Tenant information requested by freehold managing agents

Tenant information requested by freehold managing agents

12:30 PM, 25th September 2013, About 8 years ago 36

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I own four flats in a block of 16. The managing agent has been asking me for £30 per flat per annum as the flats are let out, which I am still arguing about as I don’t believe my lease entitles them to this. They also want to know details of my tenants, such as their phone numbers and whether they are on benefits.

I have always told my tenants that as I live around the corner they are to use my contact details in an emergency.

Even if I am away I have people locally whom I leave spare keys with and who will respond.

I am reluctant to give the managing agents contact details of the tenants. I don’t necessarily know which of my tenants are on benefits and don’t think I can pass this information on because of the Data Protection Act if I do know. They apparently have been asked by their insurers who will inflate the premium if there are any residents on benefits.

What do you think? Tenant information requested by freehold managing agents



by Annette Stone

23:02 PM, 29th September 2013, About 8 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Jay Jay" at "29/09/2013 - 13:53":

In reply to Jay. I have never seen an assured short hold tenant stay 12 years but if the did there would be one fee. Conversely if the tenants changed twice a year it is obviously reasonable if a fee is charged for each tenancy

The reason the lessee is held responsible is because the lease is a contract between the freeholder and the lessee and it is the lessee who is bound by the clauses in the lease. A tenant does not have any part in this relationship in law

In regard to your final point usually complaints are received from more than one lessee about anti social behavior such as I described and the "culprit" is usually fairly easy to identify. In the case of a clear dispute between neighbors it can get a bit more complicated and you have to just try and mediate until there is a resolution if is concerns or affects other residents. If it is purely an issue between two lessees which is not affecting anyone else and is something like noise from above or a parking issue we try and mediate and help to find a fair solution but if this is impossible then the lessees have recourse to the courts if that is unavoidable. This is actually quite rare as most people want to live in peace

by lauren field

11:17 AM, 30th September 2013, About 8 years ago

Hi Mark thanks for your email askng me to take a look at this, As you now know I am away on holiday, however, I have had a chance to skim through.

Firstly, (having skimmed through) I believe Edna's more concerned with what info she has to release to the managing agents regarding the tenants. My answer would be, first check through the lease very carefully and check the wording of each clause. Second, in general, as long as the managing agents are aware of Edna's address and that the property is let out, then no she cannot be made to release any personal information regarding the tenant that she doesn't want to. The contract is between her and the managing agent so basically, the tenant(s) really don't come into, it unless she has agreed to a clause in the lease which states otherwise.

In regards to managing agents fees, again depending on what is in the lease will depend on whether administration fees are lawful or not. In any event, ALL adminstration fees that are not part of the managing agents 'core' business must be accountable and justified. in addition, it is not simply enough to state a 'reasonable fee' as what is reasonable to one person may not be reasonable to another and therefore, if the managing agent wishes to have a successful claim, it is in his/her best interest to have an exact figure quoted.

In the event the managing agent pursues with legal action to collect said 'fees', a Judge may well state it is in his/her opinion that £30 is reasonable BUT that still does not mean these fees are enforceable, several factors need to be taken into account;-

1). Prior to the hearing, it must be established what is written in the lease, the exact meaning/implied meaning

2). What was submitted in the defence - if the wrong wording was used or a solid basis for an argument refusing payment including factual supporting evidence is ommitted then it is simply a matter for the Judge to determine what he thinks is right.

3). It is not for the Judge to provide advice or suggestions, The Judge's job is to rule based on the parameters of the law and the arguments presented.

So if your lease states you must pay £150 per each signed tenancy for admin and you go to court saying £150 is not fair - you are saying you agree to the charge but feel its too high. In this case a Judge will more than likely examine the £150 fee and make a ruling on what is deemed to be fair Same applies if you write back to the agent and say you're happy to pay £30 but not £75, you're agreeing that they can charge you irrespective of whether they can legally.

If you go to court saying the fee is not only unfair but unlawful, then you are saying you do not agree the fees are just or valid. Then a judge will examine the evidence and make a decision as to whether there is a leagl basis to charge the fee in the first place and if there is, how much. That said, you will need to know why it should not be charged, have evidence to back up your claim.

also, it is not your job to asssess what is reasonable, as how can you know? Why is £25 reasonable? is that just beause you are comfortable with the figure as opposed to £75 say.

if a figure quoted is reasonable, then an agent must be able to explain why the amount is reasonable.

