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Time To Ditch DIY Approach

The days of DIY property management are numbered: flying by the seat of your pants is no longer an option, writes Milton Weir.

By: Milton Weir

1 July 2019

I’ve been involved in property investment for about 25 years now and the property management industry since 2004. Back in 2004, property management hadn’t really taken off here in New Zealand like it had in the likes of Australia. It was a case of “flying by the seat of your pants” – but that’s all changed now. It would be fair to say that residential property investors and property managers have seen more change in the last couple of years than in all the time I’ve been involved in property management.

Each month I write a short newsletter for the Propertyscouts offices throughout New Zealand to send out to our owners. There was a time when I struggled for content but the last couple of years have provided lots of opportunity to deliver property owners information on what’s happening in our industry. The coalition Government could be described as being “unfriendly” to property investors – maybe even hostile, and with the changes they have introduced, and have yet to introduce, we have seen many investors packing their bags and heading for (what they think) will be greener investment pastures. And yes, I even got into trouble (albeit only once) with one owner who thought that I was being a bit tough on the Government initiatives around rental properties. So, for the record, I don’t believe everything the present Government have introduced or intend introducing or signaled that they may introduce is bad, I just don’t happen to agree with all of it.

The overall state of our rental stock in New Zealand is poor when compared to other OECD countries. In particular, when it comes to “warm and dry” some of our rental properties are appalling. Generally, this can be put down to age and style of a lot of our rentals (old single-glazed weatherboard villas, for example) and also in some cases poor design. Then there’s the odd slack landlord, so the introduction of rules around compulsory insulation, underfloor moisture barriers and (to a certain extent) ventilation are to be applauded.

As property managers we often find ourselves having to be advocates for the Government’s initiatives, and at times it can be a bitter pill to swallow. Most property investors who have employed the services of a property manager don’t want to be involved in the day-to-day operation of their rental property. That includes not having to stay conversant with changing legislation or following Tenancy Tribunal cases which may impact on their rental property or their tenants.

It also includes them not having to deal with the tenants, and over recent times we have seen more and more tenants becoming vocal and standing up for their rights, whether those “rights” they are standing up for are legitimate or not.

Tenancy Tribunal Trolls

There’s nothing wrong with tenants standing up for their rights and taking landlords and property managers to task where things haven’t been done properly, but increasingly, in my view, we are seeing an anti-owner/property manager sentiment portrayed in the media. For example, there seems to be at least one online media company that “trolls” Tenancy Tribunal decisions looking for cases portraying landlords or property managers poorly. Fair enough I say, provided there’s an equal number of articles showing the lengths some landlords and property managers must go to when it comes to dealing with the likes of tenant damage and rent arrears. Unfortunately, balanced reporting seems to be absent. Property managers, and to a lesser degree private landlords seem to be easy pickings these days. Some deserve the negative press they attract (like the private landlord who recently sprayed raw sewage over his tenants’ belongings while trying to clear a blocked drain, or the property manager trading under the Ray White banner who was put into liquidation owing a reported $358,000 to 67 landlords), but most private landlords want to provide a suitable property for their tenants while returning a reasonable market rent.

And as for property managers? Well, generally they are hardworking, conscientious people wanting to ensure that they do the best job possible for the property owners they work for and dare I say it, for their clients, the tenants. In my next column I’ll talk more about the role of property managers and what to be on the lookout for when picking a property manager.

Milton Weir has been involved in property management since 2004. In 2015 he franchised his successful Dunedin property management business and now has 13 Propertyscouts franchises operating throughout New Zealand. He is a strong advocate for industry regulation and is presently a committee member of PROMINZ (Property Managers Institute of New Zealand).

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