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How to stay safe

Personal safety issues should be at the forefront of landlords’ minds, property management experts warn in the wake of this week’s fatal Northland shootings.

Friday, July 28th 2017, 1:30PM 1 Comment

by Miriam Bell

The two women killed in the shootings on Wednesday were property managers who were visiting one of the rental properties they oversaw, with a contractor, to get smoke alarms installed.

The man who shot them was the tenant.

While this particular tragedy was a unique occurrence, it does highlight the personal safety risks that can come with the job of managing a property, whether as a landlord or a property manager.

And it is certainly not the first time that a person carrying out day-to-day property management business has been subjected to violence.

Two years ago, Invercargill’s Pride Property hit the news after one of their employees was attacked during a routine property inspection.

Independent Property Managers Association (IPMA) president Karen Withers said personal safety and security is a big issue for their members.

Often property managers are single operators working alone and this can put them in fraught and risky situations, she said.

Landlords who self-manage their properties and deal with difficult tenants are in a similar situation.

Withers said that vigilance, awareness and taking sensible precautions are essential when trying to stay safe, particularly if working alone.

“Don’t go to evening property viewings on your own if you can avoid it. If you can’t take someone with you, make sure that you have told people where you are going and when you are due back.

“Make use of technology like GPS trackers. Ensure that people you are seeing at a property know that you could be joined by colleagues or, if it is a showing, other potential tenants.

“This is all common sense but it is easy to let it slip in the rush of a busy day, so you need to remind yourself to take these precautions.”

In the Pride Property case, the company responded by fitting staff cars with GPS trackers, putting an emergency beacon app on staff phones, as well as by giving staff self-defence training.

Withers said the IPMA encourages training in self-defence measures as it is a good safety precaution as well as an effective deterrent.

“Personally, I’m trained in martial arts and I make sure that people know that. It just lets people know that you have capabilities and prevents them from assuming you are an easy target.”

Doing comprehensive due diligence and background checks on new tenants, as well as on any tenants who come with a property, is also critical, as are regular property inspections.

Quinovic Property Management’s Bernard Parker said that carrying out these tasks thoroughly ensures awareness of the general environment of a tenancy, as well as flagging any potential alarms.

“Tragic events like the Northland shooting should encourage landlords and property managers to sharpen our antennae and always look for signs that something might be going awry with a tenant.

“But if you ever end up in doubt or concerned about a situation during a property visit, just leave the property immediately. Don’t get into a confrontation or argument. It’s not worth the risks.”

He also recommended that landlords and property managers visibly carry phones loaded with the relevant technology at all times.


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Comments from our readers

On 8 August 2017 at 9:20 am jpaynter said:
I have a difficult tenant (put in by a property agent who then left the agency; the agency subsequently quit the management of the property. The tenant is a career criminal. I am reluctant now to go on the property. When I do so, I call someone else to let them know and call again when I leave the property. Perhaps I should take the well-known pitbull Gareth Morgan with me, as he wants to strengthen tenants' rights.

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