Property reporting these days can be a real challenge. When juggling time constraints alongside the need for increased safety, using PPE, managing issues and demands of tenants, agents and landlords can prove difficult.
Even though protocols are in place to socially distance at the property and check outs are now (largely) unaccompanied, there are still quite a few things for us to manage to ensure that we can complete the report within a reasonable time frame.
And as we all know; time is money.
Be in no doubt that even with the housing market still in full swing as everyone races to beat the Stamp Duty deadline (March 31st 2021); as inventory professionals we are (almost) the last in line of the lettings process – meaning our turnaround time is often tighter than my spanx!.
And if your valuable time is being taken up with over curious landlords with question after question, or tenants that haven’t quite worked out that 2 metres is actually longer than an arm’s length (I am rather short in stature though), then managing that time becomes increasingly more difficult. So how can you remain on good terms with your clients and customers but get the job done?
For me it’s all about clear communication and a firm stance.
Case in point; a landlord following a clerk around the property despite being asked ‘politely’ to remain outside of the property during what was a difficult report. Notwithstanding the whole COVID protocols aspect; the level of damage and condition of the property at check out was such that the clerk really needed to give the report their full attention – as it is highly likely to end up in court.
As we know; deposit adjudications are based on the balance of probability, whereas in a court of law a judge will base their decision on the ‘weight of evidence’. This is a higher standard than a deposit dispute, so careful consideration and a lot (and I mean loads) of objective information, and pictures, are needed to ensure that the facts are clearly laid out for all to see and judge.
Unfortunately the clerk in this instance was being too polite and understanding about the landlord’s predicament (they are empathetic by nature which is a fabulous attribute), which they continued to convey throughout the report which lengthened the process considerably.
So what should you do when faced with an overly talkative (but polite) landlord or tenant?
- focus on the task at hand
- spend the first few minutes assessing the property and getting your template ready
- set the landlords or tenants expectations of how the report will be conducted and long the report will take
- ask the landlord or tenant about the property, if there is anything you need to know or be aware of so you have all the relevant information
- advise the landlord or tenant that you need to concentrate on the report especially if dictating
- take control of the visit; be firm but courteous
- if you need to ask questions only use those that will elicit a yes or no response (close ended)
- don’t get distracted; if the landlord or tenant insists on talking to you try not to respond. They will soon get the message
- if the landlord or tenant continues to impinge on your space then stop the report. Politely remind that they need to be in another room both for their safety as much as yours
- if they continue to ignore your request then you are quite within your rights to halt the report and leave the property
I personally have never had to stop a report, however, I have had to literally ‘order’ a rowing tenant and landlord to leave the room as their arguing was affecting the quality of my dictation. I wasn’t rude but I was firm and both promptly left. The neighbours then got to hear the argument, played out in full, in the front garden but at least I could finish the check out!
Being distracted because of their presence or because you can no longer maintain a safe distance from each other will cost you both in wasted time and money, as well as impacting on other scheduled jobs.
The key takeaways here are:
- talk to your landlord or tenant
- set the parameters for the report
- take control of the situation
- stick to your guns
If you’re firm but fair, and make your concerns understood with clear and polite communication (no need to raise your voice or be aggressive), the response will almost certainly be positive. Often the client isn’t aware that they are being distracting, especially when dealing with a difficult check out as emotions can run high. This is never more evident than when there have been underlying issues that have gone unmanaged or unreported or when the property has not been very well maintained by either party.
Our role, as inventory professionals, is multifaceted. We not only compile the report, but manage what can be quite a complex relationship. We often find ourselves in between the landlord and tenant, the agent and the landlord or all three!
Our ability to communicate, impart advice and willingness to go that extra mile is what can really make you stand out in what is a crowded market. That ‘can do attitude’ will stand you in good stead both in regards to how you’re perceived as a supplier and when being considered for any future work.
And as a (quite famous) businessman points out:
“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”