Three ways an estate manager can improve relationships with the local municipality
How to uphold quality service19th Aug 2021
As your estate’s most important external stakeholder the local municipality holds huge sway, so developing and maintaining good relationships with them is imperative.
The relationship between a local municipality and property developer usually starts of pretty rosy. Fuelled by a desire to do some good in the local community, both parties tend to agree to a service agreement early on, which outlines the responsibility of each side when it comes to things like the installation of bulk services.
Things begin to unravel when the agreement ends, usually after construction is complete and the developer hands control over to the estate manager. The municipality is now not contractually obligated to provide the same standard and quality of service, which can become problematic.
‘It is not their intention to not assist,’ says Hannes Hendriks, Community Association Manager at Pecanwood Estate in Hartbeespoort and Chairperson of the Residential Communities Council (RCC). ‘I have had the opportunity of work within a municipality at the top management level, and understand their frustrations and challenges, as well as their roles and responsibilities. In my view, a municipality is as good as you allow them to be – you just need to work on those relationships,’ he continues.
1. Start talking
In the property market, good communication allows you to foster better relationships, which can go a long way in an industry where who you know often trumps what you know.
Hendriks suggests estate mangers should start by implementing an action plan to ensure that regular contact is made with the municipality and that these relationship are maintained and strengthened over time.
‘Remember, that you cannot expect the municipality to attend to a problem, if you haven’t brought it to their attention,’ he says.
Create an open channel of communication by inviting the mayor, municipal manager, and councillors to an annual meeting at the estate where you can brief them on the status of various infrastructure projects and request their assistance where needed.
Small things like enrolling municipal staff on the access and egress system so they can obtain easy access to the estate are simple but effective ways of making them feel welcomed.
2. Don’t expect an easy ride
Don’t expect a path of least resistance now that you have an open line of communication. Everything a municipality does is underpinned by the Integrated Development Plan (IDP) and unfortunately everyone, including estate managers, need to follow the normal processing channels when it comes to things like lodging a complaint regarding service delivery, for example.
Estate managers should still expect to face challenges and delays when getting approval of development plans and obtain building plan approvals.
‘A big challenge faced by estate managers is getting approval for changes to a property. When you change a commercial building into a common area for example, you not only change the property category but also the property value, so this can take time,’ explains Hendriks.
Pick your battles wisely and know when to sit back and let the proper processes take their course.
3. Give and take
A healthy relationship swings both ways so expect to give something in return.
‘In most cases a local municipality will take longer to respond to emergency repairs such as water leaks and electrical outages by appointing an external contractor,’ explains Hendriks.
This can be a timely exercise and sometimes costly too but if an estate can utilise their network of trusted contractors to do the work quickly then this can benefit both sides.
An offer of assistance doesn’t have to be financial either. ‘Just remembering to acknowledge individuals that have gone the extra mile to help you and treating municipal staff with respect goes along way too,’ concludes Hendriks.