The dispute concerned the provision of a health and safety report, the handover of management responsibilities to the new managing agent and the events that took place during an annual general meeting.
The Complainants were the directors of the Residents Management Company (RMC) who stated that the managing agent (the Agent) had not provided them with a copy of a health and safety and fire risk report. They were also dissatisfied with handover to the new agent, stating that the Agent had delayed sending monies and documents which had affected the management of the Property. In addition, the RMC felt that the annual general meeting (AGM) was not conducted properly as the Agent’s staff were not knowledgeable about voting rights, obstructed an appointment of a new director and took poor minutes.
The Agent’s response was to advise that the risks picked up in the Health and Safety and Fire Risk assessment were mostly minor and for information only but acknowledged that the report was not sent to the RMC Directors. In relation to the handover to the new agent, they stated that the RMC did not provide the correct length of notice to terminate the Management Agreement and that they handed over funds and documents in accordance with industry guidelines and timescales. Finally, the Agent acknowledged that their staff at the AGM perhaps needed more training but denied that they had obstructed the appointment of a new director.
The RMC stated that despite the health and safety and fire assessment report being produced over two years previously, they had not been sent a copy. However, they had obtained a copy through the purchase of one of the director’s properties and were concerned that it highlighted 31 ‘significant’ findings that needed to be dealt with urgently. The evidence showed that the RMC had raised this issue during the AGM where the Agent had assured them that findings would be dealt with swiftly. The RMC had not raised the issue with the Agent before the AGM and it appeared to them that the Agent had taken no action following the AGM, which led to the RMC making a formal complaint.
The Agent’s response to the complaint was to state that some action had been taken, but there was no information in the file to evidence precisely what that was. Furthermore, the Agent explained that they had received a director instruction not to carry out any further work or services following the RMC’s decision to terminate their contract.
The adjudicator concluded that while it appeared that the Agent had taken some action following the matter being brought to their attention at the AGM, there was no evidence to show that they had communicated this to the RMC outside of the complaints correspondence. Nevertheless, this did not negate the Agent’s obligation to have brought the issues to the RMC’s attention when the report was received a year earlier and to have worked with the RMC to ensure all significant findings were addressed. Furthermore, the Agent not forwarding on the Health and Safety and Fire Risk Assessment report meant that the RMC were unaware that there were issues that needed to be addressed and which could have affected their insurance.
Regarding the management handover, the RMC said that despite giving the Agent a month’s notice, they did not co-operate with the process to the extent that at the time they referred the dispute to the Ombudsman, not all of the documents and monies had been transferred. The RMC were further dissatisfied that the Agent had charged a further two months management fees after the contact had ended.
The adjudicator noted that despite the management contract stipulating a 3 month notice period for terminating the contract, the Agent offered to end this a month early. However, the information thereafter showed that there were a number of delays in some monies and documents being transferred that had gone on several months after the agreed notice period had ended. That said, the information the new managing agent required to issue service charges was received within appropriate timescales.
Finally, concerning the running of the AGM, while the Agent had acknowledged that staff could have been more knowledgeable about voting rights, what was not acknowledged was the impact this had in relation to the appointment of a new director – being that a further meeting had to be called as a result of staff wishing to seek legal clarification regarding the appointment. Concerning the minutes of the AGM, both the Agent and the RMC provided two different versions. What was clear was that the RMC notes were detailed while the Agent’s notes were sparse with limited content, leading the adjudicator to conclude that they were not an accurate or complete representation of what was discussed at the AGM.
Regarding the provision of the health and safety and fire risk assessment, the adjudicator was very critical of the Agent’s failings and considered that this should have been brought to the RMC’s attention as soon as it was received and, thereafter, plans made with the RMC to address the issues. The fact that this did not happen for over a year was concerning and had potentially placed the RMC in position which could have negatively affected their insurance.
In relation to the handover to the new agent, the adjudicator concluded that while there were some delays on the part of the Agent that had caused avoidable aggravation, the new agent had received the required information for them to perform their services.
Finally, it was clear that the staff who attended the AGM were not suitably knowledgeable and that this resulted in poor meeting minutes and the RMC perceiving the appointment of the new director as being blocked by the Agent.
A total award of £600 was made which the RMC accepted as a fair resolution to their concerns.