Renting in Canberra – nothing but trouble?

Property Manager 21 September 2010 78

for lease

There’s been plenty of previous discussion on RA around issues for renters in Canberra. There are plenty of stories of tenants who are kept in the dark about their rights, or treated by their landlords or property managers as second class citizens.

On the other side there’s plenty of times when a landlord either has issues with their tenant, chosen agent, or when self managing they have no one to turn to for advice – sometimes leading to poor decisions which can create unwanted conflict with the tenants. No one is perfect, and it’s always tough to manage conflicting priorities that involve someone’s home.

Who’s offering to help? Tenant’s Advice Service can be useful if you can catch them during their limited availbility (and only if you’re a tenant!), the tribunal will give you a definite answer after taking your time, money and giving you a headful of frustration. Why are there no other places for people to turn when they are dealing with these issues?

I’ve been in property management for a while now and I wouldn’t dream of saying that I know it all or that I’ve seen it all… but I want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. What issues are you facing with your Canberra rental property?

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78 Responses to Renting in Canberra – nothing but trouble?
niknak niknak 8:39 am 24 Sep 10

I would rather chew off my own arm that entrust a property manager with care and control of my investment property. I’ve used three different managers from three different agencies in the past, and all came up short. Somehow, in this very tight market, each manager managed to find questionable tennants for the property.

– Tenant 1 brought along a kelpie, which chewed the window coverings, ripped up the small courtyard garden and irritated the neighbours by barking incessantly. Although I had specified no dogs,the PM expected me to “show sympathy” for the tenant and the mangy mutt.

– Tenant 2 (supplied by PM2)lied about employment status and didn’t pay the rent for 6 weeks before the PM stepped in. And that was only because I insisted. Apparently it’s considered fair and reasonable to allow 8 weeks to lapse before chasing missed rent. Um, no. It’s not.

– Tenant 3 (supplied by PM3) turned out to be a student group of anywhere between 4 and 8 people (again, I’d specified no groups) who set up rice and noodle cooking facilities in both bedrooms. The person who signed the lease didn’t actually live there. Thank heavens it was only a 6 month lease.

I now manage both our investment properties myself. I choose my tenants and vet them to my satisfaction. I’ve had absolutely no problems at all. I’m a happy landlord, my tenants are happy in their homes. I charge below market rates to keep good tenants in place. I would never use a property manager again. I put property managers on a par with parking inspectors and used car salesmen.

Jurls Jurls 1:25 pm 23 Sep 10

The thing that pissed me off most of all when looking for a place to rent back in March, was the amount of information that was demanded of me with my application form. Copies of drivers licence, passport, birth certificate, payslips blah blah blah and also requests from some for copies of our bank statements.!! Now, I can understand that landlords want to verify their tenants identity. However, distributing copies of all my ID around Canberra for various agents to lose, leave laying around etc (yes I know there are strict regulations about how people’s information is handled) doesn’t sit well with me. Giving people my bank statements is a definite no no. I’ve never ever been asked for that before.

Perhaps I’d feel better about it if I had to provide this information after successfully becoming a tenant. But no, this information is all required on application, for each and every property. Which results in lots of copies of my ID floating around the place and 90% of the time we didn’t get the property anyway.

Needless to say, we ended up renting privately and are a lot happier for doing so! 😀

Amanda Hugankis Amanda Hugankis 11:55 am 23 Sep 10

Mulberry said :

We put up with abuse from tenants, perspective tenants, landlords and everyone else in the community and get paid bugger all. Hence the large turnover off PM’s


So it makes sense that when you get a tenant who is reasonable, flexible, understanding and cares for a property better than their own (i.e.: making a PM’s worklife easier) that a PM would treat them like gold, don’t you think? I have done just that and have continued to be treated like I am a scumbag … so other than my own self-respect, where is the incentive to be a model tenant?!

Mulberry Mulberry 11:00 pm 22 Sep 10

I think alot of people are unaware that because the people who pay us are infact the landlords, we are obliged to conceed with their wishes of who they choose to let their properties, how much they choose to increase rent, and we STRUGGLE to tell some that they need to maintain their properties.

