Tim Hollingsworth on how lessees can keep up with their service charges.
Would you like to be able to check your charges whenever you wanted to?
“Issues related to leasehold property have been in the news quite a lot lately – particularly problems such as freeholds being sold on to investment companies, who then ramp the ground rent up astronomically. Some unscrupulous freeholders have also been known to charge very high service charges.
Although we, as agents, are not involved in setting service charges, we do think it’s vitally important that lessees should have information about their service charges easily available – it doesn’t help anybody, lessee or freeholder, if charges get into arrears. Sadly, many lessees just don’t have the information they need – if you, as a lessee, don’t keep good records yourself, it can be very difficult to find out exactly what service charges you have paid, and what is owing. This is especially the case in the evenings and at weekends, which are the very times you are most likely to be checking these details – unfortunately the chance of getting hold of your freeholder or agent at those times is very small.
However, some forward-looking agents are starting to use technology to bridge the gap with customers, so that you can access your information at any time. For example, at Rumball Sedgwick, we have launched a bespoke online portal, so that our lessees can access their information over the internet, at any time of day or night. And not only is there a full record of all their transactions, but they can make payments directly online at the same time via our secure online payment portal.
Every owner will have their own password-protected area; so that as well as financial information, they will have access to details of their leases, agreements, or any other important legal documentation about their ownership. The individual owner will have direct, 24/7 access to all the important information relating to their property ownership. And the new portal will bring benefits for property management companies as well – directors of the management company will have instant access to all the Estate information. This again will allow the directors to have data and financial information available for their meetings at whatever date and time they require. They no longer will have to wait for the property manager to send or process data for them, as it will all be available at their fingertips.
The world of property management may sometimes seem to be somewhat arcane and hidebound, but here at Rumball Sedgwick we see computerisation and technology as a great help in providing our clients with the systems and data that they need to create a good solid working relationship.
We are also looking into the future, as from 2018, all contractors in the property management sector will have to provide invoices electronically. This is part of a government initiative to combat cash payments in the construction industry and reduce tax evasion. Our online portal will allow contractors to submit their invoices via the portal, from where they will be automatically processed, and included in the company accounts.
So while many agents have been riding the crest of a residential property boom, we have been looking to the future, and investing in systems to aid our clients and improve our service.”