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Message from LEASE Chair Roger Southam – September 2017

Service levels are interesting in any walk of life. People’s expectation levels vary wildly. For any customer service business it presents challenges. A company like Virgin which is generally held up as being good on customer service has its detractors and critics. You only have to spend two minutes with an online review service to assess the fluctuation on expectations and delivery.

Property management in reality is no different. It is a customer service profession where the consumer (the leaseholder and renter) is receiving service from the property manager. Yet how many managers are spending time training their staff in customer service? It would seem that time needs to be spent on that to improve delivery of management services.

I have been told of leaseholders whose expectation of a managing agent are equivalent to when they go on holiday and the hotel anticipates their needs and curls their computer leads and tidies the room. The essence of this is fine in wanting a premier service but from what I see the fees would need to be adjusted to deliver that. Everyone’s expectation levels are different and there are preconceived ideas and emotions that are brought to any situation. How influenced are you in your expectation at a restaurant after reading about it on an online referencing service? Do you take the reviews and let them colour your judgement of the experience?

In all tenure types where there are community facilities there is a need for management service delivery. Even a self-managed block of flats has to meet the needs of all the flat owners and that will vary. There have been some interesting comments recently online on this. Perhaps taking a step back to look at expectation, service and delivery of management as a distinct aspect could prove worthwhile in the ongoing debates.

I have always thought managing agents should be regulated. The amount of other people’s money held means it is too important not to. But would regulation improve customer service? Probably not. It would most certainly put controls in place for the whole market and should raise standards. But if all laws worked there would be no one in prison. So we should not kid ourselves that there is any kind of silver bullet.

Rather it is incumbent for all involved in residential communal living to work together to seek the best service and delivery and how the consumer can be better served. This is currently a focus of a section 20 technical group organised by DCLG. The debate centres on how you give leaseholders protection, transparency and opportunity to be involved without creating burden and something of little benefit. The outcomes will be fascinating and it may give a glimpse as to how we can create a better management service for our blocks of flats.

Although from my travels nowhere is perfect and management challenges exist the World over. So if anyone finds the answer, a lot of people will be thankful.

LEASE is governed by a board, appointed as individuals by the Secretary of State for the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government.