Property Managers also have a very thin legal line to walk on, and have to watch every word and every move thats made.

We put up with abuse from tenants, perspective tenants, landlords and everyone else in the community and get paid bugger all. Hence the large turnover off PM’s

I have been renting houses for 6 years and thought I knew it all as a tenant,
I have been a PM for 3 or so. and now know both sides.

I wont say a lot of tenants arent treated unfairly… I often wish that I could cross the line and use my empathy and be “un-professional” but i have bills to pay too, and need my job and I also need my house and choose to be a good tenant, pay my rent, put as much effort in for inspections as I can, and maintain the property as if it were my own!

My 2 cents 🙂

Mulberry Mulberry 10:45 pm 22 Sep 10

davecdp said :

We have decided to sell a rental property and the tenants lease runs out in February. How much notice am i required to give them? How much notice would you (or the rest of you) recommend i give them? i know availability is at its worst just before and just after Christmas and they have been great tenants so i’m happy to make this as easy for them as i can.

You dont have to kick them out… you can give them as much notice as you want that you intend to sell so that they can make a decision as to whether they want to move or not.
For all you know the buyer could also be after an investment.

You dont legally have to give notice until the house is sold, and then it is upto the agent after knowing the wishes of the new vendors.

But if you respect them as tenants let them know of your intentions but also let them know that they can take their risks to stay on incase the new owners choose to let the property

Buzz2600 Buzz2600 4:05 pm 22 Sep 10

Property Manager, I’d suggest you not try to answer every single comment that is made on this forum .. you’ll go nutty. Instead, perhaps just take it all on the chin and take what you need from the useful comments.

Having been on both sides of the fence, I’d suggest a landlord friendly information service, which also provides property management as a feature would be a great service in the ACT. There are plenty of cashed up public servants in Canberra looking to make money in the investment property portfolio who are not interested in being ‘hands-on’ landlords.

Having been overseas when my rented property was subject to an external water leak causing all sorts of problems, I found the tenant moved out and the property manager went AWOL pretty quickly. Isn’t this the time when you expect the property manager to come to the fore rather than backing away. Being on the other side of the world only enhanced the difficulties with dealing with the body corporate (they were responsible for fixing the leak). It took many months and an intervention from my lawyer to get them to finally cooperate and fix it. Having a property manager who had deal with these problems rather than just sitting back & watching the $$ roll in with minimal input would be good. Having said that, we currently have our property managed by a local agency who appear to be doing a good job, and a great tenant who is doing all the right things.

Anyway, the other thing is having a source of local investment info. Knowing where/what is the best place to buy/rent/sell etc – future investment options etc. I’d appreciate a property manager/advisor who was able to answer questions without them having a vested interest in a particular property … it that too much to ask for? I know that I can find all this information for researching the market, asking accountants, financial advisors, property investment groups/mags/online etc.. and I do all that but its time consuming and having a one-stop shop from someone in the real estate industry with some ethics would be great :o)

returning now to la la land …

Property Manager Property Manager 1:27 pm 22 Sep 10

#46: Aurelius, for me to repeat the chant of “we’re underpaid, undertrained and overworked” is as tired as the “every property manager is a lazy/rude/obnoxious/incompetent b–tard” that is peppering the comments here. Both comments may have some accuracy, but repeating them ad-nauseum is not helping anyone.

I know there are agents out there who do all these bad things. I can’t correct their mistakes, only my own. Responding to a rant criticizing a property manager’s workload is futile – Woody has a strong opinion and nothing I can say is going to change it, besides which I have nothing to defend – I do plenty of work; let the lazy ones defend themselves. While I strongly disagree with Woody’s opinion of what a property manager ‘actually’ does, I am happy for them to hold this opinion and go about their life.

