By Kathy Marlor
Whether you are a real estate professional who helps sellers and buyers or a property manager, there are certain safety tips and precautions you can take to stay safer on the job. I’ve taught at real estate events and trained property management teams, title company employees who travel and created custom seminars and scenarios to help them with their difficult clients and the real threat of robbery. You can use these tips to help stay safer on the job and off.
Before You Meet at a Property
Gather Detailed Information-Prior to meeting a prospective tenant, get enough information about who they
are to be able to “Google” them and/or do a quick online search to verify that the information appears true. Ask for their full legal name, phone number and current address. Because many people are easily found online with their main email address that they’ve had for quite some time, it’s a great idea to ask for that as well.
Verify Who Will Be Visiting the Property- To help avoid the “surprise” of additional people showing up at a property unexpectedly, ask if anyone else will be coming with them. If they say “Yes,” ask them who else will be visiting a property so you’re not caught off-guard.
Let Them Know That Proper Photo I.D. is Required –Ask your prospective tenants to bring valid photo I.D. with them to verify their identity prior to being shown a property. I.D. is typically copied to go with a rental application.
If Possible, Meet First in a Public Place or at the Office-If possible, ask your prospective tenant to meet you at the office or for coffee in a public place to go over your available properties, fill out paperwork, etc; rather than meeting them for the first time, alone, at a property.
Tell Someone Else Who You Are Meeting and Where-Get in the habit of letting someone know who you’re meeting, where, and the expected timeframe in which the meeting will take place. Tell them, call, or text them the info. It’s a good idea to leave a paper trail of info on your desk in an appointment book.
Leave Valuables at Home or in the Office-Prior to going to a property be sure to leave flashy jewelry or valuables at the office or home to avoid looking like a potential robbery target.
Keep Personal Information About Yourself-Personal-Avoid disclosing information about yourself and don’t feel obligated to answer personal questions about yourself, even if they seem as harmless as: “How many kids do you have?” “Do you live close by?”
General Safety While at a Property
Pay Attention and Access Your Surroundings-Before you get out of your vehicle, access the area to see who is around and if everything looks okay. Continue to stay on “yellow alert” as you interact with others or enter a property before a prospective tenant arrives to do things like turn on the air, etc.
Behave Assertively and Confidently-From the time you arrive until you leave, appear confident, assertive and in control by using good posture, eye contact, positive body language, tone of voice and stay focused. When you meet someone it’s important that you come across as assertive and as someone that would NOT make an easy victim.
Listen to Your Gut– If you have an odd feeling about someone, a situation or something that’s been said to you… listen to your instincts and remove yourself from the situation if possible or get to a public or safe place.
If Someone is Unexpectedly in the Property-If you enter a property and someone is in it that you weren’t expecting-exit right away, get a safe distance away from them and call the police. They could be a “squatter,” someone using the property as a drug house, etc; If there is a car and it seems safe, get the license plate number for the police. Either way, you weren’t expecting them to be there, and you don’t need to get the details from them.
Make a Phone Call-After meeting someone for the first time, make a quick phone call to a “friend” to let that person know where you are and who you’re with. Allow the person you just met to hear the call so they know your location and who you’re with is not a secret.
Keep Distance and Leave an Escape Route-When you are at a property to show it, or to handle challenges, control the distance between yourself and others. When checking I.D. or exchanging paperwork, try to do that outside, rather on the inside of buildings where others can’t see you.
When showing a property, stand sideways while unlocking a door so you can see where others are; Open the door and move away allowing the prospective tenant(s) to enter first; keep your distance and leave a clear path or “escape route” so you can get out first, in the event that something goes wrong.
Carry a Weapon or Personal Protection Item-It’s a good idea to have a self-defense or personal protection item with you that you can easily access if you need to. Popular choices are pepper spray (helps protect against vicious dogs too) stun guns, shrieking alarms and firearms provided you have training and a handgun permit.
No matter what protection item you choose, you will need to practice using it, and also practice getting it out to use, preferably while stressed or fearful to be successful in a real emergency.
Dealing with Difficult People
Access the Situation-How bad is it now? Is it a yellow, orange or red alert situation?
Yellow alert is things seem pretty normal, they may not be happy, but they aren’t making threats or displaying aggressive physical behavior. Orange alert is when someone is disgruntled, may have said some inappropriate things or make vague threats, their tone and body language may be getting aggressive; Red alert is when someone has threatened you harm, is becoming physically aggressive, pointing in your face, yelling, and you feel as if they can and will harm you;
Maintain Distance Away From Other People-Strive to keep a two arms-length distance in between you and other people. Having a conversation from this distance helps keep you physically safer and allows you to stay in control.
Use Assertive Non-Threatening Communication-Communication is mostly made up of body language and tone of voice. Stand confidently, hands the center of your body, one foot in front of the other, use eye contact and an assertive tone of voice. If things are getting heated, put both hands up with your palms facing out, as if to say “Stop.”
Learn Basic Verbal Boundaries and Conflict Resolution Skills- Being able to calm someone down to keep a situation from getting worse with verbal skills is important. Practice conflict resolution scenarios using verbal boundaries that clearly tell someone what you expect them to do, or that show you’re not there for a fight like: “I don’t want a problem.” “I’m trying to help you, let’s discuss this calmly.” “Back away from me.”
Red Alert Threats-When a line is crossed and you’ve been threatened with immediate harm, someone resorts to breaking property, or you feel that you’re in danger, it’s time to leave and contact the police. Sometimes, a person completing loses it and when they are in that state of mind, you can’t rationalize with them as they are truly in fight or flight mode.
Red Alert Verbal Boundaries-if you find yourself stuck in an immediately dangerous situation, you can still use verbal defense skills, however they will be much louder and stronger than others. Common red alert verbal boundaries will be: “Get away from me!” “Back away NOW!” “Don’t touch me!” “NO!”
Take a Self Defense Course that Covers Scenario Training-It’s a good idea to take a self-defense course that doesn’t just cover physical fighting, but that will take you through scenarios so you can practice staying calm, reacting appropriately with verbal defense and then if all else fails- physically defense yourself. One National brand that offers this type of training is FAST Defense.
Robbery- You’re worth much more than your personal property, if someone tries to rob you, or take your car, it’s usually best to give up your property without a fight as they may have a weapon or may be desperate enough to hurt you. It’s your choice but it’s best to think through how you’d handle this if it happened to you.
You’ll have the best chance of being safe on the job and taking action should you find yourself in a dangerous situation by following these safety tips and listening to your gut instincts. Review them often and consider taking a self-defense course with customized “What if” scenarios for property managers from St. Pete. Self Defense.
**The author, Kathy Marlor is available for customized safety and defense seminars for a variety of industries including property manager and real estate professions. She may be reached through: http://www.stpeteselfdefense.com or at: Kathy@stpeteselfdefense.com