How we deal with our managed tenancy portfolio on behalf of our clients
Our last blog concentrated on how MIH were coping with working during the COVID-19 Pandemic but didn’t focus on some of the challenges we are struggling with on behalf of our clients.
As a management company predominantly known for block management the challenges, we face for those clients have not proved to be quite so difficult. Although we have not been able to visit the site, at least at the time of writing and that some of the major works projects which were due to commence have been delayed but with our “glass half full” mindset, we are still confident that we will be able to get out to site and get works underway this year, of course, adhering to social distancing and government guidelines.
Any “collateral damage” for our block management clients will be simply that scaffolding will remain up during the more temperate months of the year. Something we at MIH are keen to avoid. A small price to pay, in view of the crisis we have all suffered through, albeit somewhat frustrating for those who reside in the properties if movement remains restricted and people are unable to leave their homes.
Property Management – the fourth emergency service?
Our director once had a conversation with one of her old bosses who thought that Managing Agents should be considered the “fourth” or “fifth” emergency service, she can never remember which but as she sees it and tells us regularly we are the service that you don’t think of, don’t think you need it but once you have tried it you never want to go back.
Before this blog degenerates into some kind of whinge about not being appreciated, the point of this comment was that no one ever really knows what their managing agent does as their only real contact is when they get a bill for the services supplied to the Building. Of course, we have received some pushback on paying service charges particularly with some of our clients struggling with furlough, etc but in the main, most appreciate that the services continue at the block and need to be paid for. With both, our fingers and toes crossed we hope that this will continue as we do think the idea of legal action or evictions at this difficult time.
The challenges regarding funding have been somewhat more difficult to overcome for our managed tenancies, both AST and Commercial. One of the complaints we often received from our lessees is about being asked for funds (I know a contradiction to the above but when it is business as usual, we do have to chase people for money and often they become aggressive about it as service charges are probably last thing you want to spend your money on) however with our strict arrears process in place we can deal with this, particularly as the obligations for payment are set out in the Lease.
It is true that tenancy agreements will set out the obligations of the tenants and the payments received it proves much more difficult to collect when the monthly or quarterly payments are dependent on the income of either the tenant or the business. Unlike our Leaseholders, they have no financial interest in the property and therefore cannot rely on mortgage companies to pay their rent if they have not got the funds to do so.
With the Government providing financial assistance to businesses and individuals in the form of furlough, business loans, rates relief, and a prohibition on evictions for three months understandably there has been some confusion.
From a smattering of our residential and commercial tenants we have received requests for rent-free periods, and rent reductions We must admit that this has proved to be taxing for us, as we feel a responsibility for our clients but understand how difficult it is for small businesses and employees at present and the need to find the delicate balance between the two. Never ones to shy away from a difficult situation and in the name of client dedication we are attempting to work through the quagmire of the legislation issued (having already managed to successfully navigate the furlough system in respect of site staff, we fancy ourselves somewhat old hands in dealing with the various information provided) to try and find workable solutions for both our clients and tenants alike.
With tenants relying on the prohibition to evict as a reason for non- payment of rent, we have had to diplomatically advise them that this is not the case and that our Landlords are often relying on this rent so a compromise needs to be found.
Finding the best way forward for our tenants
For MIH, we take the time to liaise with our tenants, painstakingly explaining what they can and can’t do and ascertaining the best way forward for them in terms of their long-term relationship with our clients, their Landlords. We do the same with our Freeholders providing them with a full analysis of their options and possible outcomes and once we have agreed a long term strategy, we then present this to both parties to reach an agreement. So far, we have been successful and will continue to review this so that we can ensure that we have happy Landlords and happy tenants.
Our can-do approach
It is this pragmatic and can-do approach which resulted in our being able to bring forward the move-in date for a newly refurbished house in St Johns’ Wood, which incidentally MIH oversaw, to the day before lockdown officially started.
In the same vein, through the network of contractors used by MIH, we were able to diagnose a leak on a newly instructed property where the original architect appointed by the client to design and build a new bathroom failed to do so and for which the client is now wondering what took them so long to appoint us.
Even where we have been less successful with obtaining a win-win solution with a tenant, we have instead been able to give sage advice to the Landlord about what they can do to mitigate their losses and on their behalf are currently liaising with the letting agents to get their income restored with new tenants.
We cannot deny that the pandemic has made our job “trickier” but it is the relationships we build with our clients which means that we can act on their behalf and nearly always make the decisions they would if they were dealing with it directly.
Should you be experiencing problems with some of these issues and would like a managing agent who would manage your tenancy as if it were their own then please don’t hesitate to contact us.