Some of the industry’s leading bodies including the Leasehold Advisory Service (“LEASE”) have collaboratively produced a guide aimed to assist those seeking to appoint a new managing agent to make their decision and obtain a good understanding of the way in which a prospective agent operates. This guide includes a comprehensive checklist of possible questions to ask prospective managing agents. Here are these questions in the order they appear in the guide alongside our answers:
1. Please provide all relevant company details.
Company Name: Redwood Estate Management Limited (09587653)
Redwood Estates (UK) Limited (05383537)
Registered Office: 550 Valley Road, Basford, Nottingham, NG5 1JJ
2. Company details
Redwood’s offices are based at Woolwich’s Royal Arsenal providing excellent access across London, especially the South and East. Our proximity to the developments under our care and a high staff-to-development ratio means that we visit every development regularly and with the time to proactively and thoroughly manage maintenance and contractors as well as meaningfully meeting with clients and residents.
3. How many years have you been in the property management business?
Redwood has been involved in property management since 2005 where the company was setup with a view to changing the way in which property management was delivered. We had experienced great frustration personally with other agents, having owned and lived in leasehold properties for both personal and investment purposes. In turn, we slowly took over all aspects of the delivery of our own property services; firstly, letting and managing individual properties and then managing the greater associated blocks and estates before then becoming an independent services provider, acting for other parties. Over the last two decades, we have built considerable first-hand experience managing one of the most diverse portfolios in the country and in 2015, Redwood Estate Management Limited was incorporated in order to legally separate the Block Management and Estate Agency elements of the business, although both firms share common Directors and offices.
4. What does our portfolio look like?
Redwood manage developments in South East London, and these developments contain anywhere from tens to hundreds of homes. We have built considerable first-hand experience managing a diverse range of developments containing a variety of apartments, houses and commercial premises, from contemporary modern to historically listed, and demised and occupied under a mixture of tenures. We have also developed a reputation as problem solvers, having successfully turned around a number of developments that have suffered neglect in the hands of others.
5. Do you supply references?
When we receive any request for contact with one of our clients, we would always seek their permission first out of courtesy and to comply with General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR). We are delighted to approach members of other developments under our care if required to do so, however as it would be intrusive for us to approach our valued clients constantly, we will only do so once a potential client has a full understanding of our services and a genuine intention of appointing us.
6. What is your fee structure?
In accordance with industry best practice and the 3rd edition of the RICS Service Charge Residential Management Code, our management fee is structured on a ‘per unit - per annum’ fixed fee basis, inclusive of all day to day management of the development. Our fee includes services such as preparation of draft accounts, postage and other administrative duties which many of our competitors charge extra for. We will be pleased to provide a fully transparent fee quotation following appraisal of the development.
7. Will your fees carry VAT?
Redwood is VAT registered and accordingly our fees carry VAT. Our service charge estimates, and client reporting will always include the VAT payable on any services so the VAT element never comes as a surprise add on. Our VAT registration number is 229981366.
8.Can you offer a quality service at a fair cost?
Our approach to property management is different and we have become the first-choice in South-East London for those looking for a truly customer focused service alongside honesty, transparency and value for money. Redwood was setup with a view to changing the way in which property management was delivered following the great frustration experienced with other agents. Through our hands-on approach, frequent local presence and a prompt personal service; both the estate & letting agency; and block management arms of the business, grew organically and entirely through personal recommendation to encompass many hundreds of properties, the vast majority of which we still work alongside today.
Our approach is recognised independently by the industry as demonstrated by our lettings department. We are ‘Gold Winners’ at the British Property Awards 2018-2019 -2019-2020 and 2020-2021. Our customers have also recognised our service excellence through our Trustpilot ‘Excellent’ 5 star status where we hold a rating of 4.8 / 5 or 96%. The ethos that first made us successful remains at the core of everything that we do: our focus on customer service; a regular presence at every development; and a transparent and common-sense approach to management and maintenance.
We place an incredibly strong emphasis on effective communication, continuity of the person managing each development, making clear and realistic promises and most importantly keeping them. We believe that our business has a positive effect on much more than just a well-maintained living environment. We are more than just a managing agent looking after communal areas; we engage and encourage our developments to be great communities that people love to live in. Now in our second decade of operation, we have built considerable first-hand experience managing a diverse range of developments containing a variety of apartments, houses and commercial premises, from contemporary modern to historically listed, and demised and occupied under a mixture of tenures. We have amassed a tremendous wealth of expertise and experience, managing this diverse portfolio and have undertaken some of the most technically complex and challenging projects in the UK.
