High factoring fees are placing an increasing financial strain on many property owners in Scotland, with some property factoring companies being criticised for huge price rises for what is often only essential basic maintenance and insurance.
The purpose of a factor is to carry out ongoing maintenance, cleaning, and servicing of communal areas in property where there is more than one homeowner, such as the entrance hall and stairs of tenement flats, communal grounds, or lifts.
They’re also responsible for ensuring that the building is insured, and arranging for any emergency repairs or renovation to be carried out. The problem is that property owners are facing large bills, often unexpectedly, for which they have not budgeted, causing what appears to be unnecessary financial hardship.
This type of property maintenance fee, and its provision, is regulated by the Property Factors (Scotland) Act, 2011. The legislation’s purpose is to protect you as a property owner by laying down the obligations of a factoring company, and how the arrangements should work in practice.
A Code of Conduct for Property Factors is included in the legislation, stating the minimum standards that must be met – for example, in how a factor should communicate with homeowners, and how any late payments will be collected.
The factoring company should also provide a written statement detailing their services. So if your factoring fees are now unaffordable, what action can you take?
You need to make a complaint in writing to the factoring company in the first instance, explaining the problem. They should have included the estimated time to deal with a complaint within their contract, so if they take too long in replying, or you’re not satisfied with their reply, you can escalate your complaint.
The next stage is to take your complaint to the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland (Housing and Property Chamber), formerly known as the Homeowners Housing Panel. A further route for appeal is available via the Upper Tribunal for Scotland.
Your title deeds should set out the requirements for changing your property factor. If not, you need to refer to the Tenement Management Scheme, or TMS. The title deeds may state that all homeowners must vote in favour of change, but in practice this requirement is unrealistic, especially in a large development.
In general terms, if two-thirds of homeowners agree that the existing factor should be fired, then this can go ahead. One of the principal requirements to operate as a property factor in Scotland is to be registered in the Register of Property Factors.
It’s worth knowing that if your property factor isn’t registered, they may be guilty of a criminal offence and face a fine of up to £5,000.
High factoring fees, or unexpected bills for servicing and repair of communal areas, can lead to serious financial issues for property owners. If you’re experiencing problems with increasing debt, or need professional advice on how to deal with your current factoring company, our experts at Scotland Debt Solutions can help.
We’ll identify the factor’s obligations to you as a homeowner, establish the best course of action in dealing with unreasonably high fees, and help you avert a financial crisis. Call one of the team to arrange a free same-day meeting in complete confidence – we operate from five offices around Scotland.
The Tenant Hardship Loan Fund is available for individuals facing the risk of eviction as they cannot claim housing benefits or support.
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