Irish Times Property Clinic 25th day of January 2024.
Publishing Date; Thursday the 25th day of January 2024.
Q My mother lives in apartment block in Dublin. She is the owner of this property. Mother pays service charge every year as per service charge management request, and she never late, pays full amount in January every single year. In 2019 she received multiple complaints from agent, complaining about my brother behaviour who suffers from schizophrenia, that time he lived in the apartment with my mother, but he moved out in 2020.
Most important complaint was he break the button panel in the lift, agent said he has all evidence, but if we want to know any details we can do our own investigation. We called to Garda asking if there was report about this incident, also asked the neighbours if anyone seen anything. We did not get any information. Agent sent us invoice that we need to pay 7000eur for repairing the lift. We refused as we couldn't get any information from him or any other sources.
Since then, Agent terrorising my mother, asking to pay outstanding service charge, which is already 13000eur, ( interest fee from 2019) otherwise they will not give permission to the car parking, will not give the access to the main door, to enter her apartment. Also other invoices he sent us, was charging us 25eur per every single email he sent to us. For me this is looks strange.
I tried to speak with him on the phone however it was difficult, he is screaming and at the end hang up on me. I wrote formal complaint on this agent, how disrespectful is his behaviour and unprofessional his work duties. Coming back to the main question, can the agent do not give permission to the car parking space or main door entrance? Looking forward to receiving the answer, if this situation looks familiar to you.
A. The Agent is a contractually appointed representative of the owners' management company (OMC) with instructions being given to it by the board of directors. The Agent can also be the appointed Company Secretary which can be in itself problematic if complaints progress to a legal standing.
Whilst the agent is the point of contact for the OMC, they would not exercise this level of restrictions to your mother without the instruction from the board of directors.
The Letter of Engagement binding the OMC and the Agent as prescribed by the Property Services Regulatory Authority (PSRA) will outline the agents fees (Section 7) and the complaint process (Section 14). A member of the OMC can request this information to direct their formal complaint. Where there are shortcomings in the provision of a property service provider holding a licence, in this case a D licence holder, you may refer the matter to the PSRA as they are tasked with the regulation of same. The standards to be observed by the Agent are set out in the Property Services (Regulation) Act 2011 (Minimum Standards) S. 95.
You can seek further information about service standards, complaints process and more on www.psr.ie
Criminal damage would be a matter for the local Garda Office as is harassment. It would be fair and reasonable for the OMC to provide formal correspondence setting out the case of the need for repairs along with informed evidence of the alleged damage. A lift in an OMC is required to be under a maintenance contract and as such a quotation for the lift works from a competent company should be on file and easily available.
Your solicitor should provide you with guidance on both the matter of the liability to pay for the repairs and the experience of harassment . Another option is to seek Mediation between the OMC and your mother to seek an amicable resolution.
OMCs across the State face significant under funding. The ability of an OMC to recover unpaid service charges is ineffective, expensive and protracted. OMC service charge evasion is a significant cause of concern for the greater built environment and if left to fester further will require State intervention. A significant overhaul of the system of service charge recovery is past due. One effective instrument an OMC has at its disposal is a restriction of services to motivate payment. A proportionately time accurate cause and effect. Non payment of service charges affects many people as the creditor is the community itself.
Paul Huberman FSCSI FRICS is a chartered property and facilities manager, and a Fellow of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland and the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors.
Author: Paul Huberman of H&H Property Management Consultants Ltd
Publish Date: 25/01/2024