By Jennifer Paddock
Now there’s a job I don’t want to do again.
It’s (insert expletive here) hard!
It’s a job that requires a person to wear numerous hats: accountant, facilities manager, lawyer, psychologist and policeman to name a few.
And the key thing about being a managing agent – it’s all about people:
Chairpersons. Trustees. Owners. Rental agents. Body corporate staff. Municipal representatives. Contractors. Tradesmen. Lawyers. Estate agents. Neighbours. Guests.
It’s the Managing Agent’s job to deal with all of them. Often for a menial salary and having received little or no formal training.
Abuse is no joke
The MA is effectively the public face of the body corporate and the role often involves delivering difficult news to owners about what they may or may not do and about how much money they owe (another special levy?! Definitely the MA’s fault!).
Not many people appreciate that managing agents regularly experience verbal abuse from owners – a classic case of shooting the messengers. The MAs are intermediaries and in most cases do not have the power to rectify issues – they can only manage the communication and the processes around them.
Pressure to keep levies low but get everything done
One of the key tasks performed by a MA is to prepare the annual budget on behalf of the trustees, which, once approved, becomes the basis upon which each owner’s levies are calculated.
In my experience, many owners seem to believe that the MA is directly responsible for how much the levies end up being. In actual fact, the only amounts that the MA has a direct impact on are the body corporate’s management fees and any other charges the management company bills the body corporate. For the most part the new budget is based on the body corporate’s actual expenditure for the previous financial year plus foreseen increases and other anticipated expenditure for the following year. But ultimately the owners at the AGM (and NOT the MA) approve the budget upon which their levies are based.
When I used to receive calls from irate owners shouting at me for the increase in levies I loved explaining to them how the approval of the budget was actually the owners decision (ie. their decision) and then asking if they had in fact attended the AGM. Nine times out of ten they hadn’t. That usually did the trick.
In addition, the ironic thing with this pressure to keep levies low is the corresponding pressure on the managing agent to get all manner of things done. My problem is that the owners have generally not seen the terms of the signed management contract and therefore they do not understand the scope of services provided by the MA. They therefore generally expect everything and anything relating to their section or the common property to be the MA’s responsibility when in actual fact there are many things that fall outside the MA’s agreed scope of services. Not to mention that even if what they are asking for is within the scope of services – it may not have been budgeted for…
As a MA, what can you do about all this?
- Getting a menial salary for a hard job? Get properly trained in sectional title managing agency. Being properly trained means you separate yourself from the other hundreds of untrained MAs and will allow you to demand a higher salary or even give you the confidence to start your own Sectional Title Management Company if that’s a dream of yours.
- Receiving verbal abuse? Firstly, learn how to politely and professionally deal with unfair verbal abuse. Here’s an article I came across on Google to get you started. Secondly, understand the management contract with the bodies corporate you manage and then educate your chairpersons, trustees and owners about the boundaries of your role (what you are and aren’t responsible for).
- Educate your chairpersons, trustees and owners about the approval process for raising levies to ensure they understand that the amount of levies they pay is ultimately up to them, not you.
Be the best MA you can be and provide a great service so the majority of your chairpersons, trustees and owners respect you. This will make your job a lot more rewarding.