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First National equips property managers to handle domestic violence skilfully

In Australia, a domestic violence incident occurs every two minutes and with 88 per cent of incidents occurring in the family home, property managers are at the forefront of dealing with these troubling situations.

When handled well, a property manager with a specialist domestic violence skill set can aid better outcomes for the tenant-victim, and their landlord clients.

But, if handled poorly, the property manager risks worsening already dangerous situation, especially for the tenant-victim.

That’s why First National has included domestic violence-specific training in their Investor Relations Days (IR Days).

Investor Relations Days occur twice yearly in every state across the country and help educate property managers on domestic violence warning signs, and how to deal with potential victims, while prioritising their safety.

First National, National Property Manager, Debbie Fletcher said after listening to their property managers, the network recognised the need to better equip their team with the specialist skills required to identify possible domestic violence, how to respond, how to explain to a victim their rights and responsibilities about the rental property and also the best way to prioritise the the safety of the tenants and the property manager.

Property managers also receive training in self-defence and understanding dangerous situations.

“If you haven’t been educated on or come across domestic violence before, there’s no reason why you would have an understanding of what to do,” Ms Fletcher said.

“The whole situation can be compounded if people (victims) don’t feel that they’ve been listened to or treated accordingly.

“The consequences can be detrimental and it’s not just about their self-esteem – they risk physical violence if their partner gets wind of it.”

Ms Fletcher said educating property managers supported better outcomes and educating them in customer service skills could help make them more aware of dangerous situations and prevent poor outcomes.

“If they learn to read a situation, it’s better for them and the landlord,” she said.

Ms Fletcher said educating property managers on how to build relationships with tenants often meant they sought the help they needed and looked after their property well.

She said the Investor Relations Days also zeroed in on teaching property managers to truly listen to their tenant clients.

“We always say to the property managers, when you’re talking to people, listen to them,” she said.

“When they’re angry, let them talk.

“Let them get across what their problem is before you interrupt them and then respond.”

With laws surrounding domestic violence differing between states, the Investor Relations Days customise the education state-by-state to better assist the property managers.

Felicity Vance, from Relationships Australia, said First National was an industry leader in the domestic violence and property management space.

“First National should be congratulated on raising the issue of domestic violence and how it affects property managers, no other network has or would think of it,” Ms Vance said.

“Many property managers have spoken to me and said thank you as we have now given them the confidence and resources to not only do their job better but protect them.”

Ms Fletcher said the first step for property managers and principals was to be more aware of the situation.

“Take the time to have a look and try connecting and engaging with people,” she said.

Ms Fletcher said if property managers were concerned someone in a household was at risk, it was important to report it to the appropriate agencies.

“I’ve come across situations where a child is at risk, and I’ve gone away and reported it,” she said.

“A lot of people have the attitude, ‘I don’t want to get involved’.

“But if you are suspicious that something’s going on, and the person isn’t receptive to your assistance, and mostly they won’t be, you can still report it to an agency, and they will go in there discreetly and see what’s going on.”

Highlighting First National’s commitment to tackling this difficult issue, Alexandra Haggarty from First National Maitland also recently received the Woodrow Weight Award from the Real Estate Institute of New South Wales.

The award recognised Ms Haggarty’s efforts in assisting more than 200 families escape domestic violence and transition to safer homes.

Ms Fletcher said First National would continue to provide education and support for property managers to better manage domestic violence situations and encouraged principals across the industry to do more to fully appreciate the prevalence and impacts of domestic violence and better support staff to manage it effectively.

“The property managers are the people that are actually going into people’s homes and domestic violence is one of those things that people are really ashamed and embarrassed about so people don’t want to declare it,” she said.

“But these are people’s lives that you’re talking about.”

  • Visit Elite Agent on Wednesday, November 1, for a full feature interview with Alexandra Haggarty about her work assisting survivors of domestic violence.

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Rowan Crosby

Rowan Crosby is a senior journalist at Elite Agent specialising in finance and real estate.

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