When things get nasty: how to deal with aggressive tenants and landlords

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While property management offers a rewarding career in an exciting industry, attracting highly passionate individuals, too many leave the sector early in their careers due to the personal impact of aggressive tenants and landlords.

“It can be devastating for some and that is why we lose PMs so early in their career,” says Tammy Vitale from Vitale and Co Property Management Services.

“The pressures we face each day is overwhelming sometimes and it is important to have a support team or person to help, but this is not always available”

Vitale says aggression can come from both tenants and landlords, and the reasons are varied.

“For landlords, the reason could be their property is not renting, it’s vacant and they blame you,” she says.

“But the biggest factor I have found is lack of communication to the landlord and tenants which causes the most frustration and eventuates in getting mad, frustrated and ultimately aggressive.”

When it comes to tenants, defences can be high, prompting them to react quickly to property managers when given direction.

“I have found what sets them off is the perceived tone of the PM when they speak to them.

“Another reason is rent arrears. You have heard the same story over and over again and you call them out on it, or you have completed an unsatisfactory routine which results in the tenant being offended by the PM’s comments or request.

“But most of the time I have found the tenant is having a bad day and you happen to be the final straw.”

Sands Boutique Property Management’s Donna O’Shea agrees, and says property managers need to be mindful of personal situations they may be unaware of.

“Usually the reason is financial or personal distress for a landlord,” says O’Shea.

“We as the agent don’t know what is going on in people’s private lives and it is usually us that cop the brunt of their aggression.”


Modern day aggression

O’Shea says aggression from tenants and landlords can come via many avenues, and can have a direct impact on the personal and professional life of the property manager.

“Aggression can range from a snappy conversation through to threats,” says O’Shea.

“In our modern world some tenants take to venting over Google or via other social media sites.

“This form of aggression can be damaging to the PM when they are named, along with their business.”

Vitale says some will bypass you completely and complain to either your principal, RTA or the Office of Fair Trading.

“You have no idea what has happened to upset them.

“Others may yell, swear and can be very aggressive towards you.”

And this can be the most damaging of all, particularly from a psychological level.


Diffuse the situation

“The effects can be numerous, from loss of sleep to anxiety, panic attacks and questioning their choice of career,” says O’Shea.

So, what do you do if a tenant or landlord does become aggressive?

Put simply, it all comes down to their level of aggression and the property manager’s personal safety, so it’s important to use discretion depending on the situation.

“At all times speak in a low calm voice showing no aggression or tone,” says Vitale.

“Understand their problem, always listen. Do not interrupt, then offer an action plan to fix the problem they may have.”

“If they are aggressive and you are unable to resolve the issue and you can’t calm them down, simply tell them you will call them back so you can investigate and resolve the problem for them.

“Or say you are putting them through to a supervisor who may be able to reduce the escalating aggression and resolve the issue.”


Safety first – physically and mentally

If you feel you are in danger, are being sworn at or personally attacked, always remove yourself.

Regardless of the level of escalation, report any issues to your supervisor.

“This allows them to be aware there has been an incident and what the problem is. The supervisor may choose to contact the person to help resolve the problem.”

If you’re left shaken by a particular incident, Vitale suggests taking a break to collect your thoughts and regain composure.

“It is important to be able to speak with somebody about it so they can debrief and calm down.

“I like to take my girls out for a coffee to settle them down and reassure them that I will look after the problem, but some offices do not have that luxury.

“It would be great idea if we had a hotline for distressed PMs to be able to call should they need it.”


Overall, the prevention-is-better-than-cure approach should be taken in order to reduce the chances of encountering an aggressive tenant or landlord.

“Over the years I have learnt to be respectful and listen to landlords and tenants.

“As a PM, in some cases you need to be firm but always fair and understanding.

“I have found that some PMs feel privileged and empowered and this is reflected in their attitude.

“For me, treat people the way you want to be treated and be kind.”