Empowering Leaseholders in Small Blocks of Flats to Manage the Service Charges


30/11/2023

Author : Mary-Anne Bowring


Managing agents and the block management landscape is transforming

In recent years, the block's property management landscape has witnessed a transformation. At London's leading managing agent, The Ringley Group there is a growing emphasis on affordability and accessibility for leaseholders, particularly those residing in small blocks of flats. "We've known for some time that managing agents need to innovate and evolve", says our founder Mary-Anne Bowring. "We thought to imagine a future where a budget-friendly blocks property management offering exists to manage the service charge for apartments in blocks of flats - and so we just did it".

Can you offer a low-cost block management service and be a leading managing agent - we think so...

By extracting all the essentials from the range of responsibilities that a fully managed service of a managing agent fulfills - the result was ServiceChargesSorted.co.uk. Whilst it is true that you cannot be a managing agent of the service charge without being a managing agent, what you can be is a block management company or managing agent who offers the essentials of a full block management service, i.e., financial and legal administration and teams and processes to keep the service charge cycle going.

In this article, we our thinking that led to the creation of ServiceChargesSorted.co.uk - how we explored what such a service might comprise, and how this can benefit leaseholders in the UK who live in small blocks of flats.

Block management essentials for small blocks of flats

A budget-friendly block property management offering for small blocks of flats must of course encompass a range of essential services tailored to meet the specific needs of leaseholders. While cost-effective, the service would be designed to ensure that the fundamental requirements of efficient financial and legal compliance are fully met.
1. Service Charges and Financial Management: Transparent and responsible financial management had to include service charge collection, tools to help the Client or Director budget, and financial reporting such as bank balances, arrears, and expenditure lists online. Our cash management team sends out the demands, bank the money, reconcile the bank, and hand over arrears collection to the lawyer to support all this.
2. Administrative Support:

25+ years’ experience in efficient administration, diary management and record-keeping means we can make light work of getting budgets and demand out as well as organizing the end-of-year service charge accounts to ensure smooth operations.
3. Compliance and Legal Support: what do blocks of flats need?

We have been providing guidance on regulatory compliance, leasehold obligations, and legal matters to protect the interests of leaseholders and Clients, who are often volunteer directors of freehold management companies, right-to-manage (RTM) companies, or resident management companies. Therefore, we packaged the essentials on the login portal at ServiceChargesSorted.co.uk. We read the lease on sign-up and implement key lease provisions.

4. Communication and Transparency:

Clear and regular communication with leaseholders can be facilitated low cost by putting everything online from the bank account to each invoice paid. Working on an open-book basis fosters real transparency and powers the Client or directors in their decision-making processes.

So what have we excluded?

Maintenance and Repairs:

Organising maintenance and repairs in a small block of flats is less frequent on par with larger blocks and can be sensitive if the managing agent needs to use accredited, insured contractors as opposed to an odd job man from the pub. Therefore, this is why in the ServiceChargesSorted.co.uk offering we have left coordination of routine maintenance, and repairs to the Client to organise themselves. We still make the payments and have made that easy, a bit like online banking. The Client logs on, uploads the invoice, tells us who to pay, and chooses a second director to approve the payment. We track receiving both authorisations and then make the payment. Therefore, from the service charges received and the payments out, from the Client bank account we reconcile we can produce the service charge accounts.

Health and Safety and Building Compliance 

Any volunteer directors of freehold management companies, right-to-manage (RTM) companies, or resident management companies should be aware of the legal requirements regarding health and safety and fire compliance. This includes:

  • - Asbestos survey
  • - Regular fire risk assessments
  • - Communal fire door inspections
  • - Apartment fire door inspections

To keep the product cost-effective, we leave all of this up to the Client to arrange, when they want to base on their choice as to the level of risk and compliance they want to implement. That said, essential safety checks to uphold the condition and value of the property are advised. This is why our product is not a block management product but legal and financial administration for small blocks of flats.

So how did we do it? How did we offer an affordable blocks property management service?

We optimised costs for affordability: To make this service like a low-cost managing agent, several considerations could be made to optimise costs without compromising the quality of service provided.

This included:

Leveraging Technology: We built our own advanced property management software to streamline processes, automate tasks, and enhance operational efficiency, thereby reducing overhead costs.

We back-sourced part of what a managing agent is obliged to do:

Yes, we back-sourced repairs and health and safety to the Client. We removed the "managing" so that the service is provided by an experienced managing agent, but is like an affordable alternative service to full block management. We kept, however, the annoying and time-consuming functions, such as certain administrative tasks, financial management, and service of legal notices and accounts. Therefore, we can achieve the service at a lower cost and save without sacrificing service quality.

3. Lean Organisational Structure: We have a lean organisational structure focusing on operational efficiency and minimizing unnecessary overhead expenses. We let our Clients share these efficiency cost savings.

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