Chaotic and wild weather is dreaded by many property managers, but experts in the area say there are ways to minimise the damage and prevent “storm blues” from sweeping the office.
Coral Sea Property Management principal Shaun Podbury, who manages property in cyclone-prone Townsville, said his firm implemented a ‘disaster plan’ after Cyclone Yasi hit.
“We got a lot of things right but we got a few things wrong,” Mr Podbury told Residential Property Manager.
“The first thing that we got wrong was we hadn’t considered that we would lose power ourselves, which made it very, very difficult for us to communicate.
“Through our IT team, we actually ended up setting up a remote office elsewhere - so they basically set up a remote server for us and we had three of the staff operating out of a unit.
“We realised phones were next to useless, so we used electronic media and social media to communicate,” he said, adding that this allowed them to set expectations, which is the prime consideration when it comes to weather-related problems.
“First one was reassurance and setting a timeframe, and we said we would be back to owners within 72 hours with a report if any of their properties were damaged,” he said.
“The next thing we did was [we] communicated with the tenants, explained that we would be unable to help, and gave them permission to get whatever emergency repairs they needed to do and then said we would begin processing maintenances within seven days.
“Most importantly, we set expectations with the staff, so we told them that we were never going to be able to meet our normal promises, but our goal, first and foremost, was to communicate,” he said.
“You set the expectation for worst case and deliver on the best case,” he said.
“What we actually do now is we communicate beforehand and we tell them what is coming and we tell them to expect that we will be offline. The big thing there is communicate, communicate, communicate – but also under-promise and over-deliver.
“People are generally very good if they know what to expect,” he said.
Co-owner of Inspect Real Estate Andrew Reece said not all disasters will affect all your properties and if wild weather affects a proportion of them, someone in the office should be appointed to then look after those affected properties.
“You will have a storm that will come through, for example in Brisbane, and it will affect the properties in Chapel Hill, or what we experienced in our office, the properties that were in the Gap,” he told Residential Property Manager.
“What we decided to do was rather than have everybody dealing with one or two properties that were disaster-affected, we set up one person in the office to handle all of those properties.”
Mr Reece said there are still jobs to be done such as colleting rent, fixing leaky taps and tenants moving in and out.
“If you have got everyone doing a little bit of a disaster property, everybody gets depressed or stressed,” he said.
“Isolating someone to look after the disaster properties is a way you can handle it.
“We used to call it storm blues, so a big storm would come through and one member would catch it then the next day they would give it to someone else – it is like the flu,” he said.