Laura Broxson: Do you have a management company where you live, and do you know what they do? Being stuck at home during the lockdowns gave me a huge insight as to what was going on in my estate, and more so, what our management company was not doing.
Within days of the first lockdown, I witnessed drug dealing, anti-social behaviour and a number of cars were broken in to – as well as the front door of my apartment block. Clearly the only way to eliminate all this is for a shift in society and for more resources and educational opportunities to be put in communities, but in the meantime myself and others were living in fear and needed to take action in terms of preventative measures.
“With life and work, it was easy to allow oneself be fobbed off”
Now, all the above mentioned activity obviously isn’t the fault of the management company, but myself and others had been requesting CCTV for years to at least help put people off – and we had been constantly ignored and fobbed off. With life and work, it was easy to allow oneself be fobbed off, but lockdown meant I now had the time to focus on this.
As the weeks went on, myself and other residents noticed things like the dishevelled state of our communal areas, both inside the blocks and in the green areas – some of which were dangerous.
” …we started getting to work (within our homes) to improve our estate”
Through our estate’s Facebook page, a few of us decided to hold a Zoom meeting and form a residents’ committee, and subsequently we started getting to work (within our homes) to improve our estate. Our management company proved very difficult to engage with, it took – and continues to take – 2 to 3 emails to result in a response. Considering that there are 400 homes where I live, all of which pay them between €1400 and €1600 annually, this lack of dialogue just isn’t acceptable.
When the first lockdown ended, we hosted a socially-distanced outdoor meeting, inviting every resident who wished to attend to let us know what they feel needed fixing in the estate. We then got to work inspecting each apartment block and the outdoor communal areas, making a list and taking photos of damage or dangerous issues.
“The management company still didn’t want to know”
The management company still didn’t want to know, so we started lobbying one of the directors (who, bizarrely, lives in the estate yet didn’t want any improvements made and preferred our fees just go in the sinking fund). We also began requesting documents under the Freedom of Information Act, as well as letting them know we were contacting other management companies as we wish to vote them out at the next AGM. They all soon started listening to us then.
“… we got the children’s playground fixed, trees planted, fencing fixed, walls repainted …”
Over the next few months that followed, we got the children’s playground fixed, trees planted, fencing fixed, walls repainted, carpets cleaned, over 50 CCTV cameras installed, fire panels and smoke alarms fixed, fire extinguishers replaced and additional ones installed, a fob key system in our underground carparks, speed ramps, speed limit / children playing signs, gates fixed, additional cleaning and bin room maintenance, leaks in apartment blocks and external damage fixed, and an occasional security guard when needed. All of this is fantastic, however all of these issues should have been dealt with by our management company themselves, it shouldn’t have been up to us to lobby and campaign for these things to be fixed. It made us wonder, where had all our money been going?
At the AGM (via Zoom) that followed, we nominated ourselves to be added to the board of directors, as we feel at least one or two of us needs to be on the board to find out what has been going on, and to have more say going forward in how the estate is managed and maintained. Unfortunately for us, not many residents attended the AGM, and we were voted against by the existing board, surprise surprise. It was a disappointing blow but not really unexpected.
“The takeaway positive is that both the directors and the management company now know we are certainly not going away”
The takeaway positive is that both the directors and the management company now know we are certainly not going away, and are starting to take a more ‘hands on’ approach in our estate. There are still leaks and structural issues that need fixing, but we continue to work and lobby on behalf of all residents. This has also resulted in a better community spirit – we’re all getting to know our neighbours, watch out for each other and help each other when needed. We have also set up a Neighbourhood Watch group, and have regular meetings with our Community Garda. Other residents associations in the area are also reaching out to us too, to team up for community projects, which is great.
“… every good result came from residents joining together”
Things are getting so much better where I live, but not thanks to the management company or the Gardai – every good result came from residents joining together, supporting each other, and working as a team for the good of us all. We no longer live in fear, there are no longer dangerous hazards in the estate, but it’s a full time job keeping on top of things (which shouldn’t really be the case when you’re paying a company to monitor and fix issues!).
However, despite the extra work involved, I would recommend that everyone form a residents association in their area, whether you have a management company or not. Apart from the benefits of improving where you live, the community spirit that forms is incredibly uplifting. It doesn’t have to be a formal committee, it can be fairly DIY but make sure it’s set up democratically from the beginning so everyone has a fair and equal part to play, as well as a voting system which will help set priorities and avoid clashes.
“Get your neighbours involved, act as a team, and get what you’re paying for”
For those that do have a management company, I urge you to look into what they are or are not doing for you, and closely look at their accounts to see where the money is going. Don’t be afraid to contact them to report issues, that’s what they’re there for. Whether it’s a minor cleaning issue or a major issue like a leak or structural damage, it’s their responsibility to address and resolve any problems that arise. If they don’t respond, keep at them, and contact the directors. Get your neighbours involved, act as a team, and get what you’re paying for!
Laura Broxson is a feminist and social activist
For more information, check out:
https://www.citizensinformation.ie/en/housing/owning_a_home/home_owners/ management_companies_for_apartment_blocks.html https://www.ccpc.ie/consumers/housing/apartments-and-duplexes/owners-managementcompanies/ https://www.fingal.ie/sites/default/files/ 2019-03/2.4.3.A.6.1%20Property%20Management%20Companies%20and%20You.pdf https://www.fingal.ie/sites/default/files/ 2019-03/32%20Page%20Residents%20Handbook%20FA.pdf