As many of us have seen in the news, an outgoing inspection ended in a trip to the ER for a Western Australian property manager last week after she was brutally attacked by a tenant. We thought it prudent for you to make comment on this and raise some awareness on the safety of your team.
Blogger: Hermione Gardiner, business manager, Real+
The relationship between property manager and tenant is usually fairly normal until this last day. On this last day emotions are high both from:
- Stress of packing, cleaning, moving
- Stress of money on the line
- Irate nature if they have been asked to leave or terminated
The property manager:
- Worry of confrontation at vacate
- Uncertainty of how to broach issues with a long-standing tenant whom they have a working relationship with
- A poor attitude of 'finally this difficult tenant is leaving so I don’t care'
It’s no wonder these situations can escalate out of control, especially when you already have an irate tenant at play. As Sara Young of Realmark says: “Whilst these types of incidents are rare, the outcome can not always be prevented, and while we don’t want to spark panic, it is important risk is minimised.”
So how can we minimise the risk to our teams? Each office will be different, but here are some tips:
Communication of process – What does your vacate confirmation letter say about how the vacate process will take place? Does the tenant think they will get their bond back on the spot? Are they aware there can be a two week turn around on the bond refund? Have they been provided with a copy of their ingoing condition report? Have they been provided with the steps to ensure there is the best chance of their bond being refunded? (Real Plus members can take a look at the “How to get your bond back” tenant checklist in the resources section of the platform.)
It’s okay to leave – Do your staff know that they can just walk out and leave if they feel unsafe, uneasy or threatened? What is your procedure if they do feel unsafe or have to leave? Is it in your procedure to report any violence or threats to police. Have you considered investing in panic alarms for your staff to carry?
Outsourcing inspections - Have you considered this avenue to avoid confrontations with tenants – outsourced inspections provide an independent report, unbiased and based on the facts, allowing you to distance yourself from findings. Outsourcing comes at a cost of course, but perhaps consider the other benefits of your property manager not only being able to rely on an independent report, but also the cost savings of that time in the office.
Bringing two people, or a third party along - Have you considered sending two people to inspection if tenant is already an irate customer. May not be plausible for every inspection but we need to support those team members. What procedures do you have in place as a warning system for future property managers of past situations, is this recorded in your trust accounting software?
Keeping track – Staff need to diarise all inspections so we know where they are at all times. Importantly, if a PM is conducting their inspection on their way home, they must check-in after the inspection – is this written into office procedure?
Training in conflict resolution – Do your team regularly undergo training on conflict resolution? Do they know how to get a clear head and get out of threatening situations? Do they know how to stay neutral and factual, stating what is different and that will be discussed with owner? Not what consequences are. We have some great webinar training on the platform or can cater something to your team.
What other tips and ideas do you have to ensure your staff stay safe? Let us know! And of course, get in touch if we can help in any way.