A property manager’s rapid response brings tenant comfort after robbery

When a call came through to property manager Kat Byrne’s after hours number she was anticipating a potential maintenance issue but not a distraught tenant who’d just been burgled on the other end of the line.

But that’s exactly what had just happened, with thieves sneaking into the tenant’s home in the middle of night to steal their car.

The cunning thieves found the car keys on the hall stand, entered the garage, put the roller door up and rolled the car out before closing the door again.

“They snuck the car up the driveway, so the tenant didn’t know until the next morning and the thieves had even closed the garage door again,” Ms Byrne said.

“She was quite distraught to find her car missing.

“She called through to our after hours phone number, so I calmed her down. 

“I told her to ring the police and they will send forensics. 

“We then rang the landlord to discuss it and we arranged a change of locks and had a contractor there the same day.  

“It took the edge off an already stressful situation, as the house keys were also taken and they were worried about someone coming back.”

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Ray White Inner North Head of Property Management Kat Byrne

Ms Byrne, who is the head of property management at Ray White Inner North, in North Perth, said while getting locks changed and following the correct processes when a burglary happens at a property they manage was all just part of her job, she said it’s also important for PMs to show empathy.

“There’s nothing worse than not feeling safe in your own home and it’s an agitator for someone who would want to get out of a lease agreement,” she said.

“So you have to take all of those concerns onboard and picture yourself in that situation.

“I know I’d want to know that someone was doing something about it.”

Ms Byrne said there was a lot property managers could do to help tenants in this, or similar situations, starting with ensuring tenants had a simple way to contact the office after hours in an emergency.

“Details on your website of what tenants should do in an emergency is also a great help,” she said.

“Clearly define what is an emergency, what is urgent and what is a routine maintenance request.”

She also urged tenants to ensure they had contents insurance. 

“In these times of increased crime, this is your first priority,” Ms Byrne said.

Advice for property managers

  • Ensure tenants have an easy way of contacting the office with after hours emergency requests. Details on your website of what tenants should do in an emergency is also a great help.
  • Keep a list of emergency trades you can rely on, who will attend on short notice. Plumbers, electricians, locksmiths, maintenance trades, roof plumbers and the State Emergency Service are useful contacts to have readily available on your phone.
  • Clearly define what is an emergency, what is urgent and what is a routine maintenance request.
  • Advise the owner of the issue and make a plan to re-secure the property. Arrange the contractor to attend to change the locks and send a work order with tenant contact details. 
  • Ring the tenant and let them know what has been arranged and that a contractor is coming, who will contact them for access.
  • Provide the tenant with the contractor’s contact details and ask them to come back to you if any other issues arise.
  • At routine inspections, check the security compliance for deadlock doors and lockable windows, make sure the security lighting is adequate and working.
  • Remind tenants that as part of their lease, their contents must be insured by their own insurance.

Advice for tenants

  • Always keep your contents insurance up to date. In these times of increased crime, this is your first priority.
  • Ensure all windows and doors are locked and secured, to prevent easy entry.
  • If you have suffered a break in, always check that the occupants and the property is safe as the first priority. 
  • Keep house and car keys in areas that aren’t easily accessible. Kitchen benches and entry hall tables make it easy for thieves to grab and go. Handbags, purses and wallets should be securely put away when not needed.
  • Contact police and report any incidents by calling 131 444, or if it’s an emergency by calling 000 and be sure to obtain a police report number.
  • Advise your insurer of any personal items lost, along with any keys. You will need to provide them with the police report number.
  • Report to your property manager as soon as possible that the property is no longer secure and work out a plan with them for change of key locks. The property manager will also need the police report number, so please make sure you can provide this as soon as you have it available.

Advice for landlords

  • Do a security health check on your property. Do the exterior doors have deadlocks? Are the windows secure and lockable with a key or screen? Is the security lighting adequate and working? A security light must be fitted and working to the entry of the property.
  • The lessor is responsible for the property having a minimum level of security in place. The security required is specified in the Residential Tenancies Regulations 1989.
  • It is illegal for a lessor to remove or change any locks without getting the consent of the tenant first, so work with your property manager if making any changes to the security.
  • In most circumstances tenants need to obtain the lessor’s permission to change any locks or fit additional security. Sometimes tenants and lessors agree to share the cost of upgrading security above minimum standards. If this happens, it’s important to put it in writing and make sure both parties sign the agreement.

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