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This story comes from Randal Sharp, Director of Think Property & Co, who shares the key lessons he learned during newly signed property lease.
When visiting a new property, have a colleague or someone else with you for safety reasons.
Let your team know where you are at all times, using shared diaries, calendars or a smartphone app.
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My name’s Randal Sharp from Think Property & Co. Owner and Director. Our company’s been around for just under three years now and I’m a veteran of probably about 23 years, so I’ve seen quite a bit over time. My story’s quite an interesting story going back some years.
I was in a new position in a company in Melbourne and was handed a file for a property that’d just been signed up to be leased. I took the opportunity to go and visit the property later in that day when time allowed, only to be greeted by someone that wasn’t meant to be at the property as it was meant to be vacant. Came as a bit of a shock so I turned around and exited pretty quickly and headed back to the office.
Upon returning to the office, I reported to my manager that there was someone in the property and I believe they shouldn’t have been there given it was unfurnished. However, it’s just personal belongings that were scattered across the floor.
Manager was quite quick to respond, which was good. He said, “Give it a couple a days and head back down and see if they’re there anymore.” I thought to myself, “Okay, I’ll diarise this and I’ll head back down.”
Few days later, went back down to the property, entered the premises, door was locked. So I thought, maybe this person’s gone away. Unfortunately, they weren’t. There seemed to be another four people at the property to my surprise. Which again, I exited quite quickly.
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When I returned to the office, I reported to the owner that we weren’t having much luck in securing a new tenancy for the property because someone had actually already decided to move in, which I believed were squatters.
Following this, we went down to the property with the handy-man. They weren’t on the premises at the time, which was ideal. So we decided to change the locks. We thought, okay, this is fine, we got possession back. No one’s here, they’ve obviously cleared out and gone off.
Proceeded to enter, couldn’t hear anything. But as I turned around to the right in the hallway, through the crack of the door, I saw a hand come across a built-in rope and close the cupboard door.
This was the time I thought, “Enough’s enough, I’m heading back to the office.” Luckily, no one had turned up to the open that day.
To cut a long story short, proceedings started for warrant of possession through VCAT and dragged on for two months. The alias, who we named Jack, who was known to the police, was still at the premises and did not give up possession.
Finally, on the day of execution of the warrant, Jack was there with another two people this time. Dog squad and five police, and all were arrested. And apparently the car that’d been parked at the front the whole time was also stolen too along with other items in the property.
If I had my time again with this situation, I would’ve definitely approached it in a totally different manner. Knowing what I know now, and incidents I’ve seen in the past, I would never have set foot in that premises by myself and requested someone to accompany me or just to have safety measures in place.
Procedures I’ve put in place with my staff when we believe we may be getting close or uncomfortable with a situation. We automatically have our phones in our hands as it is, being agents. And we’ll actually just dial the office and have it on, so they can hear what’s happening. And they know where we are anytime, we have a shared diary system.
Piece of advice really taken from this would be always let others know in the office where you are, at anytime, using shared diaries, calendars, and just do not put yourself in a vulnerable position.
It would’ve been a pretty terrifying experience if someone had closed that door behind me and I was stuck in that property.