We have bought a property in a relatively new development in Dublin. The development is well run by a management company and a board. The estate has residential owners, institutional owners and an approved housing body (AHB), which manages a considerable number of apartments in the development.
The owners throughout the estate, individuals and institutional owners are represented on the board with the exception of the AHB, which has declined a position on the board of management and is a reluctant participant in any meetings suggested. This makes the running of the estate difficult as the management company spends an inordinate amount of time emailing the AHB on what should be easily answered queries.
Everyone in the estate pays service charges and the way they are allocated is set out in our annual budget. However, our bookkeeping has highlighted that a higher percentage of the budget is used to repair and manage the AHB part of the estate. This disadvantages the other occupants of the estate and, in essence, the other occupants are subsidising the AHB dwellings. This causes resentment among residents which the board would like to address.
This AHB manage numerous properties throughout the country and the staff must follow rules and regulations set out by their own senior management team. Is it possible to get a copy of this? The AHB’s default position when a problem arises within their area is that it was “not their tenant and the management/board should provide proof that it is”. This is an exhausting position for the board/management to be in and is an unnecessary waste of time. I would love to get advice on how to deal with this in a workable manner.
My question is this.
Are there clear guidelines that the management company/board can follow when dealing with an agency like this? I have researched online but have found nothing helpful. Are there rules governing AHBs? It would be helpful to have a realistic charter the management/board could follow rather than working in the dark as we are doing at present. Any advice from you would be most welcome.
Generally, the rules and guidelines which the owners’ management company (OMC) follow when it comes to the behaviour of tenants are covered in the rules of the estate or the house rules of the apartment block. The OMC may have sanctions for breaches of such rules. These rules are enforceable and are normally referred to in the lease agreement attached to each property in the development.
An OMC is made up of a group of owners whereby all owners are members of the OMC and have the same obligations and responsibilities as each other. Approved housing bodies (AHBs) may also be owners in an OMC. In this case it is unclear if the AHB is an owner or just managing some properties in the development. Given that they have declined a position on the board and to participate at meetings, it would suggest that it is the former. As an owner, AHBs are treated in the exact same way as all other owners and have the same duties and obligations.
AHBs are also known as housing associations or voluntary housing associations. They are independent, not-for-profit organisations and provide affordable rented housing for those such as homeless people and/or older people who cannot afford to pay private sector rents or buy their own homes.
When it comes to tenants in a property, the contract is between the owner and the tenant. Both the owner and the tenant have obligations and responsibilities to the OMC when it comes to the occupation of the property. AHBs have the same rights and obligations as private landlords in that they must register their tenancies every year with the Residential Tenancies Board and the tenants have the same rights and obligations as private tenants with some exceptions.
AHBs obtain their funding from Government and in this regard, they set out their vision and their mission in relation to how they carry out their work. According to the AHB Regulatory Authority (AHBRA) in their annual sectoral analysis report 2021/2022, there are 450 AHBs registered as of January 1st, 2022, and all 450 are subject to aspects of the legislation.
AHBs owe a duty of care to their tenants and also to the OMC. How well they do their job will be determined by how issues are resolved as they arise. A review of the website of the relevant AHB will assist in providing information about how they do their job and who the key personnel are. You could then get in touch with them directly and seek greater engagement for the resolution of problems as they arise. The AHBRA is responsible for regulation in this area, and they may be able to offer further guidance.
The appointment of directors in an OMC is subject to company law and owners put themselves forward as volunteers to act as directors of the company. Owners may choose not to be a director if they wish. If some owners and/or their tenants in an OMC are the cause of increased costs in the company due to antisocial behaviour or for any other reason, then this matter could be quantified and charged to those responsible. It is likely that a covenant in a lease agreement may be useful to rely upon. An example of such a covenant which would be typical in a lease agreement is: “The lessee shall not do any act or thing which shall be or may be or become a nuisance or annoyance to the lessor or the owners or occupiers.”
The OMC may seek to rely on section 15(1) of the Residential Tenancies Act 2004, which states as follows: “A landlord of a dwelling owes to each person who could be potentially affected a duty to enforce the obligations of the tenant under the tenancy.”
The owner of a unit has a duty to all other owners and is therefore responsible for the actions of their tenants.
Issues that arise with tenants will vary in their nature and will therefore need to be dealt with differently. Building strong relationships will be the key to successful outcomes in dealing with such matters. Normally in an AHB there would be a housing officer and/or a tenant liaison officer who can work between the tenant and the OMC in resolving issues. The strength of the relationship between this housing officer and tenants will determine outcomes and help with the drawing up of plans to avoid further potential problems. However, this depends on how serious the issues are and what kind of remedy is required.
There are many grounds on which an OMC can take an owner to court for breach of their obligations and get a legal remedy under the laws mentioned previously. However, very often these remedies are a disproportionate response to some issues, and this is where a collaborative approach between the parties, building up trust and strong relationships will be the key.
There is an increasing array of useful guides and resource material available to OMCs on management issues from organisations such as the Housing Agency, The Society of Chartered Surveyors of Ireland and The Apartment Owners’ Network and I would recommend reviewing their websites and/or reaching out to these organisations.
The OMC may choose to adopt company policies on how to deal with various issues as they arise, and they can then rely on these policies to address matters. The adoption of policies can take place at the OMC’s annual general meeting and can be implemented and enforced thereafter.
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