How can I get my management company to listen to my concerns?

A property owner feels they have no choice but to take legal route to get issues resolved

'It has got to a stage now where I will have to refer the matters to a solicitor and go the legal route.' Illustration: iStockPhoto

'It has got to a stage now where I will have to refer the matters to a solicitor and go the legal route.' Illustration: iStockPhoto

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I am an owner-occupier of a property in a development of 100 units in the Dublin area. I pay a hefty annual service charge fee to the management company through their property agent. I estimate I have paid more than €35,000 for same as I have lived in the development for more than 25 years.

However, in recent years it has become impossible to get the property agent and the management company directors to deal with any problems I have had.

The list is significant at this stage and includes: damage to my car in the common areas of the development; illegal parking by a high-profile businessman next door to the development, whose staff park their cars in our development on a daily basis for free; no women directors or female representation on the board of management; no notices from the property agent re water cut-offs in the development for regular, scheduled works by Irish Water and Dublin City Council, resulting in washing machines, dishwashers and other electrical appliances being damaged; regular data protection issues, and other breaches. The list goes on.

I have written extensively to the property manager appointed on behalf of the management company, as well as to the directors, and requested meetings with them to resolve matters amicably but to no avail.

They have refused to meet with me and most of my emails, letters, telephone calls and voicemail messages have been ignored and gone unanswered. If I do get a response, it is usually a one-line, patronising answer. In essence they either don’t answer any of the queries raised properly or take an à la carte approach and give some answers but not others, meaning the responses are totally inadequate.

It has got to a stage now where I will have to refer the matters to a solicitor and go the legal route, which will be very costly for me as well as time-consuming, but not for the property agent or management company directors, as they will have their legal fees paid by myself and other owners out of the monies collected from the service charge fees.

Is there any other body or organisation I can approach which could mediate the matter or act on my behalf without going the court route?

Any advice would be appreciated, as the frustration of dealing with these people has affected both my family and myself and taken a toll on us all both emotionally and physically.

I would also point out that I am a self-employed person and have spent a significant amount of my own time writing to them, which I should be using instead to generate an income for myself. So as well as not getting the issues resolved I now have a significant loss of income also, as “time is money”.

I look forward to your response.

It’s unfortunate that you feel that you have been experiencing so many problems. One thing you don’t mention in your letter is whether you have raised your concerns at the owners management company (OMC) annual general meeting. If you haven’t already I would recommend that you make sure to attend and bring your concerns directly to the board of the OMC, so the directors can either let you know of any steps taken to date to address the problems or to consider what options are available to the OMC to deal with the issues.

In an OMC of 100 properties, the agm should have a range of voices to discuss the different issues you mention. It tends to be more productive to attempt to resolve problems through dialogue between members of the company rather than having to use the legal system which, as you mention, is costly and may not necessarily resolve the problem.

Day-to-day issues

It is also important to remember that directors of an OMC are voluntary and for this reason do not usually engage with owners individually. Communication is normally through the OMC’s agent, who will report to the board of directors on any matters that require their consideration and instruction. Most boards meet only periodically to review ongoing matters, so for this reason responses by them may not be as quick as some owners would hope for. Day-to-day issues will usually be dealt with by the management agent at the direction of the board.

How the board operates will be determined by the OMC’s constitution or memorandum and articles of association. Directors of an OMC must also follow the same rules and obligations as directors of any other type of company. If you feel the board is not operating in accordance with its pre-defined remit or indeed that there is an imbalance in terms of representation, you should raise this once again at the agm.

You may also wish to consider either putting yourself forward as a director of your OMC or nominating someone who you feel may bring new perspective to the OMC’s board and the running of your OMC.

Data protection

Concerns in respect of communication by the management agent and around data protection should also be raised at your agm as your board of directors may not be fully aware of them or may have already taken steps to address these. If you feel there are continued data protection breaches, you have the right to make a complaint to the Data Protection Commissioner.

Other issues such as how to deal with non-resident parking can also be raised at your agm and options around how to manage the car spaces can be explored at the meeting. It may be that others are experiencing similar issues to you and some form of parking management would be welcomed by all.

I understand from your letter that you would ideally like to talk face-to-face with your OMC directors about the problems you have experienced and the agm should provide you with this forum for discussion. You may also find like-minded members who have experienced similar problems and collectively explore the best solutions to these.

Aoife O’Sullivan is a chartered property manager and member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland, scsi.ie

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