We have also developed a reputation as problem solvers, having successfully turned around a number of developments that have suffered neglect in the hands of others - We understand that every client has specific needs. We do not believe in a ‘one-size fits all’ approach; we are adaptive and take great care to ensure that our service matches our customers’ requirements. We know how important clear and effective communication is and build meaningful and trusting professional relationships with our clients and customers. We have built an exceptional reputation for providing an honest, friendly and professional service and regularly receive feedback from our clients and customers who tell us that Redwood provide “a breath of fresh air” compared to our competitors.
Redwood provide a highly personal and bespoke service that is both professional and tailored to the individual needs of each and every client. We operate with a friendly, honest and transparent approach and you know that if we promise to do something, it will be done; and what’s more it will be done when we agreed it would be. We operate with no conflicts of interest whatsoever, so you always know we’ve only got your best interests in mind. Our Estate Managers share the philosophies of the company founders and are instilled with the ethos of treating client monies as if they were their own. This means only the best quality services are procured, at the best possible price. Our structure means that we have a far greater staff-to-development ratio than the industry average, so we always have time to address matters as they arise, to attend site regularly and for meaningful communication to occur. Communication is the key to great service. We operate with quick response times whether contact is made online, by phone or in person and because our Estate Managers look after smaller portfolios than most, we’ve always got time to talk matters through and take action straight away when required. What’s more your Estate Manager is involved in every element of our service delivery so they can usually handle any enquiry straight away, and you will never be passed from department to department. We operate an innovative and transparent tenant portal that is user friendly and makes sharing information easy, and we provide an out-of-hours emergency response service so contact can always be made.
Financial matters are handled with complete professionalism and expertise. Budgets and accounts are produced promptly and intelligently, expenditure versus budget is monitored regularly, a full range of bespoke client financial reporting is available at the push of a button and a wide spectrum of payment options are available to all customers. Redwood operate with industry-leading low levels of arrears due to high service standards and an efficient but sympathetic debt recovery program. All funds are held in trustee status accounts. Our internal structures, systems and procedures meet, and indeed exceed, all requirements of industry regulators, memberships, best practices and statutory obligations and this ensures a first-rate service is delivered consistently alongside complete compliance with legislation and management codes, and comprehensive mitigation of client’ liabilities. Redwood are Associate Members of ARMA and adhere strictly their bye-laws and the RICS Service Charge Residential Code (3rd Edition) approved by the Secretary of State, which is used as the benchmark of best practice and legislative compliance within the sector. We also provide government backed independent consumer redress through the Property Redress Scheme which is approved by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT).
Our estates staff are required to be qualified through the Institute of Residential Property Managers (IRPM) and/or RICS and we have a Fellow and former Director of IRPM amongst the team who has been commended after helping to greatly improve standards throughout the industry as-a-whole over recent years. Accounting staff are AAT qualified.
We hold comprehensive levels of public liability and professional indemnity insurance and we operate industry-leading software and processes to ensure high levels of efficiency and professionalism.
Redwood truly offer the complete management package. Property professionals that deliver an exceptional and compliant service, high quality maintenance, careful financial control, clear communication, qualified and experienced staff and happy customers.
9. How comprehensive a panel of contractors do you have?
We have a large base of tried and tested local contractors that we work closely with to provide services to our developments. As detailed further in Q11 below, all of Redwood’s contractors are local and completely independent and unconnected to Redwood. This means that high quality services can be procured objectively, transparently, and with demonstrable value for money. No conflict of interest exists and what we pay is what you pay. Our panel of contractors cover all aspects of property maintenance across our diverse portfolio. With decades of experience, there is very little that we have not encountered before and in turn, we have the right contractors ready and waiting to tackle any task swiftly and professionally.
10. Do you charge a fee for contractor selection and/or a percentage of their charges: 1. Contractors chosen by you? 2. Contractors chosen by us?
We do not charge any fees for contractor selection, whether chosen by you or us. We believe it is of paramount importance that we avoid conflicts-of-interest occurring and as such, absolutely no incentives or commissions are taken from any contractor that we use. We would also highlight that we do not operate any associated companies or in-house labour that provide maintenance services to our developments. The role of the managing agent is to obtain best value for money and best quality service on behalf of their client; we can only objectively do this by remaining completely independent.
