In partnership with urbanbubble, property owners achieved:
- Major debt recovery
- Service charge reduced by 15% in year one followed by a reduction of 20% in year two
- A £90K programme of improvements
- Full makeover of public areas including brand new lobby area
- Enhanced security and site services
- Major lift repair and refurbishment
The full story:
Located in Newton Street in Manchester’s Northern Quarter, The Wentwood is a stylish and spacious grade 2 listed warehouse conversion comprising 108 luxury apartments, all with high ceilings and large windows that reflect its previous use as a prestigious Ministry of Defence office.
In line with previous occupants, the Ministry of Defence’s business, in 2010, residents were firmly entrenched in a war of attrition. Following an earlier dispute with their freeholder (the person or company responsible for the repair and maintenance of the exterior and common parts of the building) over the fees they paying and the quality of service delivered, they had organised and exercised their Right to Manage; a process that meant they could form a Resident’s Management Company (RMC), take over the management of their building and appoint a managing agent.
However, rather than attacking the problems they were facing, their chosen managing agent retreated when faced with the issues affecting the building. Leaks were causing major problems for residents, the development’s public areas had been badly neglected whilst security shortfalls meant car theft and break ins had made city centre life far less appealing for residents and leaseholders alike.
To help win this fight, residents called for reinforcements which promptly arrived in the shape of urbanbubble.
After a full initial review and assessment, they found that that no formal contract between the RMC and the managing agent was in place. Their research also revealed that bills for maintenance and upkeep had been inflated and an overspend of £55K had been recorded in recent months by the incumbent, whose practices appeared to be less in the interests of leaseholders and more directed towards profit.
Let battle commence
urbanbubble recognised that funds that were rightfully belonged to the leaseholders may have been mismanaged, and supported the RMC in legal action against the incumbent. A year long legal process began, with urbanbubble sharing their expertise and mediating to help The Wentwood recoup their lost funds.
Whilst the courtroom fight continued, they applied their unique approach to solving the more obvious problems at the development.
Winning hearts and minds
To free up funds, urbanbubble looked at existing debts and succeeded in collecting £90K in upaid fees over just six months. This was achieved using a combination of accurate billing and a programme of engagement with residents to show them the benefits of staying up to date with their service charges.
This injection of funds helped fund a series major programme of improvement works to let leaseholders stop worrying about their investment and start enjoying the rewards of owning a property at the heart of the north’s most vibrant city. This was helped by the creation of an IPIP: one of the first steps that urbanbubble takes to identify and prioritise work to any new development they take on responsibility for.
IPIP: This creates a comprehensive picture of the current situation at a development that gives the property management experts at urbanbubble a 360° view of the current situation. This allows them to apply their experience to quickly solving immediate problems and identifying any issues that may not have been apparent to leaseholders. It also provides all the information they need to begin planning holistically to minimise the risk of future problems.
Structural work to repair the longstanding water ingress problem, which was identified as being caused by cracked downpipes, finally stopped the leaks. Attention was then turned to problems with lifts, with £35K spent to overhaul three obsolete passenger units and overhaul the 2 car lifts to meet building regulations.
Whilst the foyer and public areas were treated to a major makeover, transforming previously drab areas into light, welcoming spaces featuring a bespoke artwork depicting Manchester’s skyline.
All carried out with regular meetings with the RMC to discuss issues and plans, whilst presenting a quarterly spend against forecast report – a standard part of the urbanbubble communication promise.
The urbanbubble benefit
By introducing Gillian, a Building Services Assistant (BSA) to the Wentwood, many of the issues affecting the development such as litter in public areas and security problems were solved. With Gillian acting not just as concierge and caretaker but also urbanbubble’s onsite representative with leaseholders, residents and managing agent, the community became cohesive once again and incidents of anti-social behaviour were virtually eliminated. Using her dedication to sorting out the problems faced by residents, she quickly polished off problems like litter and vandalism, whilst ensuring public areas were kept as good as new through daily inspections and a tailored cleaning schedule.
Money recouped from the previous agent was used to fund the refurbishment work initially identified, whilst other outgoings such as security and lift maintenance contracts were renegotiated to create further savings that were also ploughed back into the development.
Further savings were negotiated with the building’s insurers, who reduced the cover from £42K to £30K per annum in the first renewal as a result of repair works carried out to finally solve the long-term water ingress issues.
Result? A reduction in service charges by 15% in year one which increased to 20% in year two, all with enhanced service and improved surroundings making The Wentwood a better place to live all round.
Proving that for leaseholders who are fighting for better service and lower monthly service charges, the battle’s easy to win with urbanbubble on your side.
“With a new managing agent in place who really looks after the place, I know my investment’s being protected.”
Richard Sproston, The Wentwood RMC Director
“Things have really changed for the better here over the last few years. The Wentwood’s always kept clean and tidy and the recent decoration really brightened the place up.”
Thomas Walski – The Wentwood resident
“We’re all busy people and as a Director of the RMC, I really appreciate how much urbanbubble share the load and the fact their Buildings Manager is always available for a chat about any problems in the building.”
Joanne Shepard, The Wentwood Director