Is Owner Always to Blame?
One of the main issues discussions of apartment building (AB) management are focused on is ensuring a parity of responsibility between service consumers and providers. In the context of a whole bunch of contradictions between provisions of the Housing Code, the Civil Code and legal precedents, speaker Svetlana Razvorotneva, Executive Director of the NP ZHKKh Kontrol National Center of Public Control in Field of Public Utilities, suggested taking the following steps above all: to define a list of mandatory works and new requirements for AB technical maintenance; to introduce an economically justified methodology for computing apartment building communal property maintenance charges; to work out package offers of services for owners such as Economy, Comfort and Premium; to simplify the procedure of organizing general meetings of relatives.
In his speech Sergey Kupchenko, a Member of the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly, emphasized the closed nature of many management companies where questions of consumers are never answered:
“All our legislative regulations, all our requirements and work are brought to naught, because when a literate person addresses such an organization, they face the militant incompetence of its executives. To solve questions one need to address the State Housing Inspectorate where the issue is treated for several months, while a consumer in vain hope waits for their opinion to be taken into account, reasons of rate increase to be explained, or a meeting with specialists that can provide explanations to take place.”
Irina Gentsler, Urban Economy Director of the Institute for Urban Economics Foundation, expressed the opinion that a perfect world landscape where each AB resident could be an expert in housing was impossible to reach, since our society was moving along the way of specialization. “If we reflect on professionalism of today’s management companies, it’s just lacking. As for those in need of further training, it’s qualification of management companies that requires improvement,” the speaker says. “It’s definitely a useful and necessary thing to enlighten consumers providing them with knowledge of the basics, but one should not forget that currently AB residents are absolutely helpless in the face of management companies, and this problem needs to be solved in the first instance.”
Irina Gentsler’s opinion was supported by the next speaker – Alexander Kozlov, Head of the Literate Consumer School project, who specified that we need to strive for having “qualified customers” among consumers while simultaneously increasing a level of professionalism in management organizations.
Yury Kuzin, Deputy Head of the State Housing Inspectorate – Assistant of Chief State Housing Inspector of St. Petersburg, represented the third party – a controlling authority that needs to protect consumer rights. The speaker drew attention to the fact that the main reason of conflicts between management companies and AB residents is inflated expectations of consumers caused by their unfamiliarity with the market of services and the volume of collected funds. According to Yury Kuzin, this year the Inspectorate has received about 7,000 applications, while only 10% of them (700 claims) actually contained some evidence of incorrect rate calculations of the MC.
Sergey Khodkov, Head of the Department for Work with Management Companies of the St. Petersburg Housing Committee, highlighted problems related to the use of GIS ZHKH system, such as the fact that the amendments to the Housing Code approved in summer 2020 had not been introduced to the program yet; the program interface was difficult to use; some operations required too much time, and sometimes the system simply failed to detect data or roles of participants.
Kirill Pishchalnikov, Head and host of the Telecourier TV Program, Channel 78, St. Petersburg, and Dmitry Nifontov, Board Member of the Regional Civic Organization Nash Dom Na Neve, lawyer, turned to discussing a negative influence of myths about public utilities that still exist and often result in unjustified claims of consumers. Meanwhile, it should not be forgotten that there is a strong fear among management companies that more literate consumers would reject their services, so MCs are not interested in increasing information awareness.
Alexander Evseev, Chairman of the Association Councils of Houses of the Udmurt Republic, a social organization of public utility service consumers, Chairman of the Commission for Environment, Public Utility and Territory Development of the Udmurt Republic, excluded governmentalization or monopolization from a list of possible solutions in field of AB management. Efforts of the state policy and management companies, according to the speaker, should be aimed at explaining the system of structure interaction in field of public utilities to consumers.
The animated discussion was also joined by experts: Olga Akatsevich, Chief State Housing Inspector of St. Petersburg; Vladislav Voronkov, Head of the Literate Consumer School in St. Petersburg; Dmitry Zakharov, Director of Housing and Utility Service No. 2 of the Kirovsky District of St. Petersburg; Vera Grobovenko, Chair of the AB Council (Voronezh, Pobedy Avenue, 7) and Olga Frolova, expert of NP ZHKKh Kontrol (Voronezh).
Results of the event were summarized by the moderator – Alla Bredets, Head of Regional Center of Public Control ZHKKh Kontrol, Board Chairperson of the Regional Civic Organization Nash Dom Na Neve.
Gazprombank (Joint Stock Company) served as a sponsor of the online event.
The broadcast is available on the website of the event.