Irish Times Property Clinic 28th day of April 2016.
Publishing Date; Thursday the 28th day of April 2016.
Q I bought a house 10 years ago and on the day we signed for our keys were we told we needed to sign up to an estate management fee of approx. €80 a year for lighting and road sweeping and cutting of the grass in common areas, but since then our yearly charges have trebled and the management company has brought in disc parking which has caused havoc as there are no visitor parking spots. The two bed houses only have one parking spot and the three bed houses have 2 parking spots but all houses pay the same service charge. I have raised this with the management company to no avail. Nothing is ever improved upon unless you live in the apartments, so we seem to be contributing to the cost of running the apartments and nothing else. Why do we have to pay management fees when we are house owners and not apartment owners? We have no green areas so there are no common areas that we can avail of to get justify this fee.
A During the sales blitz of new properties in the boom years it was not uncommon for a development to be presented as a great place to live with fantastic amenities and finished to a very high specification and contrarily the service charges were very low. The fact of the matter was the developer did not want to compete in the open market with lower prices for the properties but rather the cost of living, a matter that did not affect their profits and was an issue that would present itself long after they had sold all their interests, therefore, leaving the problem to be solved by someone else. Thus here we are.One argument for the low service charges for year one was that most of the owners' management company (OMC) services, fixtures and fittings inclusive of mechanical and electrical were under warrantee and would not require repair, replacement or maintenance.For the avoidance of doubt and to ensure full transparency I would be in favour of any new homes within an OMC coming with long term projected costs in part for service charges by way of a Building Investment Fund Program. This document which is drafted by an independent Chartered Building Surveyor identifies everything within the development common areas and advises on the cost of replacement over say a twenty year life cycle. This document would then be the point of reference for an informed charge to be assigned to the Sinking Fund every year.The apportionment of service charges is set out in the lease agreement binding the OMC and its members. The proposed service charges for the financial year soon to commence are presented to the members at a general meeting to be considered and agreed. In the event that the manner by which the apportionment of service charges is deemed not to be just or equitable, a member may take the matter up with a Circuit Court under Section 24 of the Multi-Unit Developments Act 2011. You should have a record of attempted dispute resolution or mediation for the Court prior to your application.
Paul Huberman is a chartered property and facilities management surveyor and a member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland (SCSI)
Author: Paul Huberman of H&H Property Management Consultants Ltd
Publish Date: 28/04/2016