Tag Archives | National Property Services Regulatory Authority (NPSRA)

Can I do anything about my management charges being increased?

Irish News of the World
May, 2009

Diarmuid MacShane

Question:

I live in an apartment block where last year I was charged €765 in management charges. This year, the management company have told me that I now need to pay €965.

I wasn’t even happy with the service I was getting last year – the management agents are rubbish – so this new charge is definitely a rip off.

Do I have to pay this or is there anything I can do?

Answer:

It’s more than likely that when you bought your property that you signed a contract that obliges you to pay the management fee every year. Technically then, if you withhold payment, your management company could take legal action against you.

You’re only course of action is to follow up with your management company to see if they can have the management agents improve their services in the coming year.

Maybe if you specifically detail what your issues are, it might make it easier for them to follow up and fix things.

The National Property Services Regulatory Authority (NPSRA) will eventually regulate this area, but it doesn’t yet have any powers.

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The key question about Management Companies

It’s a week or so now when there were a number 0f calls to Joe Duffy about management company issues. You can find a lot of similar sentiments raised on the Management Company forum on AskAboutMoney.com – problems with with management companies and management agents. The National Consumer Agency have even provided a website that you can reference to find out more.

However, the key question with regards to all of this is:

Are you and your fellow residents in control of your management company – has it been handed over by the developer to the residents?

Yes, we are

If you are in control of your management company, then happy days – you have full control over what your management fees will be and who your management agent is and what they should be doing for you as residents. In fact, if you’re in charge of your management company, you could even decide that you don’t need management agents if you can get a strong enough group of people to carry out the agents tasks instead. You could simply change your management agents to another company if you’re not happy.

No, we’re not

Then tough! It’s most likely that you have no control at all. If the developer of your estate is still in charge of the estate, and therefore the management company, you’re most likely going to be outvoted at any management company AGMs. Like where I live, the developer maintains a block vote that will always outvote the wishes of the residents – even if every resident did show up to an AGM and voted together.
Even getting rid of the management agents in this scenario is likely to be impossible. Chances are, as in the case of where I’m living, the management agent and the developers that are in control of the management company are very closely tied together. One would never agree to the other being changed.

Holding back on management fee payments isn’t really an option either – your contract to purchase your home includes a clause that you’ll continue paying whatever management fee is charged.

So, what can you do?

If you’re in control of your management company, you can pretty much do what you like.

If you’re not, then you’re pretty much at the mercy of the developers and their management agent buddies.

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First groceries, now management companies – the useless NCA strikes again!

The National Consumer Agency recently communicated the publication of their “Guide to Buying and Living in a Multi-Unit Development Property in Ireland”. According to the Chief Executive of the fuckers* Ann Fitzgerald:

“We trust that they will be of great use and benefit to consumers in identifying and working through their commitments and responsibilities in terms of management companies”.

Ms. Fitzgerald also said:

“Rather than wait for the legislation to come through, we wanted to work immediately to provide consumers with as much information as possible to clearly communicate the scope of the commitment in which they engage when buying into a multi-unit development”.

So, we have an organisation, the fuckers* at the National Consumer Agency, who is becoming widely ridiculed for publishing pointless useless research rather than doing anything concrete and are now sticking their oar into the waters which is supposed to managed by the equally useless National Property Services Regulatory Authority (NPSRA).

Rather than doing serious and effective work in their own realm of consumer affairs, the fuckers* are now deciding that they want to do an equally useless and half arsed job in the area of property management companies.

And trust me, having read their new guide, it truly is a waste of time. This guide is intended to “supplement and enhance” a document they provided previously in December 2006, as well as being significantly similar to documentation provided by the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement. And all this documentation is being provided in advance of the NPSRA getting it’s full authority from the government, and presumably commissioning it’s own reports and producing it’s own version of all this same documentation.

Are you confused yet? You live in an apartment with a management company and a management agent, and you’ve got problems – which of these three regulators do you actually go to get help from?

