While transparency is important in the full range of services provided by a property factor, it is essential for building trust in financial matters. Homeowners should be confident that they know what they are being asked to pay for, how the charges were calculated and that no improper payment requests are included on any financial statements/bills. If a property factor does not charge for services, the sections on finance and debt recovery do not apply.
3.2 The overriding objectives of this section are to ensure property factors:
- protect homeowners’ funds;
- provide clarity and transparency for homeowners in all accounting procedures undertaken by the property factor;
- make a clear distinction between homeowners’ funds, for example a sinking or reserve fund, payment for works in advance or a float or deposit and a property factor’s own funds and fee income.
3.3 All property factors should be aware of the threat of money laundering and must comply with all relevant legislation and guidance to minimise the risk that they and their business will be used to launder the proceeds of crime.
3.4 A property factor must provide to homeowners, in writing at least once a year (whether as part of billing arrangements or otherwise), a detailed financial statement showing a breakdown of charges made and a detailed description of the activities and works carried out which are charged for.
3.5 If homeowners decide to terminate their arrangement after following the procedures laid down in the title deeds or in legislation, or the property factor decides to terminate the arrangement, a property factor must make the financial information that relates to their account available to the homeowners. This information must be provided within 3 months of termination of the arrangement unless there is a good reason not to (for example, awaiting final bills relating to contracts which were in place for works and services).
3.6 Unless the title deeds specify otherwise, a property factor must return all funds due to homeowners (less any outstanding debts) automatically at the point of settlement of final bill, following a change of property factor.
3.7 In cases where a property changes ownership, the property factor must confirm the process for repaying any funds that are due and presenting the final financial information relating to the account. This must be provided within 3 months of the property factor being made aware of the actual date of change in ownership (the date of settlement) unless there is a good reason not to (for example, awaiting final bills relating to contracts which were in place for works and services or the property factor has not been provided with the specified period of notice informing them of the change in ownership).
3.8 A property factor must have procedures for dealing with payments made in advance by homeowners, in cases where the homeowner requires a refund or needs to transfer his, her or their share of the funds (for example, on the sale of the property).
In order to protect homeowner funds, if the property factor is a housing association or a local authority:
3.9 Homeowners’ floating funds must be accounted for separately from the property factor’s own funds, whether through coding arrangements or through one or more separate bank accounts.
3.10 In situations where a sinking or reserve fund is arranged as part of the service to homeowners, an interest-bearing account or accounting structure must be used for each separate group of homeowners.
All other property factors:
3.11 Homeowners’ floating funds must be held in a separate account from the property factor’s own funds. This can either be one account for all its homeowner clients or separate accounts for each homeowner or group of homeowners.
3.12 In situations where a sinking or reserve fund is arranged as part of the service to homeowners, an interest-bearing account must be opened in the name of each separate group of homeowners. A property factor must only transfer funds from one such account to another in line with the arrangements in any agreement with homeowners to do so.