Coffee Morning on Wednesday 19th July 2017
I would like to begin by extending my thanks to the MQRA for the opportunity to meet and speak with residents last Wednesday (19th July 2017). Bay Estate & letting Agents have been operating in the Maritime Quarter from 1986 (previously, Christopher D’Arcy Estate Agents) and through a long history of letting, property management and sales, we have built up a great affection for the area and its sense of community.
On my way to the Maritime Museum last Wednesday, I was listening to a radio report on how businesses in general have suffered in the eyes of the public due to the media spotlight on cases such as the BHS pensions scandal and working conditions at Sports Direct. An antidote to this loss of confidence is, and always has been, improving customer service. For us, this extends beyond our immediate client base and has always meant being pro-active as much as possible and listening to residents’ concerns so that we can better inform our clients. Despite this, I admit that it is easy to miss some of the wider concerns of residents as we only see a snapshot of Marina life. For that reason, I found this meeting to be extremely eye-opening.
Overseas student tenants
The first part of the discussion focused on the changing nature of the Maritime Quarter in relation to the increase in international student tenants over the last seven years. In our experience, what used to be a market dominated by professional and company lets has been transformed over the years and the overwhelming majority of tenants staying in the Marina now are students. This has been due to the University’s drive for foreign students and seems set to continue with the expansion of the University campus.
Over the last two years, we have experienced an increase in student tenants from Kuwait and Saudi Arabia as well as a continuing trend of tenants from China. Most of the overseas students come with government scholarships and look for two-bedroom properties to share. Traditionally, the Meridian Development and the top half of Trawler Road has been popular and often a first choice for students, particularly Islamic students who feel that there is a safe and supportive community there. However, international student rentals are widespread in the Marina, to the extent that the bulk of our property sales this year have been to investors who recognise the popularity of the Marina among international students and the potential for healthy rents. The majority are good tenants and respectful of their property and surroundings.
Highlighting common problem areas at the start of the tenancy
When issues do arise, they can be as a result of language barriers but also due to a belief that the property can be treated like a hotel, something that is not exclusive to international student tenants. Some residents also raised concerns about tenants incorrectly parking in allocated spaces and causing nuisance by not disposing of rubbish/recycling correctly with particular mention to a duvet being forced down a rubbish chute.
To combat this, tenants are given our Tenant Information – A guide to trouble-free tenancies” handbook, which contains information relating to their property but also the wider community. We have drawn up a three-page introductory letter for new tenants, which forms part of their document signing when they begin a tenancy with us. In this letter, we highlight areas of health and safety, parking regulation and we remind tenants of key clauses within their tenancy agreement, such as not causing nuisance to neighbours and also to treat the property in a “tenant-like” manner.
We give instruction about rubbish disposal and we will look to verify bin store codes for each courtyard so that we can adapt our written instructions to tenants to reflect the correct procedure.
Establishing contact with a property owner
One resident made the point that instructions could be in different languages. That is something that we can look at. At present, we have a maintenance reporting function on our website which tenants are able to access and it will translate into their chosen language.
A main concern amongst residents was communication and establishing a point of contact for a nuisance neighbour. Although it is unlikely they will be able to tell you who the owner is, the management company for the block may be able to write to the leaseholder if there is a breach of the Head lease as a result of the behaviour of the occupant. As discussed, I have provided below a brief guide to which management companies are responsible for which blocks to our knowledge:
- RMG Residential Management Group (caretaker office on Camona Drive) – Trawler Road properties (to include Camona Drive, Abbotsford House, Ambassador House, Empress House, Catrin House, Goose Island, Ferrara Square, Ferrara Quay, Abernethy Square and Abernethy Quay
- CRM Residential – Meridian Development
- First Port – Persimmon Homes Development (St Christophers Court, St Catherines Court, Fishermans Way, St Stephens Court, St Margarets Court)
- Mainstay – Mannheim Quay
- Rowland Jones – Pembroke Buildings
- Gwalia Housing – Cambrian Place & Assembly Rooms
- Aurora – CLC Property Management
If all else fails, you can call in to see us as we may have managed the property in the past or have knowledge of its landlord or rental history. Although we are restricted by data protection laws, we may be able to contact the landlord or tenant directly.
The increase in landlord managed properties
We also discussed concerns that an increasing amount of tenancies were being managed by absentee landlord who could not be reached. As landlords look to save money they are using agents on a Let Only basis and after that the landlord manages the tenancy directly. Although we can still advise the tenant at the outset, the relationship is broken from that point as we may have no further dealings with either party.
If a property is managed by us, we carry out quarterly inspections of the property and any breaches of the tenancy are put in writing to the landlord and the tenant. If a nuisance is reported by a neighbour, we can arrange to meet with the tenant to discuss the matter and in the worst cases, alert the tenant in writing that there is a breach of tenancy which could result in the termination of their tenancy.
Local police involvement
Finally, residents raised concerns about an increase of bonfires and group activity on the seafront promenade. We will do our best to remind our tenants of their civic responsibilities but in some cases there is no alternative but to dial 101 and report an issue to the local police, especially if there is a hint of anything illegal. It is understandable that some residents are reticent or about doing this, as neighbourly disputes can be delicate matters. However, at the very least the police will log the incident and hopefully send representatives to the area. In the long-run, this should increase community awareness and a focus on the Marina, which needs to happen as the area continues to be a popular place to live, visit and invest.
Once again, thank you to the MQRA for sharing their experiences and we will do our best to help ease certain areas of concern by advising tenants and adapting our procedures going forward.
Bay Estate & Letting Agents