As far as senior people in the block management industry are concerned, there are a few things that could be improved and tweaked to make it a better industry to work in. Several of them were mentioned and discussed in our dinner and debate event that we hosted with News On The Block.
One of those things was regulation. While regulation has been high on ARMA’s agenda to implement, it has not yet occurred, and debate continues to rage about whether it is needed or not. It was referenced and returned to over and over again throughout the discussion, frequently in connection to other themes and subjects. Its prevalent touchpoint was in relation to it helping to ensure that smaller, non-professional companies are not necessarily able to trade and provide what could be a potentially poor service at a low price, thus short-changing occupiers and leaseholders. As one attendee put it: “We’re swimming against the tide as long as the market allows unqualified people to do managing agent jobs.”
Another attendee agreed, saying “I’m putting a lot of hopes on regulation going forward, because I think that could change the face of our industry, because it will get rid of the cowboys...it will mean that this industry can turn itself into a proper business.”
In many ways, this is an understandable viewpoint - when block management is so closely related and under the spotlight with regard to health and safety, it’s vital that businesses are professional and qualified. Regulation should, therefore, help with achieving that.
However, this wasn’t a unanimous opinion - some attendees believed that regulation would not be “the key to professionalisation.” Would it, instead, be more helpful for those working in (for example) the top ten companies in the industry (which, by implication, would be the most professional and knowledgeable companies) to “break away to the top 20”. By forming new companies or going to work at other companies, their level of professionalism, skill and experience would be beneficial in helping those other companies raise their game and provide a better, safer service to their customers in a trickle down effect.
Would regulation benefit customers?
For some, the question of regulation was not necessarily about professionalism, but about the knock-on effect of whether it would benefit the customers themselves. One attendee said it would help to answer questions around “Is this person or people or company likely to possibly cause irreparable harm to another person?...If I screw up so badly, is this going to fundamentally change their lives?... Regulation is not for the betterment of the industry or the people around the table, it’s for the consumers.” In this way, perhaps regulation would ensure that all companies operating in the sector hold those professional qualifications and certifications that customers can be confident in.
Regulation was generally desired by the attendees at our discussion, but for different reasons. The motivation from some was centred around wanting to see the “cowboys” at the lower end of the market either forced to improve the way they conduct themselves or leave the market entirely. Some, on the other hand, wanted to ensure that customers were able to receive a better, safer level of service. Either way, regulation is regarded as an important improvement that the industry needs - it’s now up to organisations like ARMA to ensure it is brought in.
For more of our discussion, download our free eBook here.