Property managers can be faced with a lot of tricky situations in their day-to-day work. From tenants who don’t pay their rent, to illegal activity being conducted on the property. The problem is, you don’t tend to get an instruction manual on how to deal with these situations, or even when it’s serious enough to get the police involved.
When do you initiate police involvement in situations involving your tenants? How do you respect your tenants’ privacy, while also making sure everyone living on the property is safe? How do you keep yourself safe while doing your job?
Unfortunately, finding processes to follow for situations can be difficult. Processes for situations like tenant death, domestic violence, personal threats, mental health issues and illegal drug activity are difficult to come by. Each situation is so different that you can’t account for every situation you may find yourself in.
But, hopefully the information below will give you some direction as to what to do, who to call and how to keep yourself safe.
WHAT DOES THE LEGISLATION SAY?
In Australia, residential tenancy legislation affords tenants the right to reasonable peace, comfort and privacy while renting, without interference from the landlord or property manager. However, the right to privacy does not supersede the personal safety of others, or of yourself. Nor does it mean illegal activity by tenants should be ignored in order to maintain that privacy.
This can be a fine line, so a lawyer will be able to take you through the details of your State legislation and how it works alongside the Privacy Act. But, know that in certain situations, it is ok to get the police involved.
WHEN CAN I INVOLVE THE POLICE?
- As a property manager, you can ask the police to conduct a “welfare check” on any tenant at any time. This is a good way to get assistance from the police if you suspect a tenant may have passed away, or you fear for your general well being during inspections.
- If you visit a property and notice a bad smell, or see blowflies on the inside of the windows or doors, you should call the police immediately. You can and should report suspicious activity. Each state and territory deals with this differently, here’s how you report it in Queensland, for example.
- If you do a property inspection and find a deceased person, you should leave the premises immediately. Take care to not touch anything – and call the police right away.
- Report any suspected illegal activity to the police, either in your name or anonymously. You don’t need permission from the landlord to report the activity to the police. You will need to get permission if you want to issue notice to the tenants because of this activity
- If personal threats are made against you, or you witness threats against others that live on the property, you can report the situation to the local police.
WHAT ELSE CAN YOU DO?
Your safety is paramount when you’re conducting inspections, and there are a few other things you can do to minimise the risk involved:
- Trust your gut. If you feel like something just isn’t right, ask a colleague to conduct the inspection with you and don’t go to the property alone
- Get the contact details of services in your local area that deal with re-homing, mental health, emergency relief and support for domestic abuse victims and similar services. If you’re faced with a situation that needs expert support, you can pass the details on to those in need
- Visit your local police station to get to know the officers and get the necessary contact details you may need in an emergency
- Create a code word in your office that can be texted or called through to your colleagues at any time to alert them you may be in danger
- Keep your calendar up to date with where you will be and when you expect to be back. If you do send the emergency code word, your colleagues will then know exactly where you are to direct help. They’ll also know where to track you down if you’re late coming back from an inspection
- Download an app like the Daniel Morcombe “Help Me” app where you can send a message to your colleagues for help, along with your location via GPS tracking
- Take self defence classes. While these classes obviously have a serious reason behind them, they can also be a fun team building activity!
Your safety, and that of your colleagues, employees, tenants and landlords, is of utmost importance. Police involvement isn’t going to be the correct process for every tenant-involved matter. But, it does have its place so don’t be afraid to ask for their help – that’s what they’re there for! They will provide assistance in any situation where you feel unsafe or you suspect illegal activity.