Unfortunately, in this day and age, it is almost necessary for a Property Manager or leasing consultant to complete a course in self-defence along with their registration.
I began asking Property Managers if any have had scary encounters whilst at a tenant’s premises. Statistically speaking, 1 in 5 had some sort of scare. I personally, have been pushed against a wall, whilst carrying out an exit inspection, by the outgoing tenant. This drew me to the conclusion to NEVER agree to conduct the inspection with them present.
Routine inspections, if carried out correctly, should be fairly straight forward and the tenant should, in most instances, be aware that you are coming. However, if a tenant forgets or simply did not get the notice, when a Property Manager turns up on their door step they are instantly frustrated, mad, and unhappy that you want to come in. This is your fist decision in safety.
1) Enter and be prepared to be abused or put in an uncomfortable situation or 2) apologise and ask them when it suits for you to come back.
The first option is the safest, but this scenario could also be avoided if you have a team member make a courtesy phone call, or even an SMS, the day before the inspection to remind the tenant. This way you will not have to be put in a threatening situation, or have to reschedule, and your inspection dates can stay on track.
On occasions, you will enter the property and find no one home – until of course you open a bedroom door and find them sleeping. If you continue to carry out the inspection you will be putting yourself in danger. If the tenant wakes up they may think you are an intruder and attack you, so in this instance it is best to leave a card on the bench or at the front door on your way out, and contact them by telephone later that day to explain and reschedule.
We are entertained on a daily basis, as Property Managers, as to the different types of personalities that we come across. A Property Manager is really a “Problem Solver”. Sometimes the tenants we deal with will not be happy with the way we solved the problems and will instantly take a dislike to you. These types of tenants still need routine inspections carried out. Every office should have a policy that if a Property Manager does not feel comfortable going alone to a certain property that another staff member attends also.
If, at any stage, you do not feel comfortable going to a property alone, you MUST discuss this with your Department Manager, or Principal, as there is nothing more important than one’s own safety.
At times, however, you may not know you are about to enter a threatening situation, so below are a few tips that you should always do before, and while at, EVERY routine inspection.
- Check the history notes in your trust accounting software. Generally speaking if a Property Manager has had a threatening situation before with a tenant, they will have logged notes.
- Colour Flag the office copy of the key. Create an office rule that, if you have an aggressive or abusive tenant, a little red tag is put on the set of keys, so that if a team member or a tradie is going to the property, for any reason, the flag is already raised.
- Have your office on speed dial and always keep your mobile phone in your hand/pocket for ease to call.
- Keep the front door open so if something happens, you can make a quick getaway. I personally tell the tenants if they are home that “our office policy is that the door remains open at all times for personal safety reasons, and that I am not singling them out we just keep our policies streamlined across the board – I then make a joke to lighten the mood that I would ask the same from an 80 year old grandma, especially those with walking sticks!
- Always call out twice when you “partially” open the door yourself, and wait at least 60-90 seconds before entering. This will allow someone time to get to the door if they were up the end of the house, or you will find out if they have a dog in the house that may attack you.
- Ask the tenant on the phone call /text the day before the inspection to please make sure all animals be tied up outside as you need access to the entire property (this will keep the savage dogs at bay)
- Ask your Principal to send you to a self-defence course – this is not a joke. An employer will want you to feel comfortable and to be able to protect yourself.
The most important thing to remember is that you know your gut feelings better than anyone else and, if for one slight second you feel uneasy make an excuse to leave immediately. Illness is always a believable excuse, something as simple as “I am sorry but I do not feel well at all and I have to leave, the office will be in touch to reschedule.”
If, of course, your office does not want their Property Mangers carrying out Routine inspections, companies such as Real Strategix can do them for you.