11. What selection criteria do you use for contractors on your panels?
Redwood’s service is designed to procure the best quality services and the best value for money at all times. A key element to succeeding with this is for us to remain independent managers of all contractors, avoiding any potential conflict of interest. We operate no associated companies or in-house facilities management and have a strict policy of taking no commissions or incentives from any contractors, whether as a company or on a personal level. As such, any contractor working for us and you, gets awarded the job based on competence and value alone. Another key to best quality and best value is to keep it local. We ‘approve’ independent local contractors who provide a great quality tried-and-tested service and who don’t have to travel to far – which is often a reason for increased costs. Many of our contractors go above and beyond the required job specification and we are proud to have positive working relationships with local businesses that really care about their (and our) clients. We pay our contractors promptly when they’ve done a great job and in turn, we often get preferential treatment when we need a favour or when an emergency presents itself. Our quality assurance procedures ensure that client liability in respect of health and safety and compliance matters are mitigated and we work with our contractors to ensure that their approach to health and safety, public liability and professional indemnity meets industry best practice. We work in conjunction with CHAS and Safe Contractor National schemes where applicable, but still undertake our own additional due diligence. Although we have high standards, we are always keen to welcome new contractors, particularly where they are already performing well at a site Redwood take over, or where original manufacturers or installers understanding of a specific installation is beneficial. Our standard practice is to competitively tender longer-term or higher value contracts, regardless of any need for statutory consultation. This aids the provision of demonstrable and transparent best quality and value at all times. Detailed specifications are compiled where required, to ensure quoted prices are comparable on a like-for-like basis and ultimately the specification provides quantifiable recourse should a contractor ever fail to meet expectations, however this is rarely the case.
12. How often does a representative from your company visit blocks that you manage and check on how your contractors fulfil their obligations?
We only provide services to local developments and accordingly we are always on hand. We visit every development under our care monthly for a thorough site check,
and considerably more often when necessary, for example, when projects are in hand.
We carry out regular, pro-active site inspections to identify necessary repairs, check on works progress and optimise the performance of contractors. During site visits, we are always pleased to meet with residents, resident’s associations, any site-based staff and the client as required. Following site visits, feedback is provided in regard to any issues detected; and they are proactively handled in accordance with client instructions.
A health and safety assessment is conducted during each scheduled visit in order to ensure that statutory requirements in respect of health, safety and the environment are consistently met and all risks mitigated thereafter. One of our core working practices is continuity of staffing so that familiarity with every development under our care is exceptionally high, alongside continuity to our customers.
13. What IT facilities do you have and what information can you keep updated? Are you registered under the data protection act?
Redwood use a bespoke management system called Propman and Fixflo which handles the administration of all financial, maintenance and diary related processes. For example, the system is utilised from logging an initial enquiry, to investigating the repair, creating the specification, selecting a contractor, producing the works order, administering purchase ledger, checking work against specification and signing off contractor payment. Propman and Fixflo aids constant tracking of expenditure vs budget and is also used to produce draft year-end and interim accounts. As the same software is used to handle practical, financial and diary related matters, the integration of all aspects of day to day property management is seamless. This eliminates the chances of human errors occurring or steps in a process being missed. The system is setup so that once correspondence, a file note, or a call is logged, it cannot be altered or deleted. All incoming and outgoing written correspondence with contractors, leaseholders and the client is recorded in full. Information is referenced against the development and the individuals or companies concerned so that it is always easy and quick to retrieve.
We record detailed information on Propman and Fixflo for every development that we manage. For example, we use the system to record registers of assets and hazards, risk assessments, plans and development layouts, preferred contractors and their accreditation record, utility companies and meter locations, access codes, contact information for each leaseholder alongside any sub-tenants and letting agents, management company information and any other site specific-details as required.
We retain a full transaction history of payments and charges for each leaseholder, alongside debtor and creditor reconciliations, purchase and sales ledgers, current and reserve fund balances. Every invoice, statement, or item of correspondence is scanned and saved so that it can be reproduced easily at the push of a button. Our software can produce a wide range of bespoke financial management reports to suit any clients’ needs and provide a concise overview of the key points of management in a clear and consistent manner. Every action taken is recorded, creating an audit trail that can used to settle any dispute that may arise.
- Our ‘Residents Portal’ is a modern, effective and user-friendly way to share information 24 hours a day. The portal is linked to our management software so that information can be seamlessly shared and updated. Once logged in, customers can then:
- See and update personal and contact information held on their profile page, see a personal account page containing service charge account balances, payment history and invoices.