In the event, you are directed by the courts to the LVT - which is more than likely in the first instance, then you need to be even clearer with your supporting evidence as the LVT panel, whilst experienced are not a court. However, they can still be challenged as despite their experience and knowledge they are not above the law and must rule accordingly. in a recent case I attended on behalf of a client, admin fees came up for all sorts of things and we examined the wording in great detail and the admin fees were deemed to be unfair.

However, it is important to always remember that each case should be taken on its individual merits and in this case without knowing what is written into the lease it is not easy to comment and just my opinion.

Hope that helps

by Annette Stone

15:35 PM, 30th September 2013, About 8 years ago

Hallo Lauren, I hope you are having a good holiday. It seems to me as though you are wrong on the subject of whether or not a landlord has to divulge who is living in their flat (houses may be different I don't know) and even if there were a data protection issue this would be over-ridden by common sense and, more importantly, by safety legislation such as the Fire Order. I would not want to be the managing agent who could not tell a Fire Office who/how many people were resident in a flat after a fire which destroyed the building and claimed lives.

It strikes me that the only people who would not be prepared to divulge who was living in their flat or even if there were a tenancy in place would be people who were really not the sort of people we are speaking to on Property 118 but rather landlords who:

did not have a buy to let mortgage and did not want their mortgages to know that they were letting the flat as would happen in case of arrears, etc

people who were letting their flat to unrelated sharers and thereby creating an HMO which would require licensing and which might impose additional safety requirements which equal additional costs on the flat owner

people who might be rehousing difficult tenants from other buildings.

As far as management fees are concerned good managing agents provide a schedule for each new building that they take on clearly showing what they charge for and how they charge. What the rotten ones do is really awful but generally these are ones whose business model is one I have already described in my earlier blog.

As far as your comment about fees is concerned you are right if an administration fee or licence to let fee is set out in the lease you are really quibbling about the amount and not the principle Whilst I doubt an individual would be bothered to go to the LVT over whether an administration fee should be £40 plus VAT or £100 plus VAT as the time involved is likely to outweigh any discount in the fee; it is often the case that when challenged the fee is dropped dramatically as most of the sort of landlord who do this sort of thing do not want to end up at the LVT as once a decision is made it is "out there". However, once you get to this stage with your freeholder (and the dispute is with the freeholder not the managing agent unless the managing agent is freelancing to build fees without the freeholder's knowledge) you are basically at war and the best thing is to get the lessees together, form an rtm and get a good managing agent who will challenge the unwarranted fees charged against all the lessees in one go. As I said I have done this in the past and I got several thousand pounds back for a group of lessees.

Finally, your comments about the LVT are valid but remember their decisions are binding only on the case in front of them; they cannot be used as precedent and any recommendations as to professional standards of behaviour are just recommendations and no freeholder or managing agent is bound by them in anything other than the case at hand.

by lauren field

16:30 PM, 30th September 2013, About 8 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Annette Stone" at "30/09/2013 - 15:35":

Hi Annette yes thanks although weather a little windy today.

i thiink you are confusing what I meant.

I said that Edna does not have to release any personal information she does not want to. in terms of personal information, I was referring to the tenants financials etc. which is what I understood her question to be about. I didn't think I even mentioned data protection so you've confused me. I also said quite clearly she should check the clauses in her lease.

I'm very much well aware that decisions made by the LVT are not a precedent and did not suggest they did ??????

I merely pointed out that in most instances a court will refer a claim regarding leasehold issues including unpaid admin fees to LVT (providing both parties agree) and that they will make a decision upon reviewing the case. I also clearly stated that they are not above the law - so how did you get from what i said the need to reminding me the LVT cannot set a precedent - is that not what i said ????

the reason I even brought up the LVT was to help the other members who had posted stating they had not paid. The point is, these types of fees can be challenged quite easily, providing they don't agree to them inadvertently, whether through the court or through the LVT

In regards to fees just because an agent provides a schedule of charges does not always mean all those charges are legally enforceable, especially when it comes to late payment fees, admin fees in regards to sub-letting & admin fees in regards to sending letters/reminder notices etc.

by Annette Stone

17:10 PM, 30th September 2013, About 8 years ago

Lauren. Sorry if I appeared to be trying to correct you. I find that most landlords are in the dark as far as management practise is concerned and therefore I try and be as all encompassing as possible in my blogging on the issue of freeholds. Separating out issues is sometimes quite hard for the layman and as you know there is a minefield of legislation out there to say nothing of best practise recommendations. Our firm, although not members, abide by all of the recommendations of the RICS as we feel that this provides the best and most professional of guidance for managing agents.

