By Karen Herbert & Eileen Herbert-Goodall
The panic is palpable, the barrage of phone calls exhausting, the need to facilitate negotiations dire – this is the new normal for property managers all around the country.
It’s hard to comprehend the sheer scale of the battle front that is the unfolding COVID-19 crisis; this battle extends beyond the obvious health calamity and has swiftly ballooned into an economic, social, psychological and emotional disaster for those struggling to pay their rent and/or mortgages. Here’s a snapshot of the cries of desperation swamping property managers daily.
‘I’ve lost my job and have no income to live on.’
‘This is not a game for me. If I don’t get support from you and the owner as the government is providing, then I’ll just stop paying rent.’
‘It’s your responsibility to go to the owner on my behalf and have this discussion to provide an outcome.
‘I’d like to know if my landlords would consider a reduction in my rent during this time?’
‘I’ll be on jobseeker for the next 3-6months and I’m so nervous about my financial situation during this time.’
‘We’re working with the application form in claiming through the RTA but, unfortunately, we aren’t included in the residential status section. We feel hopeless now as we still aren’t eligible for assistance.’
‘Unfortunately, my follow-up with the RTA about the rent assistance up to $2000 didn’t get us any help – so no funding for us. The RTA’s advice was to ask the real estate/landlord to drop the rent value by a percentage for say…3 months, then increase the rent again for the following say…6 months.’ ‘At this point, it seems we do not fit into any box for government funding unfortunately. We’re hoping to be able to access our Super to help in the coming weeks.’
These are the pleas heard by Property Managers as the COVID-19 battle rages on, bringing our nation to a standstill.
The media continues to suggest tenants and landlords need to work together and negotiate rent reductions during these uncertain times; yet, the herculean task faced by Property Managers who must navigate (and help solve) such situations remains unacknowledged. It seems we are invisible in this ongoing battle to keep people afloat and sheltered as they struggle to cover their rent and other bills. Evidently, we wear many hats in the day-to-day management of rental properties; but, during these troubling times, we must now go above and beyond the call of duty.
As a business owner of a Property Management specialist firm, my current daily challenge is to prop up members of my brave team who take desperate phone calls from frightened tenants. My staff must talk to everyday Australian citizens who’ve not only lost their jobs, but also face the possibility of losing the roof over their heads. They patiently listen to these sad stories, offering options and sympathy where they can.
They are the forgotten soldiers, who bring stories of desperation to Landlords, many of whom have also lost their jobs and are now struggling to meet financial commitments.
They are the forgotten soldiers who turn up every day, who return to the trenches to fight another type of war, an unseen war, where the victims lay psychologically and emotionally maimed.
They are the forgotten soldiers who work tirelessly, yet only receive an income on rent collected. So, while rental revenue plummets they, too, are in danger of losing their jobs.
Who then shall then defend the meek?
Who then shall hear their cries of pain?
Who then shall negotiate their suffering?
I think it’s time we remembered these forgotten soldiers, who I dub the Knights of Property Management – the servicemen and women of the Real Estate industry.
I say that we give a huge shout out of thanks to all Property Managers who expose themselves daily to a different kind of risk, like our health workers, are also forced to endure long working hours, psychological distress, fatigue, occupational burnout, stigma, and psychological violence.
For without them, our tenants and landlords have no representation.