While business owners are responsible for providing a safe working environment, a vast majority of principals and directors don’t have contingency plans for their property managers.
According to Fiona Blayney, industry coach and director of Real Plus, the risk for property managers can be significantly reduced through a few simple steps.
“It’s vital that you have safety and contingency plans for your property managers, and the fact is most don’t. There are still businesses in the country that work with paper-based diaries; the owner doesn’t know where you are if you do a final inspection on the way home at night,” Ms Blayney said.
According to Ms Blayney, principals and directors first need to let their employees know that it’s okay to walk away.
“Because we’re in a consumer-driven business, the poor property manager who is taught about communication and conflict resolution thinks they’ve learnt these skills to make the customer happy, and to defuse bad situations," she said.
“This leads them to believe that if they’re in a potential hostile situation, the director or owner would want them to stay and resolve it.”
The plan should focus on the critical points of a tenancy when things can become heated, such as the outgoing inspection.
Recently, a Western Australian property manager was savagely attacked by a tenant during the final inspection when she informed him he wouldn’t receive his bond back that day.
“We do an ingoing and an outgoing every day, so it becomes second nature to us. But tenants have a complete fear that your total goal is to take their bond.
“All that angst and frustration typically comes from fear of the loss of the funds. The more the tenant ‘needs’ the cash, the more aggravated the situation will become,” Ms Blayney said.
Property managers need to alleviate these fears before arriving for the inspection.
“You should do a pre-vacate with the tenant, but instead of sending them a document saying ‘Final inspection guideline’, send them a document that says ‘How to get your bond back’. It can have the same content, but in essence you’re saying you want to help them get their bond back," she advised.
“Tell them that if there are any discrepancies with the ingoing/outgoing inspection that they write a list, come prepared so we can have an open discussion and chat about it.
“Create more of a two-way conversation around the outgoing inspection, let them know it’s not grandma coming over with a white glove.”
Ms Blayney also suggested other thoughtful gestures will help bring the tenant onside, including sending a copy of the ingoing inspection report and any photos of the property pre-tenancy.