ARMA Regional Briefings 2021 - Event Review
ARMA’s 2021 Regional Briefings were delivered to delegates as online webinars across three days. The sessions allowed members to tap into key updates from ARMA and the residential leasehold sector, with around 300 members logging-in from offices and homes across the country every day.
Day One: Industry Updates
The first day kicked off with Nigel Glen delivering ARMA highlights from the past year, including the milestone that ARMA members now manage twice as many homes as they did seven years ago.
Throughout 2020 ARMA provided its members and the industry with continued guidance on new ways of working during the pandemic, evident in its best practice guide which is currently on its 18th edition. At the same time, ARMA has continued to lobby government on building safety issues as part of a programme supported by several of the largest managing agents and IRPM. The industry efforts contributed to the extension of the Building Safety Fund application deadline (now 30th June), secured £5billion in funding and resulted in ARMA enjoying extensive media coverage across TV, print and radio.
There has been no let-up in 2021, with 34 MP meetings having already taken place since January. Among further targets is the increased scope of the Buidling Safety Fund (BSF) to include buildings of all heights, non-cladding funding to help manage fire-breaks and compartmentation issues and funding for unfunded EWS related works, to name a few. There has been plenty of non-cladding lobbying going on too, with bi-weekly MHCLG meetings, talks with Lord Greenhalgh and ARMA involvement in the Welsh and UK Select Committees Government on Buildings Safety Reforms.
The session on the ARMA and IRPM Wellbeing Survey was co-presented by IRPM CEO Andrew Bulmer and Nigel Glen. The ‘mental health check’ report, published on Thursday, offers an insight into the wellbeing and resilience of individuals working in the sector. The findings reveal a workforce that is often overstretched and under a myriad of sometimes conflicting pressures. As a result, a significant number are uncertain of their future within the industry. The survey is intended to help employers review the adequacy of their current staff support measures and encourage more open relationships between stakeholders through improved communication and education.
Day one was rounded off with a RoPA update from Baroness Dianne Hayter, Deputy Leader of Labour Lords.
With thanks to our day one sponsor, ARMA Partner Insurety.
Day Two: Building Safety
The first session of day two saw Anthony Taylor of Revolve Risk discuss the new role of the Building Safety Manager (BSM) and what it means for managing agents. Nominated by the Appointed Person (AP), BSMs will oversee building regulations and the work of the AP. Anthony differentiated the roles of property managers and BSMs by explaining the specific competencies required of the latter. At times, a BSM may be spread across multiple buildings, and there may be a national register set up for them. Updated golden threads of information will also prove vital to the BSM’s role.
Giles Grover from the Manchester Cladiators, a co-founder of the ‘End Our Cladding Scandal’ group, highlighted the need for more open and transparent communication between managing agents and residents. He also stressed the need for clarity around Section 20 fees, emphasising this can be the difference between residents feeling certain and uncertain.
After, Nigel Sellars from RICS discussed the EWS1 form, reminding delegates that it is for valuation purposes only, and is not a replacement for a full safety risk assessment. He went on to walk delegates through the different EWS1 requirements for blocks over six-stories, five to six stories and those with fewer stories.
The third talk of the day saw Shaun Lundy of Tetra Consulting give an update on the Building Safety Bill, emphasising that, as Dame Judith Hackitt said in 2020, managing agents need to be putting the spirit of the Bill into practice before it becomes law.
The ensuing building safety panel touched on the benefits of proportionate action, reasoning that informed decisions made by competent individuals may help end the building safety crisis sooner.
With thanks to our day two sponsor, ARMA Partner Façade Remedial Consultants.
Day Three: Law and Redress
Cassandra Zanelli of PMLS started day three with an update on further measures introduced in relation to holding company meetings, while also noting that, at present, the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020 offering companies greater flexibility on the manner in which they hold meetings has not officially been extended beyond the March 30th deadline. Cassandra also covered the Debt Respite Scheme which may restrict agents and landlords from recovering debts that have accrued up to the date of notice of the moratorium for a period of time. Justin Bates of Landmark Chambers also offered further updates of cases involving disputes between managing agents and leaseholders.
Siobhan Fennell, from The Property Ombudsman (TPO) discussed the most common types of complaints the TPO had received over the last year. It had recorded a rise in complaint numbers and noted the toll on staff. Siobhan emphasised the need to clearly outline complaints procedures to all staff members and reminded delegates that it was a good idea to include an introduction to company procedures in staff inductions.
This need for clear communication was reflected by Sean Hooker of the Property Redress Scheme. Sean asked managing agents to treat valid complaints as constructive feedback, using the information to improve ways of working where possible.
Siobhan McGrath, a judge from the First Tier Tribunal, gave some tips on how to avoid facing the FTT, along with preparation advice for those who found themselves facing a hearing. A recurring theme was the need for a clear story. In a world where online information can prove almost infinite, the quality of evidence remains more important than quantity for those looking through cases. In addition, always think about a clear audit trial as this will make a case easier to put together. Finally, tribunals and courts should always be a last resort, owing to their cost and time implications, so parties should make sure all efforts of resolving a dispute have been exhausted before coming to the courts.
The day ended with a panel on redress lessons for managing agents. The TPO and the PRS reiterated the need for all necessary evidence to be gathered for a case in order for it to be dealt with appropriately and quickly. Non-cooperative parties may delay cases and lead to further penalties.
With thanks to our day three sponsor, ARMA Partner PLP Fire Protection.
Did you attend our Regional Briefings? Make sure you leave us feedback via our SurveyMonkey feedback email. All members will have access to slides and session recordings.