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What to do when a tenant says to you 'I can’t pay my rent'...

By Mellissa Gibson
22 April 2015 | 4 minute read
melissa gibson 131014

How would you respond?

After 17 years in property management, I can safely say just about every office will have a policy and procedures manual about rent arrears. My office definitely has one that helps us to keep a zero arrears policy.

But what happens if a tenant says to you “I can’t pay my bills, I can’t pay my rent, I don’t know what to do, I need help”.

After a discussion with my team, asking them the same question, I felt I needed to implement an information booklet with scripts and dialogue training on financial hardship, as well as add this to our current arrears policy and procedures that will offer information to tenants in this situation. 

We offer this information in a non-judgemental way, to help provide better customer service, build longer-lasting relationships and a more successful business. Our office has had this in place now for more than 12 months and have had some very positive outcomes. 

Since implementing this information booklet and scripts and dialogues, my team feel more confident in how to best respond to a tenant facing financial hardship. It has helped build confidence to communicate effectively between tenant and landlord and will bring proven results for you, your tenant and your landlord. 

In our information booklet we have:

  • Our state’s housing service contact details 
  • Legal Aid NSW contact detail
  • Lifeline contact details
  • Beyond Blue contact details  
  • Centrelink contact details 
  • Our local Samaritans Office – it often help local families in need to help pay their rent up to date 
  • If the tenant has concerns about water, gas or electricity bills, ask their provider about assistance packages – most have special programs to help consumers experiencing financial difficulty. 
  • Financial counselling contact details

A lot of people may not realise that counselling is available to support and assist people in financial difficulty. They work in community organisations and their services are free, independent and confidential.

Financial counsellors have extensive knowledge in areas such as law and policy, including consumer credit law, debt enforcement practices, the bankruptcy regime, industry hardship policies and government concession frameworks.

I strongly encourage every property management team to create their own scripts and dialogues and information booklet or sheets that can assist you, your team, tenant and landlord. 


Mellissa Gibson

Mellissa Gibson

Mellissa Gibson first started in the real estate industry in 1998 and she has been with the L.J Hooker network since 2000. In 2010 she completed a certificate IV in Property Services and became a licensed real estate agent. Melissa has worked in all facets of the industry, starting at the age of 18 in an administration/sales division progressing to Property Investment Management to now the General Manager overseeing the whole office in particular the Property Management Team. Mellissa prides herself on being an active member of the community, taking a great interest in local charities, in fact in 2012 and 2013 Melissa was a Finalist for the Prestigious Real Estate Institute of NSW John Grieg OAM award for her community service, as well in 2013 The recipient of the Cessnock City Council Australia Day Award for community service in the Cessnock area signifying her devotion and commitment to the local community and giving back to the community in which her family lives and works. Mellissa was also a national finalist in the 2014 REB Awards for Property Manager of The Year Regional and BDM of the year, as well as a finalist in the LJ Hooker Awards for property investment manager of the year. 


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