I’m not here to convert non-believers. I’m not here to preach. I’m not here to defend an industry. I was just offering to answer any technical questions. The rest is someone else’s issue (and I’ve mistakenly found myself responding to it – what can I say, I’m passionate and believe I am doing good work, sometimes I forget that the barbs are not directed at me but at my ‘peers’ that are making the entire industry look bad).

Property Manager Property Manager 12:43 pm 22 Sep 10

#52: I don’t really know what to say – I think you’ve hit the nail on the head.

Amanda Hugankis Amanda Hugankis 12:34 pm 22 Sep 10

prhhcd said :

Here is some free advice, and no, unlike our Newbie “Property Manager” I will not be making money out of this sometime in the near future.

Select your tenants well, treat your tenants well and have open channels of communication with them and voila – you have yourself a happy relationship.

I look after a few properties for family members and have never had problems just by following that one little rule.
I think we just tend to forget that we need to treat tenants like people too, not like some sort of underclass!

[end rant]

I would absolutely agree with this. My last PM was an exception to the rule – she actually responded to calls and emails regarding issues with the property (even if the landlord refused to fix things). Her replies were respectful, considerate and straightforward. She spoke to me like a human, as though we both had equal parts to play in caring for the landlord’s property (unlike most that I’ve found that use a tone that implies they’re treating you with contempt and suspicion until you prove yourself to be considered otherwise … & even then … ). She made it clear she understood my time was valuable, and that while it was the property of the landlord, it was my home. The result – I went out of my way to help, to be understanding, to care for the property – so VOILA! she’s ensuring a quality service to the landlord who employed her and can say she earns her dollars. On top of that – she has a pleasurable working relationship every time we need to deal with one another.

The thing that probably offends me most, and answers the OP’s question on ‘what issues do you have’ is the attitude property managers give renters. I can only assume that its somehow stemming from the thought ‘you’re not successful enough to own your own home, and have to rent other people’s houses, therefore you’re sitting somewhere near the bottom of a social class pile, and deserve to be spoken to like a naughty 5 year old’. How do they know renting is not a conscious choice? How do they know you don’t own 16 properties of your own elsewhere? Or choose to invest your money in your business/superannuation/etc. Do they think you don’t know other property owners who may be seeking recommendations from you on professional and considerate property managers? It really seems to me to be an offensive attitude they take with renters based in assumptions, ignorance and prejudice. I understand that PMs are paid piddling salaries by our esteemed RE agencies, and often have 100s of properties to care for, but if they could perhaps treat people with genuine respect, perhaps they’d lessen their own headaches, as tenants might be more willing to go the extra mile to care for owners’ properties.

Or maybe I’m living in la-la-land. Here endeth the lecture.

Property Manager Property Manager 12:24 pm 22 Sep 10

#45: Caf, this is all fantastic advice, thank you. I like to hope that I am already doing most of this, but I will still take things from your comment that will help me to improve further. I attempt to be what you have described, but at times I am sure I fail.

Thank you for this brilliant description of how a property manager should act – I hope that this provides some insight to all agents as to how they might improve their businesses.

As el said a little earlier – not only are tenants ‘people too’ but they are future homeowners, future investment owners, and in reality they are your ‘clients’ too. If you are so jaded that you treat them all like dirt ‘on principle’, then get out of my industry – you’re making people hate me ‘on principle’.

Property Manager Property Manager 12:17 pm 22 Sep 10

#41: Exactly why I don’t act that way. There are places I will never return myself (across many industries) because of the way I have been treated in the past. You are right – anyone that acts in this way are scum.

Property Manager Property Manager 12:14 pm 22 Sep 10

#37: I’m not going to continue defending myself against accusations of astroturfing. Being anonymous I am not sure how I would be making money from this. What I am getting from this is the abuse and criticism of people like you. If that sounds like I am profiting then I think we are viewing the situation from different angles.

Property Manager Property Manager 12:10 pm 22 Sep 10

#35 & #36: I am sorry if you have encountered racism from our industry – it’s reprehensible and I hope that it doesn’t continue. I am also sorry that I can’t find any way to address that in this forum.

