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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 January 2008, 12:49 GMT
Scotland's Property Nightmare
BBC Scotland's Investigations Unit has been looking at the problems property owners are facing with their factors and property managers.

Govan Law Centre's principal solicitor Mike Dailly, who appears in the Scotland's Property Nightmare programme on Wednesday, has put together this guide about how to sort out any problems with your factor.


If you are unhappy with a property factor's bill - for example, you do not believe work to a satisfactory standard was carried out - you may want to ask for a copy of the detailed invoices for repairs undertaken by the contractors to check exactly what work was done and how it was costed.

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Your factor should have a complaints procedure which you can ask for a copy of.

You can use any complaints procedure if you are generally unhappy with the quality of service provided by your factor.

If that procedure fails to resolve the problem, you may be able to complain directly to the Property Managers Association Scotland Limited (PMAS) - but only if your factor is a member of PMAS.

PMAS operates a voluntary Code of Practice available at www.pmas.org.uk/codeofpractice.asp.

However, if your factor is not a member of PMAS, it may not have a complaints procedure at all.

Ultimately, if you remain unsatisfied with the level of service, you can always pay your bill under protest and consider raising a small claims action for a refund as well as seeking a small award for any inconvenience.

You should contact a solicitor, law centre or Citizens Advice Bureau before doing so. You may be eligible for free advice.

Replacing your factor?

If you remain unhappy with your factor, your ultimate remedy may be to replace them with someone better.

Ask around to identify a good factor or contact other factors to give you a quote and summary of their services before picking the best one.

Your title deeds may contain rules on how to appoint and replace your factor. You should check to see whether this can be done by a majority decision or otherwise.

If so, you can call a meeting of owners and put together a simple letter along the following lines:

Neil and Andrea
Neil and Andrea sacked their factor but still owe almost 8,000

  • We, the owners of the property known as X, met on Y date and resolved to terminate your appointment as property factor in terms of our title deeds. This decision is effective forthwith.
  • Make sure the necessary number of owners sign this; make a photocopy and send the original to your factor by recorded delivery post.

    If your title deeds do not make provision for replacing your factor - for example because they are silent on this issue - do not worry. Section 4 of the Tenements (Scotland) Act 2004 provides a default position so you can make decisions about your property.

    Rule 3 of the Tenement Management Scheme may entitle you to make a majority decision to dismiss your factor and make a new appointment.

    If the 2004 Act applies, you can call a meeting of the owners and put together a letter along the following lines:

  • We, the owners of the property known as X, met on Y date and resolved to terminate your appointment as property factor in terms of the Tenements (Scotland) Act 2004. This decision is effective forthwith.
  • Make sure a majority of owners consent to this course of action and sign this letter - make a photocopy and send the original to your factor by recorded delivery post.

    Remember - either your title deeds or the 2004 Act will give you the legal right to terminate your factor's appointment.

    Unfair charges?

    Some property factors in Scotland charge up to 17.62 per reminder letter. Those companies often issue these letters several times each month resulting in charges far in excess of their monthly management fee.

    This is in addition to high rate of commercial compound interest on any balance due.

    The Office of Fair Trading has, on many occasions, used its powers to rule such charges as legally unfair under the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contract Regulations 1999 (UTCCR).

    Mike Dailly
    It's like a licence that they have to print money
    Mike Dailly
    Principal solicitor, Govan Law Centre

    Your local Trading Standards department, part of your local council, has powers under the UTCCR to bring proceedings against a property factor for unfair and sharp practices in the sheriff court.

    Some Trading Standards departments in the UK have been successful in persuading the court to hold charges as unlawful. If you have had to pay unfair charges you should ask for a refund.

    If you cannot remember how many charges have been applied over the years, you can send a Data Protection Act (DPA) letter to get this information from your factor, covering the past five years.

    Sending a cheque for 10 (the maximum fee under the DPA) will activate this request. Your factor has a maximum of 40 days to comply, failing which you can complain to the Information Commissioner, who can take enforcement action.

    You should ask your local council to use their powers under the UTCCR to target charges you believe are unfair. Free template letters to establish what you have been paying are available at Govan Law Centre's www.factorcharges.info.

    Debt problems?

    If you're in arrears with your factor you can get free help from a local money advice agency or Citizens Advice Bureau to work out a reasonable repayment plan.

    Remember to check whether some of the debt can be written off as unfair penalty charges.

    If your factor raises an action for payment at the sheriff court, do not ignore this.

    You can make a time to pay application under the Debtors (Scotland) Act 1987 or use the Debt Arrangement Scheme to set up a reasonable repayment plan if you have other debts.

    Information provided by Mike Dailly, principal solicitor at the Govan Law Centre, Glasgow. Further free information and advice can be found at www.factorcharges.info and www.govanlc.com

    Scotland's Property Nightmare will be broadcast on BBC One Scotland at 2030 GMT on Wednesday 9 January (Digital Satellite channel 971).

    You can discuss the issues raised in the programme on the Facebook group 'Scotland's Clever Consumers'.



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