  • The National Consumer Agency – nope, they’re only providing guidance documents.
  • The Office of Director of Corporate Enforcement – nope, as I’ve personally found, they won’t do anything.
  • How about the National Property Service Regulatory Authority – nope, they don’t actually have any powers.
Therefore, we have three government agencies all getting involved in the area of management companies and management agencies, yet none of them will help you with any of the following problems (which are the most common difficulties raised that I’ve read about):
  1. My management company have set a service charge for the following year of 60% more than the previous year, with no extra services provided. How can they justify such fees, or are they just ripping us off?
  2. My management company are taking our service charges and paying the management agent who’re not actually providing the services they’re contracted to provide. What can I do to get my value for money?
  3. The developer of my apartment complex won’t hand over the complex to the residents, even though the complex has been finished for two years? I know they still own two apartments in order to stay on the management company. How can we get control moved to the residents?
  4. The NCA paperwork says that boards of a management company shouldn’t have a management structure set to favour the development at the expense of the residents. Yet, most of them are set up that way. Why don’t these useless regulators do something to prevent that instead of pussy-footing around the issues by producing reams of documentation.
  5. Why are the fuckers* endorsing the Irish Home Builders Association Code of Practice for Management Companies which I’ve discussed here before. This code of practice only applies to any management companies created after September 2008. Any management companies that exist at the moment are not subject to these so for most people they’re not relevant at all. And since there’s shag all being built at the moment, they won’t apply to anyone in the future either.

There we have three useless regulators and not a bit of help for the poor unfortunate consumer. What a waste of our money!

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New Management Company Guide from Joan Burton TD

Joan Burton TD has launched on her website a new short brochure on residential property management companies. It’s brief, and provides some good information.

I’ve written about this many times in the past, so anything extra that can be added to help the essentially helpless residents impacted by such property management companies is to be applauded.

According to Ms.Burton, the National Consumer Agency are supposed to be producing proposals in a couple of weeks time. I wonder why one government agency would be making proposals about an area where there’s another government agency, the NPSRA – the National Property Services Regulatory Authority, is supposed to be taking over soon.

Smacks of more of the over regulation we of our daily lives, and the subsequent complete waste of money, that we’re suffering from under the current government.

Still, lets see what the National Consumer Agency comes up with, and how long it takes the National Property Services Regulatory Authority to undo it, and decide that a study or report is needed for them to come up with their own ideas.

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The useless NCA are at it again (or not, if you’re a consumer)

We’re told that we should be encouraged when a powerless regulator like the NPSRA actually does get it’s powers. Because then, apparently, they’ll be able to use those powers to protect consumers – in that case, home buyers and apartment residents for example.

Then people wonder why I’m skeptical about how positive any of these government regulators will actually be for consumers, even when they do get their powers.

Here’s why.

Apart from all my comments here about the National Consumer Agency, the Public Inquiry website today has a fantastic example of just why I think these government organisations are a huge pile of stinking doo doo. And to think, the employees of the NCA are so proud of their inaction in this situation, they’re going on national radio.

Apart from the quotes mentioned about the inaction of the NCA, here’s the most galling comment from their press release today:

The NCA chief also urged consumers to contact the Agency if they had suspicions that their car was clocked. “We will investigate all complaints. The Consumer Protection Act gives us wide ranging powers to take action.

This is truly unbelievable. “Please tell us about companies doing bad things, and we’ll do nothing about it”. Somebody, please, tell me what’s the point in having a regulator such as the NCA at all?

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Builders associations preempting the NPSRA

I see from this article, Management rip-offs targeted, by Paul Melia in todays Irish Independent that the Irish Home Builders Association (a part of the Construction Industry Federation (CIF)) has proposed it’s own version of self-regulation within the area of apartment management companies.

This, it would seem, is an attempt by the CIF to preempt the provision of statutory enforcement powers to the National Property Services Regulatory Authority (NPSRA). I’ve already written many times about how I don’t hold out much hope for the NPSRA. Then again, we’re being told how bad it is that other professions (such as law professionals) have their own self-regulation. What makes us think that this idea is going to be any better in the building industry?

According to the article:

DEVELOPERS who refuse to hand over control of management companies to residents face being fined and named and shamed by their colleagues.

The CIF through the IHBA are proposing to facilitate this self-regulation through a new code of practice which, according to the article will tell:

how management companies in apartment blocks should be run (and will say that) residents should be told up to three years in advance what their annual service charge will be.

The code … sets out clear guidelines aimed at overturning suspicions that they are being ripped-off by their management companies.

I’m guessing the last part of that statement is the opinion of the journalist rather than the specific contents of the code.

I can’t find any mention of the code of conduct on the CIF website (never mind trying to find any details on the IHBA itself). I wouldn’t hold out much hope that anything is going to come from this.

Here a thing then. If the IHBA name, shame and fine a prominent fully paid up member of the CIF for being in contravention of this new code of conduct, I’ll match personally match 100% of that fine and donate it to a charity for the homeless.

Addition – thanks to this article in SiliconRepublic.Com.

  • This code of conduct will only apply to management companies set up for developments built by IHBA members AFTER MAY 15th 2008. So, every management company that exists at the moment will be exempt from this new code of conduct. (Page 2, second paragraph)

What’s the bloody point?