It feels like a really empty response, but I don’t know what else to say – but it is a comment that I didn’t wish to ignore. It honestly saddens that it happens.

Property Manager Property Manager 12:05 pm 22 Sep 10

#34: No, I don’t spend all week looking after just one house. The point is that I am focussed on the management of properties all day every day. A private landlord has their day job to contend with, meaning the management of their rental will often come a long way down the list after their job, their own home, their families and whatever else they’ve got going on. I know my personal time is jam packed, so adding the needs of a rental property into an already crowded schedule would see it prioritised much lower than it would be by an agent managing it 5 days a week.

Aurelius Aurelius 12:00 pm 22 Sep 10

While Property Manager criticises Woody @ 16 for his comments, I note they didn’t disprove anything Woody said. I do think, PM, if you’re going to come to a public forum talking about a controversial topic, you should wear a thicker skin.

Speaking for myself, I have had the worst experience I, or anyone I speak to, has had with a landlord recently. In that case, (trespassing & stealing is where it started, no idea where it will end, as the legal stoushes are ongoing) the landlord was so appalling it would have been an assistance to us, as tenants, and to the landlord if there HAD been a professional property manager involved. At least they would have had some idea of how to handle the situation without ending up in the courts, where it is now.

caf caf 11:59 am 22 Sep 10

Property Manager,

Speaking as a previous tenant (now thankfully a homeowner, and out of that market): the key thing you can do if you want to be “part of the solution” is to treat tenants with respect. It really is an attitudinal thing more than anything else. I understand that part of your job is dealing with genuinely bad tenants, but please, make a real effort to not to treat everyone like a potential “bad tenant”.

My suggestion: print out a large sign saying “Always Assume Good Will” and put it above your desk. When you operate under the implict assumption that every tenant is a potential lease-breaking, non-paying, property damaging yahoo, it’s transparently obvious to the tenants you deal with; it leaves an awful taste and it sets up a confrontational atmosphere. On the other hand, if you’ve treated your tenants well, then they’ll be more likely to assume good will on your part too when you make a mistake.

Minimise the condescension, the officiousness & the combativeness and encourage a co-operative atmosphere (for example: if you need to tell the tenants not to park on the nature strip, first pick up the phone and remind them it’s not allowed – don’t just fire off a formal breach notice!)

The second thing I have to suggest, albeit far less important than assuming good will, is to remember to “manage upwards” your property owner. Some owners are incredibly lax about responding to maintenance requests, and as you’re the only channel between the tenants and the owners, you really do need to keep on top of the owners to give timely responses. (As a property owner, I’d also like to point out that this applies to requests from the owners of neighbouring properties too).

Property Manager Property Manager 11:51 am 22 Sep 10

#33: In my experience the property manager will provide a market summary to the owner and possibly a suggestion of a rent increase if applicable. The final decision is with the owner. This may depend on the managing agency agreement between the landlord and the agent – perhaps some agents have standing authority to increase rents. Not what I’ve seen, but I’m sure it happens.

Chop71 Chop71 11:51 am 22 Sep 10

Stamp Duty is tax deductable in the ACT and it’s bloody hard to rent a good property.
Seems a good place to invest in my opinion. Keep it quiet b4 we all end up paying Sydney prices

Property Manager Property Manager 11:47 am 22 Sep 10

#32: There are douches out there on all sides. Just like any agent who instigates a rental auction.

el el 11:47 am 22 Sep 10

(on landlords)

Property Manager said :

If left to their own devices many would do no maintenance, try to increase rent every second week, and drop around for a surprise inspection whenever they felt like it.

These are all things that property ‘managers’ appear to be very, very good at.

What these scum need to realise, is that the tenant you’re intimidating and harassing today can and often will be the prospective home-buyer/investment property owner in need of a real estate agent’s services next month, in six months or several years down the track.

Dunno about anyone else, but I have a *long* memory when it comes to that kind of shit (Hello PRD Nationwide, Kingston.)

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