IF THEY’RE not inspecting your pad or announcing a rent hike, most tenants don’t give their property managers a lot of thought.
But they probably know a lot more about your life than they let on.
Property managers, who usually look after hundreds of rental properties at a time, spend much of their days doing routine property inspections — and some of the things they come across are frightening, filthy or just plain odd.
In the 1990s recession, hockingstuart property manager Karina Reed says many people were looking for ways to supplement their income — and often that meant setting up a hydroponics system to grow marijuana in their apartment.
“I found pots on stands with lights over them and a hose from the washing machine taps,” she recalls.
“I had to notify the police and you think, ‘If I dob these people in will they come and get me?’”
Reed has also had tenants complain of water leaking through their light fittings, which has turned out to be a result of marijuana growing in the apartment above.
“We have to call the agent who manages the property above or the body corporate,” she says.
Before the days of online rental payments Reed says tenants used to drop cash or a cheque off at the real estate agent office.
For many lonely elderly people, it was an opportunity for a chat and when one of Reed’s regular tenants hadn’t showed up for a couple of weeks she went to the unit to touch base.
When he didn’t answer, she opened the front door and was greeted by an overpowering stench.
“The poor tenant had passed away in the kitchen and had been there for a good two weeks,” she recalls.
“He had no family so we had to get social welfare involved. It was sad to think he had been there and nobody had known. I was 18 at the time so it was a real eye opener for me.”
When Reed got a complaint about noise disturbance at a property she managed in an affluent area of Melbourne she arranged an inspection.
“Everything looked clean and tidy,” she says.
“One weird thing was that all the bedrooms had padlocks on them but they told us they had friends staying.”
When the couple, who were apparently professional and had good references, started falling behind in rent, Reed did another inspection and this time the property was fit out with completely different furniture.
Not long after, she was contacted by police who informed her they had been surveying the house for months because the house was littered with drugs and stolen furniture.
“The beautiful furniture had been burgled from the area,” Reed says.
“They kept changing furniture and selling it off. There was eventually an auction at the local town hall and people from the area found some of their items.”
While showing prospective tenants through a multistorey townhouse, Marcel Dybner, head of property management at Besser & Co, figured someone had made a joke upstairs when he heard constant laughter from the people going through the house.
“I was about to close the property and went upstairs to check everything and saw an adult magazine on the bedside table with the alarm clock on top,” he recalls.
“The owners had been living in the property and were about to move interstate so I just had a laugh and turned a blind eye.”
TOO MANY TOOTHBRUSHES
Reed has seen rental properties near universities with more occupants than allowed on the lease — and one of her tricks to discovering them is counting how many toothbrushes are on the bathroom counter.
“You can always hide a mattress under a bed but people forget to put away extra toothbrushes,” she points out.
UNREGISTERED DOGS AND CATS
You might think you’re getting away with having a dog or cat in your rental but Bligh says you’d be lucky to get away with it.
“Before I accept applications I check their Facebook and LinkedIn — within privacy setting compliance — and you usually get an indication if there are photos of a pet,” he says.
“You can also smell cat urine on carpets or a strong smell of dog. Sometimes there will be hair on the couch or food bowls that give it away.”