A new law gives Scottish flat-owners protection from bad management so why can’t England and Wales follow suit?
Owners of flats and apartments in England and Wales should be asking themselves why owners of similar homes in Scotland are getting protection from bad property managers.
One of the most frequent complaints from flat-owners in England and Wales is bad practice by freeholders and their managing agents. Solicitors will confirm the problems frequently encountered by clients – high service charges, necessary repairs not carried out, ridiculous charges when a property changes hands – the list is endless.
So why is it that in Scotland things will soon be very different? Property managers there (sometimes known by the traditional Scottish term of 'factor') will soon have to be registered and comply with a statutory code of practice. http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Built-Environment/Housing/privateowners/propertyfactors/2011Act
North of the border flats and apartments are generally owned with the equivalent of a freehold title, rather than leasehold as is the rule in England. Flat-owners share joint responsibility for the repair and maintenance of common areas such as roofs, staircases, entrances and gardens. Owners may agree to use a property manager, and are often required to do so in their title deeds, to ensure that these common parts are properly maintained.
The new law passed by the Scottish parliament says that from October such managers must be registered and will have to comply with a code of practice laid down by the Scottish parliament. The law also sets up a dispute resolution mechanism - the homeowner housing panel.
Why can’t England and Wales follow suit?
There does not seem to be any good reason why similar legislation cannot be enacted to cover the whole country. Why should flat-owners here continue to suffer because the Westminster parliament is deaf to their complaints?
Owners of leasehold flats in England and Wales often have little or no control over how their building is managed, or the appointment of managing agents. Complaints are frequently raised about high service charges and the lack of accountability of such managers.
Solicitors also often have difficulties in dealing with such agents, such as delays in providing management information.
Although there is some legislation which is supposed to benefit flat-owners, it is often difficult (and expensive) to obtain any satisfactory remedy.
Clearly the matter lies with Westminster to do something about this continuing injustice. Flat owners should lobby their MPs because unless they know that there really is a problem they won’t do anything about it.