Are you a property manager or a flunkey?
There was a brilliant article recently that stemmed from revelations of letting agent Benham & Reeves. It covered the bizarre and often ridiculous questions posed by some tenants – including the request to put a bouncy castle on a roof terrace. The agent agreed that, while they strive to help in any situation, a line had to be drawn somewhere.
While we chortle over the request to change the microwave because the tenant’s plate wouldn’t fit in and the concern over the carpet that ‘wasn’t working’ (it was a rug that was slightly shedding, by the way), every one of these demands, or appeals for help, takes up valuable time a property professional simply doesn’t have.
Some tenants have fallen into a trap when it comes to living in professionally-managed rented accommodation. While I’m sure we’re all massively in favour of tenant status being given the same social standing as ‘owner-occupier’, there are some overinflated beliefs of what a property manager or landlord should do – a displaced level of expectation, let’s say.
A property manager is not at a tenants’ beckon call. He is not there to change a light bulb or unblock a sink. He is not a butler or a concierge either. However, hands up how many of you have been bothered by trivial and odd tenant requests? How many of you have a ‘problem’ tenant who complains about the way a toilet flushes, or how a passing train rattles the windows? ‘Can one re-route the 07:52 to Waterloo?’ they might well as ask.
The question is: how do we as an industry set tenants on the right path when it comes to the role of a property manager and what is actually expected of them as the property’s inhabitant? One agent, Sherlock Homes Sales and Lettings, goes as far as saying on its website “Renting a flat is not the same as staying in a hotel.” Concisely put and then followed up by a quote from Lord Denning, clarifying the legal position when it comes to let property maintenance and responsibility. However, is this direct and blunt enough?
There must be a clearer way of communicating what’s expected of tenants, but we know there’s a fine line between being helpful and obliging and being rude and discourteous – agents must be careful in light of the many active campaigns aimed at improving tenants’ rights and treatment.
Perhaps we should start with an industry-wide 10 commandments for tenants: 1.) Thou shalt not call a property manager asking him to change a fuse 2.) Thou shalt know the different between a real emergency and a trivial annoyance……..
I’ll leave you to write the rest!
* Simon Duce is managing director of the ARPM Group, which provides national outsourced lettings services