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How to find a better building manager – The Australian Financial Review

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Somewhere in there that’s a lot of building facilities managers who are either permanently attached to blocks or share their services among a number of schemes.

So what ingredients go into making a good building manager, bearing in mind that strata managers do all the clerical work such as invoicing, bill paying and the issuing of meeting agendas?

It’s a job that’s hard to define, but combines the same skill sets as a hotel manager and, say, a ship’s engineer.

People skills would be high on the list; dealing with demanding and often uninformed residents is a challenge in itself.

Having a grasp of the technical complexities of a large building and its infrastructure would be paramount.

Understanding not just what tradies do but how they work, and marrying that to the way residents of a building go about their lives requires an acute sense of balance.

Then there’s dealing with the committee – at best, a bunch of enthusiastic amateurs trying to do the right thing; at worst, squabbling power-players for whom winning the argument is more important than getting it right. The reality for most buildings lies somewhere in between.

Not all building managers operate at that level. Some are basically doormen with a list of tradies’ phone numbers. Others, especially in Queensland, live in the building as caretakers.

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Contracts can range from five to 25 years and more, depending on where you live. In Queensland, caretaker contracts are often sold by the developer on terms the owners have no say in negotiating and with no easy way out.

In Victoria, your owners corporation (strata) manager will often bring a building manager along as part of their deal.

In NSW, increasingly, strata management companies also have a building facilities management wing. Strata manager contracts are limited to three years at a time but, again, the building manager’s contract can run for much longer.

The only way to find out how good or bad a building manager is likely to be is by giving them a go. But don’t just take “standard terms” – ask for a trial period and a contract with clearly defined and easily invoked performance indicators and exit clauses.

And negotiate a contract as short as possible. Few of us are on 10-year contracts, let alone 25-year deals. But if your building manager is as good as the best of them are, you’ll be begging for an extension when the time comes.

Jimmy Thomson edits the strata living advice website flat-chat.com.au and produces a weekly podcast called the Flat Chat Wrap. Strata laws vary from state to state.