A case that The Property Ombudsman was asked to review came from freeholders concerning the management of the estate by the managing agents.
A couple who owned the freehold of their property complained about the general condition of the development which was managed in its entirety by the agent. The development consisted of 850 properties, comprising around 450 houses, 30 blocks of flats, communal areas and green spaces, woodlands, meadows and balancing ponds. The agent was instructed by the Resident Management Company, with the directors and members of the management company all being residents in the Village.
The various issues included:
Parking - the complainants said that emergency vehicles, buses and refuse vehicles were having problems getting through the village due to the illegally parked vehicles, despite the clear rules for parking, adding that the agent allowed residents to park on an access only road clearly marked with a ‘No Parking’ sign. The complainants said that the agent was aware of this but failed to take any action.
Waste Recycling - the Complainants said that because the green waste area was being hidden by commercial vehicles, some residents dumped rubbish in this area. They said the agent had failed to deal with the issue.
Flat obligations - the Complainants said that residents of the flats were not permitted to keep dogs, but one resident had a terrier which was never on a lead. In addition, they said that some residents of the flats had washing drying on the balconies, something which was not allowed. They said that the agent had taken no action about these matters.
Fees - the complainants were dissatisfied that the agent had advised that they would charge
for dealing with queries “to the extent they consider reasonable.” It was clear from the volume of correspondence between the complainants and the agent, as well as telephone calls, that the agent had spent some considerable time dealing with the complainants’ enquiries.
The agent had taken some action to address the issues but pointed out that they could only go as far as their client instructed, and although they could not resolve all issues to the complainants’ satisfaction, they had taken them seriously and given explanations where possible.
The agent had taken the following action: instructed a parking management company which included an app facility for residents to report cars parked inappropriately; although their client has decided not to instruct them to create a gated area for green waste, they had written to residents to update them accordingly; they had reminded other residents to comply with the covenants in their lease or TP1.
With respect to the fees applied for responding to the complainants, the management agreement in place allowed the agent to charge residents for dealing with queries ‘to the extent they consider reasonable’. The agent also demonstrated that their client did not wish them to increase charges to residents to better upkeep the development, nor take any legal action against residents breaching their covenants, such as hanging washing from their balconies.
It was clear that the Complainants’ expectations, especially with regard to policing other residents, far exceeded what the agent could reasonably achieve. The agent had drafted and issued to all residents a comprehensive handbook to remind the residents of the standards and obligations expected of them. They could not compel residents to comply with the same and unless instructed by the resident management company to take enforcement action against those residents in breach of the covenant, there was very little further action that the agent could be reasonably expected to take. The agent had sufficiently responded to requests for information and the concerns raised. They could not go further than their client’s instructions allowed.
It was also accepted that the lease allowed the agent to apply a charge when dealing with the queries. Whilst it was recognised that the complainants were frustrated that they observed the covenants and others did not, and that the condition of the village had deteriorated somewhat, the Ombudsman was unable to meet their desired outcome.
By way of resolution to their complaints the complainants requested that the agent bring the village back into the condition it was when it was entered into the ‘Village in Bloom’ competition.
The Resident Management Company had advised the agent that they did not wish to increase residents’ service charge by £100 per annum to cover this and as such the agent could not provide the resolution the complainants were seeking, nor were they under any obligation to do so.
It was clear from the information provided that the agent’s actions in dealing with the enquiries and complaints received from the complainants had been fair and reasonable and that they have performed their management services in line with their obligations.
The complaint was not supported.