I think you may do far more day to day management than I do at this stage of my career and I must confess that I deal mainly with new business and setting up new management along with major refurbishments and with my speciality which is the investment side of the business of buying and selling freeholds and dealing with lease extensions for a wide variety of landlords and for lessees as well. I have been doing this since 1993 when the legislation came into being and I would like to think that my experience stands me in good stead at Property 118

That having been said I have been a managing agent for getting on for 24 years now and I hope that the people on Property 118 find any advice I give on the subject useful.

As far as I know the original question was about registering a tenant's contact details not about their financial status although the issue of whether tenants on benefits had to be specified was mentioned but more in connection with insurance and whether or not insurers require such disclosure

As far as my last blog is concerned I pointed out the bit about Tribunal (formerly LVT) because quite frankly a lot of lay people think that Tribunal is the answer to their prayers and any complaint they have will be upheld. I have seen numerous occasions when lessees have been very disappointed to learn that Tribunal is actually unbiased and works to protect leaseholders from abuse and landlords from exploitation. I have spoken to advisors from LEASE on many occasion who have also had to disabuse people of the notion that a complaint will free them from any obligation to pay!!! The comment was not directed at a fellow professional

To elaborate for our readers a little further; I have never had to go to Tribunal but members of our firm have and they are always impressed by the professionalism of the people who sit and make decisions. There is normally a least one chartered surveyor as I understand it and they have not only a very good grasp of landlord and tenant but also an understanding of the realities of the management world.

I cannot see why any lessee would go to Court over an issue such as the correct amount to pay for a licensing fee (or indeed whether a licensing fee was appropriate) as Court would invariably refer it to Tribunal and a direct application to Tribunal to hear the matter could be made by the lessee in the first place without incurring any costs, as I understand the way things work. I still think that many of the freeholders who try this one on would cave in long before Tribunal sat and gave their Opinion

Our readers may not realise that t his sort of complaint regarding licence to let fees or fees for allowing a lessee to fit replacement windows (another favourite of this type of freeholder) is different to the issue of reminders and administration fees in respect of late payment or non payment.

As far as that sort of fee is concerned you are asolutely correct that it does depend on individual cases and to a great extent on what the lease says. Since charges and administration fees in respect of unpaid service charges are normally referred to solicitors who obtain a Judgment it is the Court who decides what is reasonable and what is not and once Judgment has been obtained the managing agents then go to mortgagees who will usually advance the funds if the lessee is not in arrear or negative equity. If either of this situations exist then mortgagees sometimes repossess.

As far as issues outside of day to day management if fees are notified and agreed on, at the outset of management, such as fees for dealing with Section 20 processes, charges for attending additional meetings throughout a year, dealing with issues such as nuisance and many other things then they are part of the management contract and therefore not usually a problem.

I hope this explanation is helpful for everyone. Enjoy the rest of your holiday.

by Reece 1

20:41 PM, 17th June 2014, About 8 years ago

Just had a letter from simarc demanding £120 plus a reasonable fee because of under letting my flat.
Not sure if I should pay, or is this a money making exercise by simarc?
They have also asked for the agreement with my letting agent and the tenants details can I pass this on?

by Ian Simpson

21:23 PM, 17th June 2014, About 8 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Reece 1" at "17/06/2014 - 20:41":

I get these every year from SIMARC , who are really one and the same as GR Portfolios Ltd - an owner of thousands of freeholds up and down the UK ... Most people pay this fee and forget it. I do not. I consulted my solicitor two years ago about this very issue, and his advice was that a fee of £30 inc VAT would be more than sufficient for the "admin" involved - some photocopying, and entry of a name on to a spreadsheet - a job of three or four minutes. I have since then pointed this out to Simarc each year (stabndard letter , just change the date), sent a cheque for £30, and they banked it and didnt quibble, so they obviously realise this advice is sound!!

by Rob

10:08 AM, 18th June 2014, About 8 years ago

I get those as well from simarc, I've just offered them £50. Make sure they don't charge you every 12 months, they can only charge you when you change tenants not every 12 months

by Mark Alexander

10:23 AM, 18th June 2014, About 8 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Rob " at "18/06/2014 - 10:08":

A very useful thread regarding this issue can be found here >>> http://www.property118.com/freehold-managers-unreasonable-fees-for-subletting-consent/61072/

It started with a Readers Question and you will see that I have responded with details of case law and a template letter to send to the management company "trying it on".

Hope this is useful.

by Rob

11:41 AM, 18th June 2014, About 8 years ago

Thanks mark, although if it states Im my leases that the fee payable can be no less than £50 plus vat then I'm guessing my offer would have to be at least this?

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