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Every Agent Has A Story: Bob Walters

Our next story comes from Bob Walters, Executive Director of LPMA, who shares the two key lessons he learned after making a false assumption about the belongings of tenant during a vacate inspection.

  • Don’t make assumptions; find out the facts before your course of action.
  • Consider the impact of any decision before making them, as they may have legal consequences.


Hi, I’m Bob Walters. I’m the executive director of the Leading Property Managers of Australia.

I’d like to tell you a little story about abandoned goods. Many of you may know that I’ve been in this business a long time, about 43 years in fact, but my first year in property management, I was a letting clerk in a real estate agency in the Inner West of Sydney. I had a request from my boss to go and inspect a vacant property that a tenant had just left.

Of course, going to the property I was excited about doing my first vacate inspection. Went into the property with the set of keys and found the place was totally empty except for some piles of rubbish in the kitchen (which was par for the course for that part of the world) and this crocodile skin that was on the floor of the lounge room.

Me thinking the tenant had vacated the property and had abandoned that particular crocodile skin, I thought, “Well, Bob, I should take this home. I should roll it up.” I put it in the boot of my car, took it home, and then put in onto my bed at home, thinking that would be quite a little souvenir to have at home. It would certainly be attractive to anyone that came towards my bedroom.

The next morning, the detectives arrived from the local police station, and came into reception saying that a tenant of ours had vacated a property and had reported the theft of a crocodile skin.

I certainly immediately confessed to that, but told the detectives that I thought the tenant had left the skin behind, that they’d abandoned it.

The tenant wanted to press charges. They took me into the police station, fingerprinted me, and put me in the holding cells there. My boss, the owner of the real estate office, generously came down and paid my bail. I’ve got to say, I was particularly scared about the outcome because certainly to be able to work in real estate I need to have a clean police record. That career was about to end because of this silly little indiscretion.

The detectives actually got up in the witness box and testified that they thought it was a bit of a silly mistake on my part. Thankfully, the magistrate also agreed with that, and actually gave me what’s called a 556A, which is the offence is proven but no conviction is recorded.

So the lesson I learned from that experience? Be very careful when you’re going to inspect a vacant property. If there’s any doubt about any of the things left in the property, don’t automatically think that they’ve been left behind by the tenant, and don’t just take the goods home to souvenir them for yourself. Go through the proper legal channel.

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