In this latest property management blog, Clare Brady – MD of Brady Solicitors, offers managing agents some practical advice on how to secure a smooth handover of documentation when you take on a new block.
When you secure the contract to manage a new block or estate you can face challenges in getting hold of all the necessary paperwork from the previous managing agent – particularly if they had fallen out with the leaseholders or landlord/RMC.
However, to help your leaseholder and landlord relationships get off to a good start, it is vital to obtain as much documentation as possible.
What documents and paperwork should we request when taking over a block or estate?
We recommend that you request – as a minimum – the following documentation to cover at least the last six years, or from the date that the block was built, if it is relatively new.
- Service charge demands
- Service charge debtor lists
- All documentation relating to the service charge accounts
- Contractor and subcontractor invoices
- Section 20 Notices that have been served
- Details of any planned major works expenditure
It’s then important to take the time to review this suite of documents, and to establish whether or not there are any ongoing or recent disputes with leaseholders that could come back to bite you as the new property managers. A member of the Brady Solicitors service charge team can help you with the document review if need be.
All well and good, but how do I get this information?
If you are inheriting a block from a managing agent who had left on bad terms (as is often the case), then you may have to work extra hard to get the information you need. Brady Solicitors has identified three legal routes that can help you:
Bring a claim known as ‘Trespass to Goods’
This is a good first option. It is based on the premise that the documentation belongs to the client (in this case the landlord or RMC) and not the agent acting on their behalf. It is of course in the client’s interest for the new managing agent to have the full suite of documentation.
A Trespass to Goods claim would demand that the relevant documents are ‘delivered up’ by the former managing agent whenever requested by the client.
Bring a claim of ‘Conversion’
This is your next step if the previous managing agent refuses to deliver up the documents under the Trespass to Goods claim. Conversion is defined as ‘a voluntary act by one person inconsistent with the ownership rights of another’. For such a claim to arise, there has to be both an unequivocal demand for delivery up – and an unequivocal refusal to do so.
Threaten to ‘join’ the previous managing agent to any proceedings
If the leaseholders are alleging a breach or failure of duties by the previous agent, such as non-receipt of invoices, you can talk to your solicitors about making a threat to join the previous managing agent to these proceedings.
If it is found that the invoices have in fact been properly served, then the previous agents should be pursued as above for delivery up within those proceedings. If the invoices have not been properly served, a claim for negligence against the previous agents can be made within the same action.
Legal tactics and client support
It can take tenacity to secure the documentation that will let you manage the block to your best ability but, with a combination of some strong legal tactics and the support of your client, you can maximise your chances of a smooth and swift handover.