The key to being a good managing agent lies well beyond the ability to deal with complaints. Sectional title homeowners should take every precaution to ensure that the person they employ to do the job is well and truly up to the task of running a well-oiled, successful operation.
In an article published on Bizcommunity, Bill Rawson, chairman of the Rawson Property Group, said that the appointment of a managing agent is one of the most important decisions that trustees of a body corporate can make. "The efficiency and initiative of a managing agent - or the lack of these virtues - can make or break a sectional title development."
So how do sectional title homeowners go about finding a good managing agent and perhaps more importantly, what sort of individual should be avoided at all costs?
• Word of mouth is always recommended. Speak to others who live in well-run sectional title schemes to see how they keep things on an even keel.
• Check to see how many schemes the managing agent currently has on his books. Having too much on one’s plate is not necessarily a good thing in this instance as the managing agent concerned may simply not be able to give the complex sufficient attention.
• How much experience does the managing agent have and is he in possession of the relevant real estate qualifications?
• Is he in possession of a valid Fidelity Fund Certificate?
• Does the managing agent have an agreeable personality or does he have a reputation for trying to bulldoze his ideas through while ignoring the wishes of the trustees? That said, it is also advisable to appoint a person who is not going to shy away from confrontation when dealing with unreasonable owners or tenants.
It's pretty easy to see when a sectional title scheme is being well run. The outside of the buildings are in good shape and the gardens are well maintained. Badly run schemes tend to reflect an overall air of neglect. Peeling paint work and drab gardens are very often a sign that the person in charge is not doing his job.
Rawson says he has seen cases where a good managing agent has added value year by year to the units under his control and other cases where units have steadily declined in value, simply because the managing agent was not the right person for the job.
"An associate of mine who owns some 400 sectional title units has gone so far as to draw up a list of developments in which he will not invest until there is a change in the managing agent."
Many sectional title owners (particularly those who live in smaller schemes) assume that running a complex is a fairly simple process. To be blunt, it is far more complicated than most believe and aside from the legal requirements the scheme has to adhere to, there is also the hassle of dealing with those who flout the complex’s rules. However, appointing an agent without ensuring that he is up to the task can lead to even more problems.
"The cardinal sins of a weak managing agent are falling behind on levy collections and failing to keep the property in a good condition," says Rawson. "Believe me, the negative publicity put out on the subject of levy collections can be prevented by a good agent.
"In our experience, there are managing agents who see their role as simply responding to complaints and dealing with them accordingly. However, a good managing agent will be proactive; he will continually look for -and find - ways of improving the scheme. These need not be expensive: a coat of paint here or a few new tiles there, a new canopy or a new gate can all help and the great thing is that these improvements should be on-going and carried out regularly."