Property managers are often in a bit of a quandary when faced with having to seek legal advice. Solicitors can be an expensive commodity, and there is often neither the means nor the willingness to pay high legal fees. Equally, there will be no appetite to increase service charge levels to cover legal fees.
In this latest blog we highlight six cost-effective and innovative ways in which we help our property management clients to secure excellent results, with a minimum impact on cash flow.
1. Seminars and secondments
Offering no recovery, no fee work on service charge collection is not in itself sufficient. Property managers should expect more of their legal team: they should expect to be advised on a wider range of issues to help not only with arrears collection, but to help prevent arrears occurring in the first place. We find that seminars and secondments can be a really useful way of helping clients to improve their systems and procedures – and minimise service charge disputes.
2. Systems integration
The client / lawyer relationship is (hopefully!) an enduring one. It benefits both parties if the legal team can become an integral part of the managing agent’s credit control system. Specialist property management law firms should have systems that can – with a little work – integrate with your own. By integrating a provider’s service charge collection system with our clients’ own debt recovery systems, cash collection speed can be improved substantially and agents’ credit control teams are saved valuable time and effort.
3. Lease reviews
Legal advisers should advise you on your leases, carry out lease reviews and help you to obtain documents from the previous managing agent. As legal budgets are finite, it makes sense to talk to your solicitors about low fixed fees or perhaps conditional fee agreements for this type of advice, and we would encourage our clients to work with their advisers to discuss cost-effective ways of handling lease-related work.
4. Prevention not cure
Above all, you should expect your solicitors to be focused on prevention rather than cure. Rather than milking the cash from the debt collection cow, advisers should be can help clients to prevent arrears occurring, through assessing trends at various properties and discussing the issues they face. We regularly work with clients to assess them and support them with specific issues at difficult blocks, with a view to driving down service charge arrears and disputes.
5. Recover your costs
Where litigation is unavoidable, emphasis should always be placed on achieving the best possible result without the need to attend court. Should a court hearing become unavoidable, you should expect to be successful both with recovering the service charge arrears AND the legal costs – provided the lease terms (which should have been checked at the outset of the matter) are in your favour. At the outset of a relationship, we review our clients leases to ensure they support their business objectives and we always aim for full costs recovery.
6. Growth and expansion
The property management is a fast-growing industry and your advisers should be able to help you to expand your business through means such as Right to Manage processes. By discussing our clients’ marketing and growth strategies, we support them to develop their portfolios and grow their businesses.
These are just a few ways in which we encourage our clients to expect more from their legal team. All of this only works however if there is trust between the two parties. As your legal advisers, we need to understand your objectives, your culture and your systems and you need to have faith in our technical skills, pricing structures and ability to deliver solid results.
At Brady Solicitors we encourage our clients to demand more of their legal advisers and aim to be creative and commercial with our approach.
To chat through any of the above ideas in more detail, please email or call 0115 985 3451.