Our next story comes from Hayley Mitchell, Director of Mitchell Property, who shares the two key lessons she learned once she decided against evicting a long-term tenant who continually dishonoured his rent.
- Being bound by legislation does not mean we stop being compassionate, e.g. offering additional support to tenants with health or financial issues.
- Be aware of any disabilities your tenant(s) may have, as this can impact on the suitability of their property.
Hi, my name is Hayley Mitchell. I’m the Director of Mitchell Property and Mitchell Property Training.
My confession is an interesting one actually. We took over management of a property a few years ago. The tenant had been living in the property for about 15 years by the time I took it over, long-term tenant.
I went there and did a routine inspection, and the owner actually said to me, “Don’t worry about the condition of the property.” Now, that always highlights that you’re about to walk into a scary situation.
I think the tenant had probably never cleaned the apartment in 15 years. The bathroom wasn’t too bad. Kitchen was appalling. The layer of dust on everything was just incredible.
His rent dishonoured one day. I gave him a call, and he said that he had some problems with money. He did eventually bring up the rent. It was brought up to date again.
Then, the next month, same thing happened. Next month, same thing happened. The owner was really, really flexible, remembering that this tenant had been there 15 years. He then got to the stage where he actually couldn’t bring the arrears up to date. I had a chat to the owner, and she agreed with me that we had to do something.
I had a really good chat to the tenant. He told me he had Parkinson’s disease and he was unable to work [anymore] as a taxi driver. So he had severe financial stress. I didn’t want to kick him out on the street and nor did the owner, but we’re also not a charity. The owner does need that rent money to come into cover her mortgage.
We went to VCAT, and I made it really clear to the VCAT member on the day that we had no intention of actually putting the tenant out on the street. The reason we’re going down the VCAT path was to hopefully give him that bit of paper to say that he was about to be evicted, that he could then go out to all the charity organisations to actually get rehomed. Because if you don’t have an urgency on your situation as a tenant, you just go onto a waiting list. He could have been out on the street or he could have had to wait ages and ages.
After the hearing, I was able to make calls to the different charities, and he was as well. He actually got into transitional housing within a two-week period. When we did the vacate inspection, it became apparent that he shouldn’t be living in the property anyway, considering that he was unable to actually make it to the bathroom.
I guess what I’ve learned from this is, although we’re bound by legislation and we’re actually bound by rules and regulations, we can still be compassionate. I feel like I could have gone down the hard path with this tenant. I could have just executed the warrant and put him out on the street, but that was never my intention.
I slept well that night knowing that I actually helped that tenant to move onto the next stage of his life.
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