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Dealing with escalated responsibilities

Over recent years we have seen an escalation of the responsibilities associated with the role of the real estate professional. In particular, the duties of agents working in property management have extended significantly and now include areas outside of the core function of managing the relationship between the landlord and tenant.

Property managers are now expected to hold competencies and express opinions regarding the integrity and mechanical worthiness of a broad range of areas including glass, asbestos, window safety locks, smoke alarms, decks and balconies, and swimming pools – and this is not even an exhaustive list!

This extension of duties and responsibilities is a growing concern for REINSW and we believe that it is time to address this issue, before a major incident occurs that adversely affects consumers and the profession.

Lobbying for change

It is important to recognise that, in general, property managers do not possess any specific building skills or the like that enable them to form an opinion that could, or should, be relied upon by interested parties in relation to the areas set out above.

Under the current framework, this expectation of knowledge places the tenant at risk of injury or loss, and the property manager is in the unenviable position of accepting responsibility for that injury or loss.

In May of this year, I wrote to NSW Minister for Fair Trading Matthew Mason-Cox to voice our concerns on this issue. I have also raised concerns with the NSW Fair Trading Commissioner Rod Stowe.

Tenancy managers

Moving forward, we must reconsider the role and functions of the property manager. It has been suggested that the proper functions of the property manager, as the role is currently termed, might be better described as a tenancy manager.

A tenancy manager, as that name would suggest, is tasked with managing the relationship between the landlord and tenant, and that relationship only. When it is prudent or appropriate for an opinion to be acquired in relation to a specific item associated with the property, then that opinion should be sought from a suitably qualified provider of the relevant service.

While a change in name may only seem minor, it would commence the process of redefining agents’ duties in this area of practice.

Property managers – or rather, tenancy managers – provide a high-quality service within their specific area of competency. When it becomes necessary to provide solutions for issues outside of these specific competencies, then it is appropriate that professional people with specific skills respond on these occasions. To ask the agent to undertake those functions is, quite simply, dangerous to all.

This article was first published in the October 2014 edition of the REINSW Real Estate Journal.