Most people living in communal buildings find the easiest way to deal with maintenance and repair work is to hire a property factor. However, often property factors fall short of what is expected of them leaving property owners unhappy. This post looks at the obligations of factors in Scotland and what you can do if your factor fails to meet these standards, or acts dishonestly in carrying out their role.
What is the role of a property factor?
Property factors or property managers, look after properties and carry out a number of roles essential to property maintenance. The actual tasks that are the responsibility of a factor will vary between properties, but normally include a combination of the following:
- hiring maintenance employees such as gardeners and cleaners
- organising owners meetings to discuss the running of the property
- building inspections to assess maintenance work required
- arranging maintenance work including hiring contractors and overseeing the work being carried out
- dealing with any complaints owners have about building maintenance and repairs
- organising payment of joint maintenance including taking charge of a joint bank account, collecting payments and dealing with those who do not contribute
- organising common insurance for the building
What obligations do factors have to property owners?
The Property Factors (Scotland) Act 2011 creates a statutory framework that protects owners who use factoring services. The act ensures that property factors adhere to minimum standards through a Code of Conduct. Under this Code of Conduct property factors are obliged to provide homeowners with a 'written statement of services'. This statement of services must outline:
- on what basis the factor has authority to act on behalf of homeowners
- the main services the factor will provide
- any additional services that the factor may provide from time to time or as required
- details of costs and billing procedure - this should include details of how costs will be split amongst homeowners, how often homeowners will be billed and how such payments are to be collected.
- details of their complaints procedure
- timescales for responding to different requests, including complaints, emails letters and phone calls
- declaration of any interest they hold in the property, for example if they are a homeowner within the property themselves.
- details of how to bring the factoring agreement to an end
In addition, there are certain standards of conduct that are expected of factors. They must not be intimidating or abusive to homeowners, and a clear procedure for collecting debts and charges for late payment must be set out. Charges for late payment of factoring fees must not be excessive. You can view the Code of Conduct for Property Factors here.
How can we change our factor?
Often the title deeds for your property will set out the process of hiring a property factor. Where this process is not set out, you must use the tenement management scheme. This process can be difficult and thus it is not essential that all owners agree before a factor can be fired or hired. Where two-thirds of of the owners decide to hire or fire a factor, this should suffice.
How can I make a complaint about my property factor?
Your factor should have outlined their complaints procedure to all owners. Where applicable you should firstly follow this procedure. You should firstly write to your factor explaining the nature of your complaint. If they have breached the Code of Conduct for Property Factors, you may also complain to the homeowner housing panel where your factor fails to resolve your complaint.Furthermore, if your factor is registered with the Property Managers Association, you can also complain to them.
For more information on property in Scotland, read our property guides here.