Courageous Conversations: How Ellen Bathgate overcame a tenant assault, why it’s not a one-off and how the real estate industry should respond

The real estate industry is well-aware that property management is a tough gig at the best of times, but what happens when the job involves violence or verbal assault? In this Courageous Conversation, Ellen Bathgate shares the story of being physically assaulted by a tenant, why it’s no isolated incident, and what needs to change.

No property manager should feel threatened or in danger simply doing their job, but anecdotal evidence suggests some do.

Rent Roll Starter founder Ellen Bathgate is among them. While working in Dubbo as a young property manager, she was physically assaulted by an irate former tenant.

The incident saw Ellen punched in the face, and despite the support of her office staff, directors and the police, it was a frightening encounter which left a lasting impression.

When she first publicly shared this story with the industry, it was also one that resonated, with other property managers coming forward to recount their own experiences of violence and abuse on the job.

In this Courageous Conversation, Ellen discusses what happened, how it impacted her, why it’s a problem for the real estate industry, and what she feels needs to change.

She looks at how de-escalation skills could be beneficial to property managers, especially at a time when the lingering effects of the pandemic have seen people’s stress levels at an all-time high and their tolerance at a new low.

And despite what occurred, Ellen notes the incident did not affect her love of property management. It’s this enthusiasm for the sector that led to her starting her own successful business Rent Roll Starter where she helps others start and build their own property management businesses. 

As a well-known figure in the industry, and a downright decent human being as well, Ellen provides a fascinating insight into some of the lesser-known experiences of the sector’s hardworking property managers. 

She poses some interesting thoughts on why property managers are at the coalface of tough conversations, and offers suggestions about arming your staff with the right resources for when the unexpected occurs.

“I think that there’s a lot of pressure on us as property managers to just grin and bear it. It’s just part of the job being verbally abused or abused on social media or threatened with violence or actually physically assaulted. I think it would be wise for us to ensure that the industry knows it shouldn’t be part of the job.” – Ellen Bathgate

Leanne and Ellen also discuss:

  • How the pandemic increased people’s stress levels and altered their behaviour, applying additional pressure to property managers.
  • Why property managers find themselves in the firing line from irate tenants and landlords, and how to de-escalate that behaviour.
  • How Ellen initially brushed the incident off, why she didn’t press charges and the way in which she’d respond very differently now.
  • Why verbal and physical abuse is sometimes considered part of the job, and how the industry can change this perception.
  • How the industry responded to Ellen’s story and why it emerged violence and abuse towards property managers was more common than many believed.
  • Why even small things like rain on a tin roof can spark fear in the heart of a seasoned PM.
  • Why the incident never deterred Ellen from her love of property management and how she came to be her own boss at Rent Roll Starter.
  • The key skills and strategies Ellen uses to get other property management businesses off the ground with minimal resources.
  • Ellen’s top tips on using social media to build your rent roll quickly, with minimal outlay and maximum effect.

And much, much more…

Ellen Bathgate on Elite Agent

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Leanne Pilkington

Leanne Pilkington is Chief Executive Officer and Director of Laing+Simmons.


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