Q: The majority of the flats in my development seem to be owned by buy-to-let landlords who don’t live here.
Service charges are already spiralling – double the estimate provided by the developer’s sales team just two years ago. The managing agents are nowhere to be seen. They only make contact to serve the service charge demands.
I know this situation has to change, but I’m just struggling to think of how I can mobilise people scattered all across the globe. I’ve already been rebuffed by the managing agent, who seem to be hiding behind GPDR rules. What should I do?
A: The first step to leaseholder empowerment is clubbing together to form a Recognised Tenants’ Association – any self-respecting freehold owner will recognise that and sit on their hands, in the hope that the collective action problems are simply too great for leaseholders to overcome and the RTA threat goes away.
The current regulations on setting up an RTAs give monetising landlords 4 months of breathing space. They are expected to write to each and every leaseholder asking for their permission to pass on their contact details. It may well be that yours won’t.
If the landlord does have something to hide, it would not be rational for him to effectively gift to a group of hacked-off residents the right to appoint a surveyor to go in and look at the books. Anything that screams increased scrutiny will be unattractive to someone who owns your building for the income streams.
Like with anything leasehold, we say don’t rely on your freehold landlord. He is not there to serve your interests.
Knock on doors. Ask if they own the flat. If they say they are renters, explain to them that you are seeking to form a leaseholder group so you can hold the managing agent to account and ensure residents are being listened to. If they are still wary of you, suggest that bringing down service charges – which you’re hoping this group will help achieve – may even mean lower rents for them. Then ask who they are renting from.
Even if it’s just the number for the lettings agent, that is something. Get on the blower and say you want to establish communication with their client so you can form an RTA, which will do the necessary work to protect their investment. Say better management and reduced service charges will help their client’s rental yield and capital value. They may be in far-flung Singapore, but they ultimately have the same interests as you.
You should also try and track leaseholders down through Facebook and get a private group going.
Karen Peel, of The Pinnacle in Wakefield, west Yorkshire, was able to enlist leaseholders resident in places like Abu Dhabi and China in her bid for the right to manage. In the event, she managed to secure 90 per cent leaseholder support to boot out the poorly-performing managing agent, which has led to savings and better maintenance. https://www.independent.co.uk/money/leaseholders-have-the-right-to-manage-their-homes-9085010.html They are already eyeing up enfranchisement opportunities, to have full democratic control of the site. We at LKP know Karen Peel is not a one-off.
Don’t lose faith.