clients can make it easy to comply.
You must maintain appropriate records of your dealings with homeowners. This is particularly important if you need to demonstrate how you have met the Code’s requirements.
No doubt the records of your dealings with homeowners are already organised. But are they organised to the extent that you could find everything you need to comply with this new requirement?
If not, or if you think you have some work to do to get up to speed, remember you can utilise In-Tray, your automated document management tool.
Imagine if all of the documents in your traditional desk in-tray, were removed by a colleague and delivered directly to the person or filing cabinet that it needs to go to. That’s essentially what the In-Tray module does for you.
When all of your files are organised easily and quickly and are exactly where they need to be when you need them, you can relax in the knowledge that your house is in order.
In-Tray offers streamlined and user-friendly functionality for quick and easy movement of documents and letters to the relevant tabs for your clients and developments.
You can view a recording of a recent In-Tray webinar here
You must respond to enquiries and complaints within reasonable timescales and in line with your complaints handling procedure.
We would expect that all of our clients will have this aspect of the business sewn up. However, if you do need to review your enquiries and complaints procedures, the updates to the Property Factors Act may well provide you with the perfect reason to do so.
If you’re reading this as one of our clients, you can again utilise the functionality in the In-Tray module and implement SLAs to set up a traffic light system that triggers notifications and alerts when you need them.
You can view a recording of a recent In-Tray webinar here
A property factor must take all reasonable steps to ensure that a copy of the Written Statement of Service is provided to homeowners.
Again, we would foresee that all of our clients would naturally be achieving this aspect of the requirements.
However, we would like to take the opportunity to remind our clients that we have an ‘Introductory Letters’ functionality that you can use to automate this process. You can include everything you need to as part of the letter.
Where applicable, a statement of any level of delegated authority, for example, the financial thresholds for instructing works and the specific situations in which the property factor may decide to act without further consultation with homeowners.
Have you seen the Job Warning Limit functionality in CPL for apportionments and individual properties? If you haven’t, this function within your software does exactly what you would expect it to and lets you meet this requirement easily.
How homeowners can access information, documents, and policies/procedures that they may need to understand the operation of the property factor.
The easiest and quickest way for clients who have access to technology is to provide them with an online portal they can log into and find the information and documents they need. If you do not yet offer this, we can chat with you about how you can make this available to owners. As well as a client portal, you can also offer your owners an app that they can access via their smartphone.
Make a clear distinction between homeowners’ funds, for example a sinking or reserve fund, payment for works in advance or a float or deposit and a property factor’s own funds and fee income.
Did you know you can easily set up contingency/sinking funds tracking in CPL? You can easily organise accounts, floats, proposed works and sinking funds monies separately.
Any charges that a property factor imposes in relation to late payment by a homeowner must not be unreasonable or excessive and must be clearly identified on any relevant bill and a financial statement issued to that homeowner.
Within the Client Notices functionality, you can manage this aspect of the Act. Most likely, you are already utilising this function, but if not, you can contact the team to talk you through this.
If an application against a property factor relating to a disputed debt is accepted by the First-Tier Tribunal for consideration, a property factor must not continue to apply any interest, late payment charges or pursue any separate legal action in respect of the disputed part of the debt during the period from when the property factor is notified in writing by the First-Tier Tribunal that the application is being considered and until such time as they are notified in writing of the final decision by the First-Tier Tribunal or the Upper Tribunal for Scotland (if appeal proceedings are raised).
Whilst this all sounds a bit convoluted; you can ring-fence any disputed debt by using an application within the Court Ledger functionality. This is a standard feature for all CPL clients and provides the ideal solution for compliance with this section of the Act. It also allows you to continue to use reminders for any subsequent invoices.
Section 6 Carrying Out Repairs & Maintenance
This section of the Code covers the use of both in-house staff and external contractors by property factors. While it is homeowners’ responsibility, and good practice, to keep their property well maintained, a property factor can help to prevent further damage or deterioration by seeking to make prompt repairs to a good standard.
Whilst we appreciate that it will be a homeowner’s responsibility to keep their property well maintained when this is a block of flats, there are, of course, a mix of people who own their property and those who rent.
Therefore, a property factor can and perhaps, should, do everything they possibly can to be proactive in keeping a property well maintained. The new Blockworx app automates the repairs and maintenance process to make it easier for property factors and contractors to work together.
The changes to the Property Factors Act (if agreed) will be the most significant since the Act was introduced 10 years ago. Our team has the expertise to help if there are any areas that you might need help with so please don’t hesitate to get in touch with any questions you may have on anything covered in this article, or any other questions that it might raise.
We appreciate many of our clients will be where they need to be for the changes being introduced. However, if you do have any questions, please get in touch with us to see if we can help. There may be something that’s not mentioned, or you have a query on anything above, whatever the reason, you can call or email us.