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Don’t just manage tenants, understand them

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When you moved into your new sectional title home last September you diligently filled in the defects’ list the complex’s managing agent asked you to complete and send back to him. You noted that the front door’s lock was not…well…locking and some of the windows did not fully close.

When he arrived for the incoming inspection, with your defects’ list in hand, you showed him exactly what you were concerned about. He took photos with his cellphone camera and verbally acknowledged your issues: “The front door has a Trellidor security gate so this is sufficient security”, “If you’re concerned about the windows not closing properly in your child’s bedroom, then let her sleep in your room”.

Last week was your mid-term inspection. The agent arrived and you again pointed out the same issues; only this time he treated it like it was the first time you had brought them up. You realise that he will probably never fix the most basic elements of the home’s security features – relying on the clause in the lease that states his responsibility is to provide “a habitable home” and that when you signed the lease agreement you agreed to rent the home voetstoots (as is).


 

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The only problem is that when you signed the lease agreement, you didn’t know about these defects – only picking them up the night before you moved in when the keys you were given suddenly had no lock to lock! The windows, too, were left open to help dry the carpets and their inability to close on their frames was only picked up after taking occupation.

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The love-hate, can’t-live-with-them, can’t-live-without-them relationship dynamic between landlords and tenants is far more pronounced in the age of social media: Where landlords bemoan their disrespecting, bad paying tenants, and tenants their demi-god complex landlords. If this is bad against regular landlords, it is far more amplified against managing agencies which are viewed as faceless, heartless landlords. The role of tenant is also a subservient one, with the landlord in a very powerful position over the tenant – though the Consumer Protection Act has tried to level the playing field and balance power between the two parties.


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Still, the question of fairness and mutual responsibility is a difficult one to properly answer: Landlords want a tenant who pays on time and looks after the home as if it were their own, while tenants want a landlord who is fair and human.

The very function of managing agencies which hold a rental property portfolio are far more complex and systems-oriented than even rental agents, and certainly more than normal landlords. Further to managing the relationship with the tenant, they have to deal with inspectors and agents, manage the common property and keep abreast of changes to policy and the legal landscape.

Expecting a managing agency to operate like a human may be a lot to ask and unfair to expect.

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But tenants who do rent from managing agencies enjoy a greater level of accountability from the company and the relationship is a business-centred one.

To improve the system and create greater transparency between both sides is what led David Hutchison to localise rental inspection software, Property Inspect, for the South African market.

Through the software, managing agents and tenants can now have instant, online access to the property’s inspection documentation.

“Tenants are able a link to the complete report and can provide input,” says David Hutchison, sales director at Property Inspect. “This ensures fairness in the rental relationship. Tenants can be afforded the opportunity to comment on the report, and log any issues found, for example a broken door handle that may have been missed during the ingoing inspection.”

In this case, tenants will be more empowered to pay for and fix the immediate issues – especially if agency is slow to respond appropriately. Tenants will have proper, verifiable and date-stamped proof of notification and costs in order to be able to claim back the expense from the managing agent, while the agency streamlines processes and maintenance scheduling.

“Strong systems equal more fairness,” says Hutchison. “A happier tenant who feels like their concerns are being addressed ultimately complains less. It is a tool designed specifically for managing agents that tenants can access to make everybody’s life easier and fairer.”


 

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For more, visit Property Inspect

david.steynberg@gmail.com

David A Steynberg, managing editor and director of HomeTimes, has more than 10 years of experience as both a journalist and editor, having headed up Business Day’s HomeFront supplement, SAPOA’s range of four printed titles, digimags Asset in Africa and the South African Planning Institute’s official title, Planning Africa, as well as B2B titles, Building Africa and Water, Sewage & Effluent magazines. He began his career at Farmer’s Weekly magazine before moving on to People Magazine where he was awarded two Excellence Awards for Best Real Life feature as well as Writer of the Year runner-up. He is also a past fellow of the International Women’s Media Foundation.

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