- Access development specific announcement boards.
- Access site-specific documents & information such as a range of financial, management company and site-specific documentation.
Redwood are General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) compliant data controllers, registered with the Information Commissioners Office under registration number ZA226188. All records are stored electronically and backed-up on a daily basis and personal data is only kept for as long as we are legally required to, and then disposed of securely in accordance with GDPR requirements.
14. Where and how do you keep service charge monies, and how are they administered and who receives any interest?
All service charge funds are held entirely separately from that of any other client in an individual trustee status client account containing the name of the development. All client monies are safely ring-fenced with statutory protection via the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) in accordance with RICS guidelines and in complete compliance with S42 of the Landlord & Tenant Act 1987. This means that these funds could never be claimed by the bank to offset the liabilities of Redwood as a company and that all monies are held entirely separately from that of other clients, mitigating any scope for banking errors. Dedicated trustee status ‘interest earning’ accounts are setup for reserve funds where the potential income from interest is beneficial. All interest earned by any client account is credited in full to the respective service charge fund.
15. Can you supply an example of the format of financial information you will use for our block?
We offer flexible reporting methods to keep you in the loop as little or often as is preferred; and can simply send the required information electronically or hold face to face meetings for discussion and explanation. Our software can produce a wide range of bespoke financial management reports to suit any clients’ needs and provide a concise overview of the key points of management in a clear and consistent manner. What’s more, we can provide the information in range of formats according to personal preference and accounting proficiency for ease of understanding.
Typically, the reports we produce regularly for our clients include the below:
- Annual service charge and the amount billed in the current financial year
- Actual expenditure vs budget
- Arrears report broken down by age
- Service Charge and Reserve Fund Balances
- Creditor Details
There are many more options to extract specific information by date and category, for example, say we wanted to see all expenditure with one contractor over a two-year period – no problem.
16. How do you deal with unpaid service charges – what procedures are in place to deal with non-paying lessees?
Redwood operate with an incredibly low level of service charge arrears and take a firm but fair approach to debt collection and financial management in the interests of fairness to all residents. Our credit control process involves a series of three reminder letters, instigated shortly after payment is due and sent two to three weeks apart from each other. Following the final reminder, notice is sent to the client to approve further action and the case is passed to our specialist-in-leasehold service charge recovery solicitors who operate at no cost to the client under normal circumstances. A notice of intention to file a County Court claim is issued to the debtor with court summons usually following within two months. Following judgment, funds can be recovered from mortgage lenders or the customer directly. We would also add that we generally have happy customers with no reason not to pay and also that we make it easy for our customers to pay. As such, we operate with low levels of credit control enforcement required. In addition, we would highlight the fact that consideration is always given to genuine extenuating circumstances where alternative payment plans or more lenient approaches may be taken, particularly when dealing with vulnerable sectors of society.
17. How do you deal with lessees in breach of their leases?
Redwood’s preference is to take a firm approach to breaches of the lease, however we will always act in accordance with client instructions. Breaches of the lease often create situations that are detrimental to other leaseholders’ quiet enjoyment of their homes or to the desirability of the development as a whole. Redwood therefore take great care to ensure that breaches are identified efficiently and tackled firmly but with a high degree of diplomacy when required.
Often minor matters can be handled with a friendly conversation, however major or recurring breaches are handled effectively and with professionalism to ensure the breach ceases to occur. In general terms, our process for serious or recurring breaches of the lease is as follows:
- Monitor and record non-compliance with the covenants of the lease on an ongoing basis, including recording and completing site visit inspections
- Take reasonable steps to check the reliability of the relevant facts relating to a breach of the lease and obtain evidence, if possible to do so
- Bring the breach to the offending leaseholders’ attention and educate them on what is acceptable under the terms of the lease and any estate regulations
- Bring the matter to the client’s attention and advise of any known implications and whether legal advice should be sought. Seek client instructions (if not provided beforehand) as to enforcement action
- Facilitate any action that the client has instructed until the breach is remedied. This typically follows the path of: Warning letters sent to the leaseholder(s) and sub-tenants if applicable
- Follow up letters sent stating legal enforcement to follow
- Letter of intent for legal or tribunal action sent
- Mortgage lender informed if applicable
- Instigation of legal or tribunal proceedings
- Recover costs as applicable
18. How do you deal with complaints?
It is unusual for Redwood to receive a formal complaint as we work incredibly hard to ensure that we have genuinely happy customers. We accept that sometimes things can go wrong, but also believe that the manner in which a problem is handled can define exceptional customer service and we are always pleased than when we are complemented on our handling of a difficult situation. We publish a comprehensive and escalatory complaints procedure that ensures fair and objective treatment of any formal complaint and includes review by senior members of the company, not directly involved in the complaint made. Redwood offer free independent redress through the Property Redress Scheme (PRS), who are empowered to make legally binding awards of up to £25,000. The PRS consider complaints where the complainant remains dissatisfied following the final outcome of a member company’s internal complaints procedure.
