Feeling the Squeeze

Unless you are connected to the mining industry, everyone is feeling the squeeze on the economy at the moment.

The problem – Occupancy levels (particularly in holiday complexes) are down, expenses are up, cash is tight and people are hurting.

The solution (according to some)– “Clearly, the resident manager is being paid too much and we need to cut the caretaking fee…”; “what about the return on my investment unit? I was netting a lot more a couple of years ago…”; “the managers are making too much and I need to trim them back!”

Sound familiar? I am hearing it a lot – and from both sides of the fence.

What to do – Now, more than ever, you need to be understanding of the financial squeeze that your owners are experiencing but you also need to be proactive.

A couple of tips:

1. Read and re-read your caretaking duties. Make sure you are doing everything you are required to do under your caretaking contract. Just because “that’s the way we’ve always done it” does not mean it is right. You live and die by compliance with the terms of your agreement. Make sure that everything you do (or don’t do) is justifiable by cross reference to a section of your contract;

2. Check your letting appointments – You can only charge commission and expenses that are specified in your written appointments to let with your owners. Unless it is specifically authorised by the letting appointment, you are not entitled to charge. Even worse, you may be compelled to refund;

3. Communicate – Make sure you explain to your committee what you do and how often you do it. Sell your services and identify the “extras” that you do. Don’t just presume that everyone understands what you do. You will be surprised what owners don’t understand about your business;

4. Be proactive – The Work Health and Safety Act 2011 places significant obligations on owners corporations and their committees. They must ensure that the common property is safe and people are not put at risk. This legislation, more than any other piece of legislation of recent times, should bring home to committee members the importance of having a professional and proactive resident manager. Your obligations are to identify potential problems and to bring these issues to the attention of the committee.

You can do this by recommending or assisting the committee to engage a workplace health and safety specialist to conduct an inspection of the common property and equipment and prepare a report for the owners corporation. Remember, you do not have to solve the problem – you just need to identify the potential problem and do all that is reasonable and practical to try and achieve safe work practices and ensure that people are not put at risk on common property.

Conclusion – Until the economy improves, resident managers will be perceived by some as being part of the problem. There will be a few owners who will advocate cutting your takeout as a part solution to put more dollars in their pockets. It is a fact of life, no matter what you do and how well you do it.

Be prepared and be proactive!

Col Myers
Small Myers Hughes

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