ARMA Annual Conference 2020: Roundup
For 2020, ARMA’s Annual Conference was delivered to delegates as an online webinar across four days. Despite the challenging circumstances, ARMA members and the wider industry came out in full support of the flagship event, with over 340 delegates logging-in from offices and homes across the country.
Day One: ARMA and the Economy – Where We Are Now
The first day kicked off with a heartfelt welcome from ARMA’s new Chairman, Michael Jacobs of MLM Property Management. Touching on the trials and tribulations of 2020, Michael commended the way the industry has adapted, continuing to deliver an excellent service to leaseholders. Michael also highlighted ARMA’s important role within the sector, acting as its ‘fifth emergency service’.
The first session of the day was delivered by ARMA CEO Dr Nigel Glen who took stock of ARMA’s recent performance. Headline figures included a record membership total of 457 and 1.4 million homes currently under ARMA’s wing throughout England and Wales.
Nigel also provided positive updates on the status of the Regulation of Property Agents (RoPA) and ARMA’s lobbying for increased government funding for cladding remediation through its High-Rise Fire Risk Group, the MHCLG and other avenues.
The second session of the day was delivered by CBI Principal Economist, Ben Jones, who raised some eyebrows with his focus on the economic impact of Covid-19 and lockdown. Among the standout figures was 30 – 40% of households experiencing a drop in income due to the pandemic. Ben went on to provide some predictions on how the economy might bounce back, with encouraging early signs of an economic recovery.
Day Two: Incoming Bills and Insuring Higher Risk Buildings
Day two opened with Dorian Lawrence from Façade Remedial Consultants reviewing the Fire and Building Safety Bills and their implications for managing agents. Both Bills seek to eradicate constructors opting for ‘value engineering’, whilst also ensuring clear accountability for resident safety.
Dorian also covered the EWS1 form, clarifying that it is required for buildings of all heights, not just those over 18 metres. He highlighted the importance of the form - without it many lenders are refusing to value properties at all. Finally, Dorian touched on the new ‘Building Safety Charge’ which will cover fire safety and structural works required by the incoming Building Safety Bill.
The second session of day two was delivered by Insurety’s Rob Mayo who outlined the current insurance landscape and the difficulties of securing insurance for higher-risk buildings. Citing 300 hours as a timescale, it’s crucial that managing agents begin the process as quickly as possible. Rob also announced the launch of Insurety’s industry-specific Client Money Protection (CMP) product.
For the final session of day two ARMA’s Health, Safety & Fire Advisor, Mark Snelling, covered the Building Safety Bill and the Fire Safety Bill, drawing particular attention to their likely crossover. A common theme throughout the conference, Mark shed light on the ‘Accountable Person’ role and outlined differences between Building Safety Managers and property managers.
Day Three: Law in Lockdown and Business Recovery
Day three kicked off with a joint legal update presentation from Cassandra Zanelli of PM Legal Services and Ayesha Omar of 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square, discussing recent legal cases which have passed through the Upper Tribunal or Court of Appeal.
One case of note was the Houldsworth Village Management Company Limited v Barton (2020) which showed the importance of acting on requests for information quickly. In some cases, failure to do so within five days can cause legal problems for agents.
The day ended with a lively panel discussion chaired by ARMA’s Nigel Glen who was joined by Andrew Bulmer, CEO of IRPM, Graham Donaldson, Chairman of Mainstay Group, David Goldberg, Founder and CEO of POD Management and Shelley Jacobs, Director of MLM Property Management. The panel focused on ‘Business Recovery’ after a turbulent six months.
One point of discussion explored how managing agents can communicate their roles more effectively to residents. Too often they are perceived as making money off the service charge, with residents having little understanding of their financial and maintenance responsibilities. ARMA has produced a leaflet explaining the role of a managing agent (‘So, what does a managing agent do?’), but the panel agreed ongoing education is still needed.
The topic of new revenue opportunities for managing agents was also discussed, with one suggestion based on agents offering additional services which can enhance residents’ lives, including dog-walking, food and beverage and cleaning services. Despite the opportunity, the panel warned that any new operations must be carried out with complete transparency in order to maintain residents’ trust.
There was more focus on the BSM’s role, with the possibility of it being an external, corporate role prompting questions over how the position will be accredited or tested for competency.
Following the panel, the winners of the conference prize draw were announced, with prizes ranging from an iPad to a three-night stay in Ibiza.
Day Four: Expert Hubs with ARMA Partners
The final day of the conference allowed delegates to chat one-to-one with ARMA Partners for 15-minute sessions. It was a great way for attendees to learn more about the topics most relevant to them, such as façade & cladding, building surveying and legal services.
ARMA’s 2020 Annual Conference might not have been the networking experience delegates were used to, but it still delivered exceptional speakers and important industry updates to all those who tuned in.
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Save the Date! The next ARMA Annual Conference will be on Thursday 14th October 2021 at 133 Houndsditch, London.