We appreciate that negotiating your way through property management issues can be a formidable task. Here are a few of the common questions asked by residents and management companies looking to take on a property management agent. This set of FAQs has been developed from the 'Property Management Companies and You' booklet produced by the National Consumer Agency.

  1. What do property management agents do?

    The day-to-day running of most apartment complexes is done by ‘management agents’. Finding a good one is crucial to successfully maintaining a development.

    The owners of the apartments in a complex, in their role as members of a ‘property management company’, usually employ a property management agent to manage the complex. This agent must then carry out the duties stated in their contract with the property management company. It is crucial to employ a suitable agent.

    Management agents carry out the following services:

    Work with residents:

    • Attend to routine enquiries from residents (owners and tenants).
    • Respond to solicitors’ and property owners’ enquiries.
    • Attend general meetings of residents.
    • Handle insurance claims

    Repair and maintenance:

    • Plan for recurring maintenance and repairs.
    • Deal with day-to-day repairs and maintenance promptly and efficiently.
    • Prepare maintenance plans and contracts for plant and machinery such as lighting and lifts.
    • Advise on major contract work and the use of specialist professionals and contractors.

    Staff management:

    • Prepare job descriptions for employees and for contractors. There should be competitive tenders for any jobs that need to be done.
    • Supervise any employees and regular contractors, such as cleaners.
    • Make sure that anyone who works on behalf of the company has appropriate training and that they obey health and safety employment law as they work.

    Board support:

    • Give the board advice about management policy.
    • Go to board meetings, record the minutes and make them available to the board. Give a report on financial, maintenance and legal matters.
    • Report on communications from residents.
    • Keep a file on any management procedures and issues.
    • Produce a periodic newsletter for residents.
    • Tell the board what progress has been made on actions previously agreed.

    Legal planning and control:

    • Create a legal, safe and effective plan that fits in with current ‘best practice’.
    • Liaise with the company's solicitors.
    • Keep adequate records.
    • Comply with ‘risk management’ and health and safety laws.
    • Provide secretarial services for the management company.
    • Manage the collection of arrears.
    • Advise on the types of insurance needed.

  2. What is the difference between a management company and a management agent?
    The main duty of the management company is to maintain the apartment complex. It must decide on an annual budget to pay for the cost of this maintenance. This budget is met by a service charge paid by all members. The management company must decide what services it will provide, for example cleaning or employing a management agent. The management company will use the money it gets from members to budget for things like: ongoing maintenance; future painting or re-carpeting; and a ‘sinking fund’, for longer term or unforeseen expenses. All owners in a development should take part in their management company. This will help to ensure it is well-run and works well to protect the value of their investments. If you do not get involved, you will have to hope that there will always be a committed group of volunteers to maintain standards for you. Whether or not you are on the board, once you buy an apartment, you are a member of the management company and you share the responsibility for how that company acts. The management company will usually employ a ‘management agent’ to help run the complex. The management agent will be expected to: keep the accounts, sort out problems relating to the common areas, send out bills and make sure that all bills are paid. However, the management company that you are a member of is ultimately responsible for maintaining your complex – not the agent.
  3. What affect does the management agent have on the service charges I pay?

    The amount of money you have to pay for your annual service charge is affected by how competent and competitive the agent’s service is. The quality of the agent’s service is also vital to the long-term value of your apartment because it means the complex is maintained to a high standard.

  4. How do I decide what I want from my property management agent?

    You must be clear what tasks you want the agent to carry out. For large apartment complexes, you may need to pay a surveyor experienced in property management to suggest a formal list of duties for the agent. If your management company is taking over responsibility for the complex for the first time, you should arrange a survey of the complex. This will help you to assess what repairs, maintenance or improvements may be needed in the future. You can do this before you appoint an agent or this can be one of the jobs that the agent does for you.

  5. How should the management agent deal with the day-to-day issues affecting apartment owners?

    The board of the management company should decide how the agent responds to problems from individual residents. The board is then accountable for how the agent responds. The board should tell residents: who the agent is, what their duties are and the limits of the agent’s authority.

    Although the agent works for the residents as a whole, the board employs them. Residents must be clear that the agent has the authority and support of the board to carry out their role.

  6. How do I get the best from my agent?
  7. Right from the beginning it is important to make sure the development is well managed. When you employ an agent: make sure at the outset to establish what their responsibilities will be, be clear about the standard of work you expect, detail how quickly they must respond and set deadlines for when they should complete tasks. It works best if the agent goes to the meetings of the board of the management company and gives their reports at these meetings. It is a good idea to treat your agent as a general manager. This way they can help you to decide policy for your apartment building and be responsible for day-to-day affairs. Meetings should be properly organised and any decisions should be clearly set down in the minutes.

    The board of the management company should decide who will be responsible for communicating with the agent. The members of the board should jointly agree what they want the agent to do. They should then give the agent clear instructions. Individual members must never give the agent different instructions to those decided by the group.
  8. Why must my agent have insurance?
    Even where a management company asks the agent to do things for them, the company is still legally responsible for any neglect, omission or mistake by the agent. This means they must be sure that the agent is able to pay for compensation or damages. Before you hire an agent you must make sure that they have ‘professional indemnity insurance’. If the agent is a member of a professional or trade association, the association may require them to have professional indemnity insurance. However, you still need to check that the cover exists and what it includes. What qualifications must property management agents have? There are no specific qualifications for property management agents, but this may change after the National Property Services Regulatory Authority is set up.
  9. Should we keep on the agent that the developer employed before handing us over the property?
    You need to find out how good the agent employed by the developer was. Get answers to these questions. Was the agent efficient at dealing with complaints? Did the agent act promptly to deal with minor repairs? Did the agent behave reasonably when you had problems – even though they were answerable to the developer?
  10. What do we do if we are not happy with our management agent?
    If you are not happy with your managing agent you should contact other managing agents and begin the proceedures to change.
In addition, the National Consumer Agency specifies a set of questions that you should ask any prospective management agent. We answer these questions in our '20 Questions' test...