The great landlord saga – succeeding in a system geared towards tenants

15 Jul 2021
Estate Agents Co-operative
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“Last week, our property manager represented us at tribunal. You may have read a little about our saga before…

We had a tenant who stopped paying rent (well before Covid), stopped looking after our property and then disappeared on and off for some months.

We went to tribunal several times, and each time, for some reason, the member felt it prudent to be lenient on the tenant, first (as is common practice) placing him on a payment plan, which he breached immediately.

When the tenant then failed to vacate in September at the end of his lease (with all the correct notice and still paying no rent), we booked in our date, attended tribunal in late November, and were again shocked when the member gave the tenant until the end of December  – more than one month more – to vacate.

Of course, our tenant didn’t vacate and the Sherriff was called to help facilitate his move, at our cost.

Next, after waiting months for a new tribunal date, and having exhausted our landlord insurance claim more than $6,000 short of what was owed, our property manager dialled into the Covid-safe tribunal hearing.

Needless-to-say, the tenant didn’t dial in. When he failed to ‘appear’ – to our utter surprise, the member was then tasked with not just determining the outcome of the proceedings, but representing the tenant as best he could.

With everything working against us, tribunal did not go in our favour, and we are left disillusioned and out of pocket.”

Heard a story like this before?

It comes from an associate of one of our members, and paints the picture of a system that can leave our landlords feeling helpless and let down.

“This is not unusual,” says another of our EAC members. “My daughter rented her new apartment while overseas, only to find, when she returned, doors smashed in and broken off hinges, stains on the carpets and even chips out of a bathtub that was only a few years old.”

“Upon going to tribunal to claim the bond and damages, she was told the photos of the property prior to the tenancy were too dark or from the wrong angle to accurately assess the damage and when it was caused.”

“I don’t know a lot of agents who step into the bathtub to take pictures, but most I know would note on a condition report if there were holes in doors and tubs!”

The unfortunate fact is, stories like this aren’t unusual, and we hear them from members, friends, family and the broader community often.

As a Property Manager who takes pride in the way you look after a property and a landlord, outcomes like this can also be incredibly difficult for you.

So, as a new property manager, what can you do to achieve the best outcome possible for your client?

Be proactive and keep good records

Legislation clearly lays out when you can deliver termination and other notices to the tenant.

With a tenant who has developed some bad habits, ensuring you are on the ball at all times, and you don’t delay in delivering those notices is important.

It means, when needed, you can build up a solid case against the tenant, reinforced by a heavy file of breach or termination notices, to convey the trend in behaviour.

Seek more advice

A friend of EAC recently told us how impressed she was with the agency she had selected to manage her property.

Like some other landlords, she’d had a bit of a tough run with her tenant, but because of changing legislation, understanding how to proceed in their unique situation wasn’t immediately clear.

Rather than trying to fudge it at the expense of his client, the property manager had reached out to their specialist property legal consultancy to get their take on what was happening and what he could and should do.

At EAC, our members have access to specialist legal team, HD Legal and Advisory, which has a long history of dealing both with NCAT and local court on behalf of its landlord clients.

When in doubt, give them a call, draw on your 30 minutes of free advice each month and help ensure you can deliver your client with the best result possible.

Always do as instructed

As you have no doubt read before – and as you can expect – NCAT is very stringent when it comes to its processes and procedures, in terms of how you prepare, how you conduct yourself and how you follow the orders handed down.

Follow NCAT’s instructions to the letter when preparing, ensuring you have clear evidence of the situation you are going to present and you have labelled all documents according to the protocols set out by the tribunal.

One tribunal appearance isn’t always the end of it, so if you do have to undertake mediation or allow for a payment plan, again, follow it exactly, so if you end up back in tribunal, you can clearly show you and your client have done everything right.

Encourage good landlord insurance

Landlord’s need to have insurance – there’s no real question about that. Without it, they can end up even more out of pocket in the event a tenant damages their property or fails to pay rent.

But not all landlord insurance is created equal! As a property manager, you cannot provide financial advice, and you need to disclose any affiliation you have with an insurer or a supplier of any kind, but you can encourage insurance that really works.

You can highlight for your landlord, some of the more common issues that arise and result in the need for a claim, as well as some they may not think of, that are equally important.

You can help them see they need to weigh up rent vs excess payments vs limitations on claims, for each policy to ensure the selected policy is the right one for them.

You can equip them with some of the insights you have learned as their specialist in property.

Good landlord insurance – the right insurance – can not only make all the difference for your landlord financially, but can mean the difference between a tricky situation with a silver lining, and a situation that can potentially damage your relationship with them and leave them significantly out of pocket.

What we can learn most from the stories shared in this article, is there is almost nothing more important that dotting our i’s and crossing our t’s before accepting a tenant’s application.

Sure, some tenants will appear perfect on paper and only show true colours once in the property, but others will be given away by bad references or history, and will never even make it through the front door.

 

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