When you’re dealing with multi-let residential properties, life can get a little complicated with numerous requests and requirements from each occupier and owner.
You’re dealing with peoples’ own homes and therefore of course they will be more concerned about the little issues like an extra clean just as much as bigger-picture ones like service charge budgets.
And what’s more, you can have what appears multiple interests in any one residential unit. Things get lively, and good property management, including specialist ‘block management’ experience is needed to handle all of these.
It’s one thing knowing who they all are, but it’s another to know the right way to deal with them.
Knowing the Middle Man
Before we go into these, first understand that each residential unit interest may well have a managing agent acting for themselves, which will be different from the main one for the communal areas.
So the freeholder or management company for the whole block may instruct managing agent ABC to manage the communal and structural parts on their behalf, whereas an individual flat owner may instruct XYZ to simply look after their own personal flat which has a short-term tenant in there.
Therefore these are different, and worst-case scenario if you’re managing the whole block is that you may have numerous different other agents involved in separate areas as well.
The Two Main Residential Interests
Back to the residential units, there are two types of interests which we’ll call ‘owners’ and ‘occupiers’.
An owner actually owns the long term interest of the flat, probably through a long lease in a block of flats, say, or a freehold for a single house.
They are ultimately responsible for payments and obligations with the shared management interest, and possibly even a member or shareholder in a management company.
Then there’s an occupier, who actually uses the property. They live there, and it’s their home, either because they own it anyway or they are renting from a landlord short term
The Various Combinations
Now let’s look at two possible combinations of these owners and occupiers.
The first is an ‘owner-occupier’ where the person who owns the property interest actually lives there as their home.
Quite understandably, they tend to take more of an interest in things because they both pay the bills as an owner and then benefit from the communal services as an occupier.
In the second combination, there is an owner who has let the property to someone else, typically a buy-to-let investor. The owner therefore won’t live and have contact details at the property in question, so instead will have more of a financial interest with things, whereas an actual tenant in there is the occupier dealing with day-to-day issues.
The Owner-Occupier Contradiction
Now we understand these two broad-brush combinations of owners and occupiers, it’s important to look at how to liaise and work with them regarding property-management issues. They can then appear to oppose others in many respects.
This almost seems a contradiction, although tends to balance itself out at a development where you have a combination of these.
And this is why some developments will try and encourage more of one type than another to try and gain more of a balance – so maybe more of the buy-to-let investors as a PRS-model of returns, or more owner-occupiers to have genuinely engaged and interested people living there.
Back to these opposite ways, these manifest in various ways.
So, if you’re dealing with practical day-to-day living issues, then the owner-occupiers tend to care more. They want to make sure rubbish is not everywhere, or walls looking tatty, or that noisy neighbours toe the line, after all this is their home and they need to feel comfortable.
What a help this is to a property manager, as they can be great ears to the ground and instigators of an action.
However, with investors with different occupiers, although their short-term tenants often don’t care as much and may well be causing more issues, the owners are better to liaise with to sort out issues.
In fact, an investor owner of a flat is often just as keen on dealing with a misbehaving tenant as the overall management agent is, as they don’t want a misused area or unpaid rent as well.
And they will often look at taking action to refuse lease renewals and gain a ‘better’ tenant over time.
If you try and address this to an owner-occupier who is causing issues, you may often find that they stuck in their ways and won’t change. This is their way of doing things, and will do what they wish as they own the property as well.
Or let’s take the more monetary side of things and paying rent and service charges. Investors tend to be better here, as they understand the property game more and will pay up okay, although saying that they can be difficult to first contact if they’re not based at the property.
An owner-occupier on the other hand can end up causing more issues, as they may not understand what they have to be paying, and think they have the automatic right to withhold payments for any small sign of a problem like cleaners not turning up.
All those involved with this form of block property management will know what we mean. You can’t seem to win sometimes, no matter which of these two combinations you’re dealing with.
The Occupation Double-Whammy
Therefore as you deal with managing residential properties with multiple units, these two type of occupiers and owners are essential to understand straight away.
Know which ones have a separate owner who lives away and simply rents out the property, and those with a party who lives there and owns it as their home.
So in short:
• Owner-occupiers are better to know the nuts-and-bolt issues on site
• But owner-occupiers can be difficult to work with where they’re causing the problems
• Buy-to-let investors tend to understand properties and money issues better
• And buy-to-let investors are generally helpful to stop any issues with their own tenants
• But buy-to-let ones can be difficult to contact in the first place
• And a high proportion of buy-to-lets at a development and therefore more short-term occupiers can mean more day-to-day issues
Know the balance of these, who they are, and all the different levels of contact details you will need for them.
You can then start forming the right property-management strategy; seeing which ones will be causing the issues or friction with everything from day-to-day issues to receiving due monies.
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