Violence, threats, mass resignation: Inside Qld’s property management nightmare

REIQ CEO Antonia Mercorella says the rental crisis has led to mass resignation of property managers.

Property managers have become the scapegoats of Queensland’s rental crisis, with around one in four tipped to quit the industry within the next five years as they contend with an onerous workload and risk verbal and physical abuse simply for doing their jobs.

Caught between tenants struggling to keep a roof over their heads, and landlords lambasted for hiking rental costs, property managers are buckling under huge pressure to manage the competing needs of both sides as rental vacancy rates have plunged to record low levels since the pandemic.

Real Estate Institute of Queensland (REIQ) CEO Antonia Mercorella highlighted concerning reports of verbal abuse and physical assaults of property managers, resulting in “high levels of stress in the sector, and mass resignations”.

QLD Housing Roundtable

Ms Mercorella pictured at a round table discussion in Brisbane to discuss the housing shortage in March. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Glenn Campbell

Ms Mercorella said the state’s “incredibly tight” vacancy rates over the last two years had forced property managers to contend with, “a long string of disappointed and unsuccessful applicants”.

“Because property managers are at the coalface, they can sometimes be unfairly held responsible for the state of the market and become the target of community backlash,” she said.

“Property management is a female-dominated sector and we’ve heard concerning reports of property managers regularly encountering verbal abuse and, in some cases, even being physically assaulted while simply doing their jobs.

“It’s important to understand that ultimately property managers have a legal and fiduciary obligation to their clients to provide accurate and up-to-date information about rental conditions and market rents,” she said.

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The shock industry turnover figure was based on the World Economic Forum’s latest Future of Jobs report, which forecasts the real estate sector will have one of the highest five-year churn rates of 27 per cent.

Labour market churn represents the mix of new jobs and redundant roles, and can be interpreted as a measure of industry disruption.

Industry expert Tony Blamey, of :Different, said the statistic was reflected locally in the number of property managers who would quit their roles as trained professionals ensuring properties were managed in a legally compliant manner.

Rental vacancy rates have plunged to critical low levels since the pandemic

A survey of Australian property managers found 23 per cent intended to resign within 12 months, as reported by The Voice of the Property Manager in 2022, while around 4,500 jobs were currently advertised by job hunting site Seek.

“There has been an exodus of property managers from the industry over the last few years which has created a huge staff shortage and puts more strain on those who are still in their roles,” Mr Blamey said.

Brisbane property manager Mikki Van Dyke said it was hard not to bring home the stress of the job.

“The current rental crisis definitely makes working in the property industry difficult,” the 34-year-old mum-of-three said.

“Each day we come to work and are faced with the realities of the crisis, whether that’s interacting with tenants or landlords.

“This on top of what is normally a high-stress job, creates a perfect storm which we’ve seen result in people leaving the industry prematurely.”

Real Estate

Property manager Mikki Van Dyke in Ascot. Pic Tara Croser.

Ms Van Dyke, of Moggill, said acting as “the middleman between landlords and tenants” was one of the most challenging aspects of the job.

“We are trying to appease both sides, ensuring a positive outcome for both parties.

“Tensions are often exacerbated by a rental and housing crisis, as everyone’s stress levels are high.”

Ms Van Dyke said she had witnessed huge changes over her 12 years in the industry.

“Property managers in traditional agencies often have a lot of hats to wear,” she said.

“This was definitely my experience and something I think contributes to the high turnover of property managers.”

Property managers are caught between desperate tenants and landlords

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) job mobility figures show 7.2 per cent of employees across the real estate industry as a whole had left in the year ending February 2022, while the labour force survey revealed the number of workers within the rental, hiring and real estate services industry fell by 7.7 per cent over the 12 months to February 2023.

Ms Mercorella said property managers were also contending with a significantly increased workload since Covid’s eviction moratorium laws, exacerbated by the recent raft of rental legislative reforms which added further complexity to the role.

These included laws which come into effect on July 1, limiting rent increases to once every 12 months.

Landlords are also contending with financial pressure amid rising interest rates

Mr Blamey said property managers were “pulled in different directions”, by owners who expected higher returns to offset continued interest rate rises, and tenants hit with big rent increases.

“It’s a very labour intensive service,” Mr Blamey said.

“They’ve got the owner and the tenant to deal with, often it’s emotional because you’re dealing with someone’s home and their shelter, and you’re also dealing with someone’s investment, which is very important to them as well.”

Mr Blamey said the real estate industry had been slow to adopt new technologies which could ease the burden of administrative tasks on under-resourced property managers.

PropTrack’s latest Market Insights Report shows rental vacancy rates remained flat through May, down just 0.01 percentage points to sit at 1.42 per cent.

National vacancy rates, while easing in most areas, remained down 46 per cent on pre-pandemic levels, the report found.

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