The January shooting and death of a property manager in Brisbane’s south has highlighted the tensions and complex human emotions that surround living in a home. Naturally the place we come back to each day becomes special and even sacred to us – it’s ours, more than just shelter, and for many it’s a refuge from the outside world. When the sanctity of that home is threatened people can respond aggressively. According to media reports a misunderstanding over rental payments was accentuated by a language problem and led to this extreme example of tenant rage. Clearly this was a “wrong person, wrong time” situation with an ultimately suicidal offender.
We don’t know the details nor do we for a moment seek to lay the blame at anyone’s feet for a tragic event. What we do know was the payment method used in that agency is a common one where the agent directly debits the tenant’s account for their rent. Landlords and agents find it appealing because there may be less chance of arrears. The downside is that while many tenants are happy to have payments made automatically, they do sign over much of the control.
Real estate agencies have benefited enormously from new technology in recent years and internet/phone banking has now eliminated all of our cash transactions. Well before this last incident there were many, many occasions of agents being held up at gunpoint and, as an industry that opens on weekends and other extended hours, we simply wouldn’t wear that risk. Similarly our agency made the decision to keep rent payments under our tenants’ control with a B-Pay number that allows them to pay 24/7 electronically. In times of such a strong rental market it might be tempting to demand more from tenants, but with an accurate and instant arrears system (a simple component of any agency) we can ensure our landlords’ interests are protected. At Bees Nees we send an SMS and email when they’re four days in arrears. Legal notices are always sent when needed. Often tenants have just forgotten; sometimes they’re struggling to pay.
As much as tenants need to comply with their obligations it’s critical landlords and agents respect everyone’s sense of “home” and remember the emotions that can evoke.