How Can Property Managers Encourage Setting Up Owners’ Associations?
For anyone who lives in a block of flats, whether it’s an old tenement, or a new build, organising an owners’ association should be at the top of the agenda as part of the buying process. For the latter, it has become the norm and is part and parcel of the ownership of the property. But for older builds, and especially for tenements, this may not be the case. In fact, it’s safe to say it is most likely the exception.
All buildings, no matter when they are built, need to be maintained. They need to be repaired and they need to be cared for, otherwise, we see the problems that are being experienced by many homeowners, tenants and landlords today – deterioration and expensive repair bills that will only continue to get worse if problems aren’t nipped in the bud. Whether a property management company has been appointed or not (and we would of course, encourage the appointment of a property management company), owners’ associations make building and repair maintenance much easier to do.
We know our clients take steps to encourage owners to set up associations, it’s topic that has come up time and again during conversations with our guests on the Blocktalk Podcast.
So we’re going to take a deeper dive into this subject, sharing some best practice and taking a look at what property management companies are doing or could be doing more of, to engage with and encourage more clients to organise an owners’ association.
A difficult task, some might say, like herding cats, but let’s have a go…
“…setting up owners’ associations, I think is a really good thing to do, because they don’t just help with communications. And I think the best decisions are made by groups of people who discuss things and all the ins and outs and the pros and cons.” Annie Flint, co-writer of The Tenement Handbook and co-Founder of Under One Roof.
Make it easy to set up an owners’ association
It takes just one owner in a building to get the conversation going, which is just the start! Once the conversation is started, it has to be kept moving to the point of actually organising the association, which takes a lot of resilience, time, and patience.
- Organise regular meetings at a local bar or café to have a chat and share information;
- Share success stories, or case studies of buildings that have owners’ associations and how good it works for them;
- Host an event at a local bar, hotel, or venue to share information;
- Write to the entire street (even if not your clients) to suggest setting up a group such as ‘Friends of Happy Avenue’ – looking after our street together. Peer pressure from neighbours might go a long way;
- Send a Draft Constitution;
- Send a step-by-step guide.
Have any of these worked for your property management company? What else have you tried, that’s worked or not worked, and what have you done that’s not listed?
Communicate regularly with owners
Property management is essentially people management. As we’ve said before, there are a lot of spinning plates but we wonder how many of these spinning plates could be stopped more easily if owners took responsibility for repairs and maintenance?
Communicating the value of owners’ associations often and regularly could help in the pursuit to get things moving.
- add information to your website on how to set up an owners’ association, which can be referred to in all communications;
- offer advice/information when you send emails, newsletters, or invoices – use every point of contact as an opportunity;
- carry out specific quarterly or bi-annual mailshots which focus 100% on setting up owners’ associations;
- use social media channels to shout about the benefits of owners’ associations.
Contact local solicitors and estate agents
This one is a bit ‘out there’ but we thought what the hell, let’s throw it in!
We think it’s fair to say – and please do correct us if we’re wrong – when it comes to organising repairs and maintenance, a lot of the problems experienced by property management companies boil down to a lack of clear and concise information given to buyers who are in the market for a flatted property.
So even before someone becomes the owner or landlord of a flat, before they even come into contact with a property management company, they should know exactly what their roles and responsibilities are as a flat owner and the associated expenses.
“But you know, really, we need to get to people before they buy. We need to get them to build in the anticipated cost of repairs, before they commit themselves to spending all of their cash on a huge mortgage with just something left for doing new kitchens or windows, and they’ve got nothing left to pay for the roof. I really think we need much better home reports. I would really like to see them having much better property inspections in there. And you can’t expect the one owner who is selling their property, to spend thousands on getting the whole property inspected, that’s got to come through these regular property inspections.” Annie Flint on the Blocktalk Podcast Episode 20.
For property management companies, this is essentially where everything traces back to. Estate Agents could easily add information about owner responsibilities to prospectuses and online listings. Estate Agents and Property Management Companies could work together to produce an information leaflet, that’s given to everyone in the market for a flat. Then there are solicitors. This is traditionally where it’s expected that people will be given the information they need to know about property management. But, sadly, this either doesn’t happen at all, is glossed over, isn’t explained clearly enough, or buyers simply forget because, possibly, it’s not given as much focus as it should be.
What’s the solution?
The solution probably lies in clear legislation that covers requirements before or at the point of sale. However, as we appear to be far from that stage, and buildings, just like us, are aging with every second that passes, the industry must take the necessary steps to tackle the formation of owners’ associations.
As a supplier to the property management industry, we want to do what we can to assist in this important area. As mentioned, we would always recommend the services of a reputable, and registered property management company as self-factoring is time-consuming, and can often lead to essential work not being carried out. We will also be pulling together some useful resources for setting up an owners association, so stay tuned for that!
Crawford, Professional Services Director