An incident in New Zealand recently is a timely reminder of the dangers that property managers face. Many property managers are young, just out of school and inexperienced in the art of reading danger.
I read an article recently where a disgruntled tenant shot three property inspectors, killing two of them.
The property inspectors were attending the house to do a routine inspection when a person, known to the police, caused the fatalities.
The Work Health and Safety Act 2011 requires people in business to provide a safe workplace for their workers. A workplace is anywhere where a person does their job. This means that, when a property manager enters a tenant’s house, the property officer is at work.
Below are some tips regarding a safe work environment. We’ve heard them before, but it is a good time to remind ourselves of the basics.
- Listen to your gut. This is the most basic of human instinct that nature gave us hundreds of thousands of years ago to warn us of impending danger whether it be from rival tribes or Saber Tooth Tigers. Like when selecting a tenant, if it doesn’t feel right, you’re probably right. If you arrive at a property and something makes you feel uncomfortable, leave immediately and do not second guess yourself.
- Ensure your colleagues know where you are. As obvious as this may sound, I still see Property Managers leaving the office without anyone knowing where they are going. Colleagues need to know when you are leaving the office and where you are going. All appointments should be in a shared in an electronic calendar that can be accessed by key people.
- Don’t do inspections after dusk. I strongly believe that no inspections should be done after 6pm or when it goes dark. There is simply no way your team can know if you are in trouble and by which time it would be far too late.
- Have a back up emergency plan. Between your team, come up with a plan that you can use if your safety is compromised. It could be an Emergency App on your smartphone that will connect you to the office. Consider having GPS in the cars or use Apps such as Find a Friend. Some offices will have a code word they will use when they contact an office. It may not be ideal, but having some back up emergency plan is better than nothing and may save your life.
- Never do an eviction on your own. We don’t have to serve personally anymore. We can terminate by email, and this facility should be utilised. When you need to obtain vacant possession, always go with a lew enforcement officer. The officer is trained to evict, so let them do it.
- Make it easy to leave. The trap for young players is leaving your car in a driveway or at the bottom of a cul-de-sac. You are too easily blocked in. Your car should be parked for use as an escape vehicle. Being able to remove yourself from danger is nearly as important as avoiding it in the first place.
- Have alarms on you. This may appear to some as overkill. It is unfortunately common sense. Having a tool to tell your mates you are in trouble is simply common sense.
- Learn to read the situation. Additional to number one. There are things which are obvious that indicate problems. Keep good notes of conversations at inspections on the property to keep intelligence about that particular tenant. Google does tell us a lot about people and continuing vigilance will serve to help. Get the information, read the data and take precautionary steps.
- Choose how you communicate carefully. Always give bad news in a safe environment and in a positive manner. It is vital that property managers acquire skills of active communication. The ability to deliver bad information in a pleasant manner is a good way of deflecting problems. Remember, it is not your fault that somebody is getting evicted. It is theirs. Moreover, it is your landlord’s decision, and he is not there to face the music. It is an effective tool of controlling anger, to blame something or somebody who is not present. Let them show their anger provided it is not at you.
- Diarise all communication. This is common sense and should be best practice in each office.
- Trust is earned. This may sound somewhat cynical, but if we get into the habit of trusting people on their face value then we are asking for all types of problems. When picking tenants, check references, get supporting information, check the bad tenant registers and use inspector google.