In England they are called property manager. Here in Scotland they are called factors and it is estimated they administer communal areas, roofs and stairwells in 225,000 flats and tenements across Scotland.
So many properties are in multiple ownership that it makes sense to have an objective outsider in charge of everything from arranging buildings insurance to organising owners’ meetings to inspecting the building, overseeing maintenance, cleaning, repairs and dealing with complaints. In fact, in some cases it is written into title deeds that it is compulsory to have a property manager.
If you live in a newly built development or if you have bought your flat through the right to buy system it is almost certainly obligatory.
Even if it isn’t, it is something worth considering.
If you live in housing which includes commonly owned areas such as a roof, staircase, entrance and gardens, hiring a factor is probably the only way to make sure they are all maintained to an acceptable standard, regularly reviewed and there is a rolling programme in place to keep the fabric of the building in an acceptable condition.
Factors take charge of a joint maintenance bank account to which all tenants and owners contribute.
From this they pay for work carried out on as property and chase up non-payers.
They should flag up any potential roof or maintenance problems and once there is agreement that the work should be carried out, will arrange to get quotes, hire the contractors and supervise their work.
Yet for an industry whose services are mandatory for so many people, it has been left to regulate itself – until now.
Property factoring is possibly the only industry in Scotland which is virtually unlicensed and unregulated.
That will change later this year, probably in October, when the Property Factors (Scotland) Bill becomes law.
It was passed by MSPs last March and will make it an offence for a property factor to operate without being registered.
It will also introduce an accessible form of alternative dispute resolution. Its code of conduct will set minimum standards of practice expected of registered property factors and afford greater protection for homeowners from rogue factors.
When it becomes law, the Act will make it an offence to operate as a property factor unless registered with the Scottish Ministers.
The registration requirement applies to both existing and new property factors.
However, if you need to assign a factor before the Act comes into force, safeguard yourself by asking to see how they manage their current factor agreements, ensure that a formal agreement is in place which clearly outlines responsibilities and budget breakdowns, and ask for references from current customers.
Unfortunately there are rogue factors in operation at the moment but there are also reliable and trustworthy ones.
Bob Donnelly, chairman of Backwynd Resident’s Association, has had a positive experience of working with a factor.
“Wardhaugh Property management have provided an efficient and approachable factoring service for the residents of Backwynd. They have worked closely with the committee to address any immediate issues and to develop a forward plan for Backwynd,” he said.
That’s how factoring should work. Wardhaugh Property Management are already successful factors in the area and are happy to help with any questions people have regarding their current factor. They are already meeting and exceeding all the criteria in the new Act.