The results of the National Leasehold Survey were released last week, and contain some startling revelations about the state of the leasehold property sector.
The UK’s first independent survey of leaseholders was carried out by the Leasehold Advisory Service (LEASE) in partnership with a legal firm called Brady Solicitors, and took the form of an online survey promoted by LEASE. It was filled out by over 1200 leaseholders, including 180 directors of right to manage companies (RMCs).
Very low leaseholder satisfaction
Many leaseholders were unhappy with the way their properties were managed, and over half the people surveyed felt their properties would benefit from a change of management agent. Two-thirds of leaseholders didn’t think they got a good service from their agents, with nearly 70% saying they didn’t trust the agents to resolve issues effectively.
Service charges in particular were a bone of contention. Forty-six per cent of the leaseholders surveyed strongly disagreed that the management element of their service charges represented value for money, and one dissatisfied leaseholder quipped: 'I thought that in order to make a service charge demand one would need to provide a service. We have yet to see this.'
Most tellingly of all, almost 60% said they regretted buying a leasehold property.
A need for better communication
Inevitably a survey like this is only measuring the perceptions (and perhaps the misconceptions) of one group of people, and much of the comment on the report focuses on the key need for improved communication between freeholders/managing agents and leaseholders.
For example, sixty-two percent of respondents said they didn’t understand or contribute to the way service charge monies were spent, and one leaseholder observed that 'the lack of communication from our service provider and freeholder result in suspicion over works detailed in the annual accounts'.
Is right to manage the answer?
Interestingly, the responses from directors of right to manage companies tended to be more positive about their interactions with managing agents. They were more confident than ordinary leaseholders that their agents could resolve issues effectively, and were substantially less in favour of a change in block management. Two-thirds also reported good relationships with most of their leaseholders.
However, directors of right to manage companies did highlight the complications and responsibilities of the role. Over 60% of RMC directors said the job took up more time than they expected, with one remarking that ‘it’s a steep learning curve with little support’. The time-consuming nature of the role was perhaps reflected in the demographic of the RMC directors who responded to the survey: 36% were over 65 years old, where just 2% were 30 or under.
Despite the time commitment, RMC directors had some cheering things to say. Forty-six per cent considered that their role was rewarding, and 66% said they would encourage other leaseholders to take on the responsibility.
To find out more about getting your right to manage, have a look at our brief introduction to the process.
Read the full report
The survey results and analysis make fascinating reading for leaseholders and managers alike. A fuller account of the key findings is available here, and you can also download a PDF of the full report.