At the time of writing I am approximately a week away from my 44th Birthday and am therefore entering my 45th year on planet Earth. The other significant milestone is that I am entering my 25th year in Property Management Industry and can still remember my first office at the time marking my birthday with a birthday cake and candles. As I am in reflective mode, I thought it prudent to consider how the industry has changed comparing and contrasting my first role and my last.
My first year in property management
Although I don’t remember much about my first year of property management and to be honest the four years after that because I was more interested in going out and doing what young women did back then. The biggest issue I can recall back then was being contacted about the cleaning not being done properly and a Director purposely leaving a leaf under the radiator cover in order to ascertain whether the hoovering was being done. This hardly was conducive to considering property management as a career path.
This opinion probably started to change when I went back into property management after the millennium. This was not because of a sudden epiphany because of the millennium but more a realisation that my true vocation or at least I thought it was at the time was not working in publishing.
Unbelievably I missed the general public and without sounding too altruistic and perhaps more relevant the salary! Fortuitously, my previous employer contacted me at a time when I was thinking of going back into property and from there (on an increased salary of course!) the future course of my employment was decided.
Getting back into property management
My first role in property management was as a receptionist and when I returned back to the industry I was given a new grandiose title of Property Administrator which was pretty much the same as being a receptionist but was a truer description of what I was actually doing.
At the time I harboured totally different aspirations and social life always took prominence over work but I do always recall being committed to completing my workload and being interested in providing a good service. I was always acutely aware of the need to make it happen for my clients, indeed it had to start somewhere. However, this blog is not the memoirs of Sarah Fisher or for that matter a property manager but is a retrospective look at the industry as it was back then.
No rules or regulations
I have already let the cat out of the bag about my age and therefore can safely say without worrying about disclosing my age that I can’t remember that there were any regulations or rules relating to Property Management. Of course, when we started we abided by the Terms of the Lease, but there was no such thing as ARMA, ARLA, FCA or IRPMand it was very much an industry which was a mere by-product of commercial management.
Shortly after I returned to the industry, this began to change particularly with the introduction of Service Charge Consultation as set out by the details regulations produced under Section 20 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 (as amended by S151 of the Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act 2002).
I do recall that previously it had all been very simple. We would send out a single letter detailing the works and the estimates obtained and would collect funds accordingly. At that time, Lessees did not seem to subject the quotations sought to the same level of scrutiny and projects seemed to happen seamlessly back then with less questioning.
I stayed at the same company for a further five years and because the company was an independent owned by a property solicitor, my training ran over the 10 or so years was rich and varied, so much so when I looked to leave I was taken on by a Surveying Firm to run their residential management portfolio.
Training and tools
The on the tools training I had received was not formalised in any way but my experience more than made up for it and while I will never be able to recite the various enactments relating to property law, I am usually able to refer to my cache of experiences to know what is relevant and what needs to be done.
Although this is still sounding like a personal history rather than a retrospective, I think it is important to say that prior to leaving I had attended my first rocky AGM. It was at this meeting I saw the course of future property management with questions being raised about transparency, insurance commissions, independent quotations and all those misdemeanours that Managing Agents are often unfairly accused of.
Having experience behind us
In my vantage position of having been in the industry for 25 years and now owning my own business I have seen huge changes in the industry including the growth of ARMA as a regulatory body, the creation of the IRPM, the focus on Health and Safety in the industry and further legislation created to protect owners. I have also had my share of experiences, having been involved in major leaks, major fires, and attending many more rocky AGMs including one where a Chairman bought along a bodyguard.
All of these experiences reflect an evolving industry and frustrations on all sides in keeping up with the industry and what are sometimes extraneous requirements. It is very hard to explain to property owners, why the gardener they have used for 25 years can no longer continue to undertake the works due to not having a UTR or the relevant insurance or in some cases why their interpretation of the Lease is incorrect.
Becoming ARMA members
As an ardent supporter of the industry, ARMA (we became ARMA members almost 2 years to the day of opening MIH) and a believer in regulation for the industry, I believe that the changes have been hugely beneficial to our clients although I often hark back to the good old days when it was so much easier to get things done without bureaucracy.
So I think the only things that remains is for me to express my gratitude at being in the property management industry as for me another vocation is unlikely to have been as diverse or interesting and to state that my hope for the future is that Property Management will be seen as a vocation rather than an occupation that you fall into.