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Further comments on the ridiculous NPSRA

Following on from the comment from Serial Complainer previously and my subsequent response, I thought I’d clarify my initial thoughts on the NPSRA and why I think it’s a pointless future useless regulator – one of many created by our current government.

As per my original post, I don’t believe that the proposed involvement of the NPSRA will have any positive impact on the current dodgy situations that exist between developers, property management companies and property management agents.

And regards to the proposal that the NPSRA regulate Auctioneers and Estate Agents and the buying and selling of property, this is just as ridiculous a proposal.

In my opinion, the processes and procedures gone through when buying and selling property are the problem – not the oversight of such processes and procedures.

And if the process stinks, you don’t create an oversight body for the process, you address the process and fix that.

How are the NPSRA going to know if when I’m making a bid for a house that I’m not bidding against a fake bidder created on the other side by the estate agent?

They’ll presumably ask the estate agent, “did you create a fake bidder on the other side in order to boost the price”? And the estate agent will say, “no, of course not, that’s against the rules of my professional organization – I’d never do such a thing”. What happens then? Stalemate? The NPSRA will resolve to “work with” the estate agent, but nothing will happen, and the consumer will still be left on the outside.

It will just be the same as the National Consumer Agency. It will just be the same as the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement. The NPSRA will become another agency set up with the notional idea that it will benefit consumers, but in reality it’ll just become another part of the governmental anti-consumer bureaucracy.

What can be done? As I mentioned above, we could address the process in buying and selling property rather than overseeing a rotten process?

Can I suggest that we adopt the Scottish model of buying and selling property?

Scotland has a very particular way of buying a home. I’ll post further tomorrow on how this system works.

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You’re paying for the NPSRA – to do SFA!

Related to my post below, one or two other points to add about the National Property Services Regulatory Authority (NPSRA).

The new useless regulator has:

  • An office in Navan in Meath
  • A Chief Executive Designate
  • A staff of up to 5 people (I believe)
  • A budget of €0.5m (or €1m according to here)

The new useless regulator does not have:

  • Any power whatsoever to do absolutely anything
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Another useless Irish regulator on its way – lucky us!

I was prompted to this post by an e-mail from Gavin on Friday evening, and before weekend coverage of the same topic. The Irish Times on Friday had a couple of articles regarding the problems that apartment residents are having with property management companies and property management agents (sub required, but available here, here, here and here).

I’ve already commented about property management companies on this site and how the currently useless Irish regulator who’s empowered to act won’t actually do so – preferring to “work with them”.

So, the Irish Government response to the Irish problem is to set up another useless regulator, the National Property Services Regulatory Authority (NPSRA), to specifically regulate, amongst other things, property management agents – not the property management companies.

A quote from one of the articles above goes as follows:

The NCA is hopeful that the establishment of the National Property Services Regulatory Authority (NPSRA) will be a “big consumer win”, as it will eventually regulate management agents. “It’s going to greatly assist improving the quality of service that is offered by management agents, and therefore improve the experience of people living in multi-unit developments whose management companies have contracts with recognised and registered management agents,” says Hurley.

Apart from the unnerving fact that the National Consumer Agency is sticking its oar in in this area as well, I don’t believe it’s the management agents that are the problem – well, directly anyway.

The NCA and ODCE are keen to tell us that we don’t really understand the differences between property management agents and companies (cause we’re all stupid consumers and need useless regulators to save us from ourselves), yet by encouraging and supporting the setting up of this new useless regulator by the Government they’re showing us that they all really don’t have any clue of what’s going at all.

The primary problem, as per the articles above, is that residents don’t have control of their own property management companies in order to be able to control their own destiny with regards to where they live. Developers find ways, for whatever reason, to keep control of the property management companies, and in most situations appoint connected companies as the property management agents- keeping it in the family if you like.

Because the property management agents then know that because of the connections with the developers, and therefore with the property management companies, they don’t actually have to provide any value for money, or in some cases, even provide a service. They know that no matter what they do or don’t do, or how dissatisfied the residents are, they’ll always be reappointed.

However, if the ODCE, the NCA, and the already useless and irrelevant before it begins National Property Services Regulatory Authority (NPSRA) actually addressed the situation that allows developers maintain their place as directors of property management companies with block voting enough to always override the residents in all decisions, then we’d end up in a better situation.

In such a scenario, the residents can take control of their own property management companies, and then can appoint their own property management agents – ones that they know will provide a quality service, and value for money, and will actually be accountable to the residents who live there, and not the developers who don’t.

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