19. Do you offer an out of hours’ service for emergencies? If so, please provide details.
Yes, we do. After-hours calls will be redirected to a dedicated answering service. Your message will automatically be sent to the duty manager, who will respond accordingly.
20. What length of notice period do you require?
Our management agreement lasts for an initial period of twelve months, terminable by written notice of three calendar months, effective on or after the initial twelve-month period, i.e. three months’ notice can be given at nine months, so our contract ends at twelve months. Our terms of business provide for a rolling contract in the absence of notice being given, so the administration of contract renewals is not required.
21. Staff we are likely to liaise with and their qualifications.
Every development that we manage is assigned an Estate Manager, Estate Coordinator and Management Accountant. Each staff member is a named individual that can be directly contacted by each resident. Our Estate Managers & Coordinators are the primary point of contact for each development and they work hard to develop meaningful relationships and to acquire a high degree of working familiarity with the developments under their care. Our Management Accountants control all financial matters for the development (although clearly matters such as budget planning require input from both Estates & Accounting staff). The Management Accountant monitors expenditure vs budget and expenditure allocation on a daily basis so that spending is controlled within the budget or re-planned should any unforeseen situations occur. They will also handle credit control functions and prepare draft accounts ahead of annual Audit or Certification.
- Your Estate Manager will be qualified through the IRPM and/or RICS.
- Your Estate Coordinator will be qualified through, or actively working towards qualification, through the IRPM and/or RICS.
- Your Management Accountants will be qualified through the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT), or a credible alternative.
Redwood’s management team take a very hands-on approach to the management of our developments and it is not uncommon to encounter our principal staff inspecting our developments to ensure high standards are always maintained. You can also expect to receive their personal attention when we take on the management of a new development or when more complex matters arise. Redwood are proud to employ some of the most qualified and experienced individuals in the UK sector.
22. How do you communicate with residents?
Our software can produce a wide range of bespoke management reports to suit any clients’ needs and provide a concise overview of the key points of management in a clear and consistent manner. Every action taken is recorded, creating an audit trail that can used to settle any dispute that may arise. Our ‘Residents Portal’ is a modern, effective and user-friendly way to share information 24 hours a day. The portal is linked to our management software so that information can be seamlessly shared and updated.
23. List any professional or trade bodies to which your firm belongs.
Redwood are Associate Members of ARMA and adhere strictly their bye-laws and the RICS Service Charge Residential Code (3rd Edition) approved by the Secretary of State, which is used as the benchmark of best practice and legislative compliance within the sector. We are members of the Property Redress Scheme (PRS) which has been approved by the Office of Fair Trading to provide independent redress should it be required by the customer, and all Redwood customers have free access to this service.
We work alongside the Contractors Health & Safety Scheme (CHAS), Safe Contractor and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) as part of our contractor accreditation policy and our commitment to ensure every development under our care is safely maintained.
24. Provide full details of your professional indemnity insurance.
Redwood’s professional indemnity policy is held with QBE with a current limit of indemnity of up to £2 million for any single claim. The limit of indemnity on this flexible policy can easily be increased should any development under our management warrant this. In compliance with the Employers Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act 1969 we hold Employers Liability cover for no less than 10 million as a stand alone policy and further Employers Liability and Public Liability within our general office policy covering the activities of the business. We are more than happy to provide copies of all insurances upon request.
25. Provide proof of your financial probity.
Redwood Estate Management Limited’s company accounts are freely available at Companies House or by request, and these clearly demonstrate our internal financial probity. Our financial and accounting procedures not only comply fully with, but also exceed the requirements the ARMA membership and the 3rd edition of the RICS Service Charge Residential Management Code, notably including client money protection and independent redress.
26. Provide a copy of any standard contract you use.
Redwood use a ‘plain English’ management agreement model, endorsed by leading bodies in the sector. Our management agreement is designed to be easy to understand and clear in respect of the service and fee levels agreed, please contact us for a specimen agreement.