When you're dealing with multi-let properties you will have a variety of different occupiers all trying to get along with each other in the same building. Whether that's an apartment block or serviced offices, it can be difficult to not only keep everyone in the loop but also to try and encourage everyone to get along with each other.
For those managing these types of properties you'll know what this means – the niggly problems that annoy each other, and trying to be the middle man to resolve these.
Holding a form of meeting where everyone attends can therefore be a great tool to get things on the right track. Not only to formally communicate things, but also to just get people chatting through little day-to-day issues like outside smoking areas, and what's happening about the messy bin store area.
Therefore here are some top tips to make the most of these meetings. Whether you're a managing agent or landlord trying to arrange with tenants, or an occupier taking the initiative to meet with your neighbours, here are some handy pointers.
1. Maybe Delay It
This sounds strange, but sometimes it's better to delay things in order to make it as productive as possible. Although everyone may be desperate to meet and go through urgent issues, in actual fact it's maybe worth waiting for everything to be dealt with together.
Once people know and understand this they're often okay with waiting, so long as there is light at the end of the tunnel.
A classic example is when you begin managing a new property - it will take time to get on top of issues; maybe serious maintenance problems, or getting to the bottom of service charge budgets and funds.
Other times though it may be worth just biting the bullet and having a meeting straight away, almost deliberately on the fly in an effort to simply get things out in the open without necessarily having all the answers there and then.
2. Organise a Place
It sounds obvious, but get a place booked to hold the metering, ideally on site maybe using someone's meeting room, or close by offsite even in a local community hall or even pub for, say, residential meetings.
Make sure it's practical for people to get to, with access and car parking details confirmed, and at a time people can make. Allow plenty of time to overrun if needs be, and check if things like drinks and biscuits need organising as well.
3. Agendas and Minutes
People either love or hate these, whereas in reality they can be a helpful tool so long as they are only used as a guide rather than strict routine.
So an agenda of items to go through can not only help you remember everything, but also be a good way to get back on track during the meeting. And ideally circulate before the meeting for people to prepare for as well.
Minutes are good to provide afterwards, with someone taking notes during the meeting. They not only provide helpful reminders for what was discussed and what action points are needed, but also help prove things in writing if you get difficulties and even claims afterwards.
4. The Major and the Minor
This is more of an art and skill than a formula, the ability to deal with nitty-gritty small and minor issues whilst still keeping the bigger picture and major issues in focus.
You will need space for the small things to be discussed, particularly with occupiers who may have what appears to be a small problem of someone parking in their space, but to them it’s a big deal and they need to get it off their chest.
So give time for this and take it seriously, but always keep the bigger picture in mind. Often as property managers this can be challenging, as you're wanting to go through bigger issues of, say, low service charge funds or non-compliant services, but not getting side-tracked into endless technical detail and bore people.
You need to get the right balance, and when you do people will actually be okay once they have an understanding that their certain issue may not be easily ignored now they know that a bigger issue exists, but it's at least been considered and maybe planned for in the future.
5. Allow Helpful Conversations
This is another careful balancing act, where on one side you want to encourage people contributing ideas and issues and then discussing amongst themselves. Often they can then naturally arrive at the same answers you've been going on about for a while now, but it's more of a real conclusion for them.
And it can be a breath of fresh air when this does happen, and you no longer think that it's just you piping on about boring issues and watching people go to sleep.
However be careful this doesn't become a free for all, and everyone has their say just for the sake of it. Particularly with big and contentious issues where there will be different opinions, it's often best to suggest a solution and be proactive and see what feedback there is rather than just have an open forum as it can be impossible to then get an agreed solution.
So balance times of genuine chit-chat with then focused and decisive actions to inform people about.
6. Be Prepared
It's an old saying but so true, the more prepared you can be with issues and potential answers the better it will be. Whether that's collation of data like budgets, or already established quotes for works, it can all help make the meeting productive.
One word of warning though is that this can restrict the genuine sense of trying to come to a fair solution on issues. Over preparation can be overkill, and in fact terribly boring, when in actual fact people need to chat through the issues before then moving on.
Remember that everyone is human and at different levels, therefore the ideal position is to have preparation either on-show or more in the background ready to discuss when it more naturally comes up.
7. Occupiers Versus Owners
Also remember the nature of who will be at the meeting, which in actual fact may be multiple ones for any one property interests.
Often these types of meetings work best for the actual occupiers on site to go through day-to-day issues, however you may also need owners of units there as well if it’s a more formal AGM, for example, for going through charges which affect them.
It might be best then to invite both, plus any other contacts such as their own managing agents or points of contact.
8. Digital Influence
A final point is the technology of the digital age we live in, whether that's social media or using websites to communicate information and, say, minutes as mentioned above.
Of course it can be a great tool but watch for it doing more harm than good, and people using it as an excuse to not meet in person and actually resolve face to face. For example there could be an apparent uproar on Facebook over one issue, but as soon as you get everyone in a room together it suddenly becomes a whole lot calmer.
A Successful Occupier’s Meeting
These main pointers will give you a flavour of not only the issues to go through with tenants and occupiers of a property all together, but the way in which you go through these. After all you're dealing with real people with often different issues from each person, and once you create just the right environment for all these to be fairly aired and decided then you're onto a winner.
Therefore go through these pointers and judge the situation, maybe speaking with some other occupiers and other interested parties to gauge how things go. And don't worry if it all doesn't go to plan, simply making the effort to give it a go counts for a lot, and there's always another time to learn from any mistakes.
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