Just recently, I asked my office PA to contact my managing agent to change my bank details and postal address. I was surprised and shocked to discover how this request was handled.
Following is a summary of the telephone conversation.
My PA: I am ringing on behalf of Debbie Palmer and would like to change my bank details, request a copy of last month's statement and change the postal address.
Assistant Property Manager: Certainly, please hold while I bring up your landlord contact card.
Assistant Property Manager: Is that for 'repeated the property address'.
My PA: Yes, that is the address.
Assistant Property Manager: Could I have your new bank details and address and I will change them in the computer.
My PA: Debbie! You will never believe how easy it was for me to change your personal details.
This is a very simple mistake that many property management departments could make.
When it comes to personal information retained by your agency on behalf of landlords and tenants, it is imperative that you understand that this information is private and confidential. It is vital that you have a system in place to verify who you are speaking with.
A very simple process to confirm who you are talking to could be to state "Mrs Smith, to ensure the protection of your personal information, would you mind if I asked you a couple of questions to verify I am actually speaking with Mrs Smith". Asking these questions should delight the landlord that you are protecting their interests and information. You can then proceed to ask, "Could you confirm your property address, could you confirm your postal address, and lastly what is the weekly rent". Never give the caller the information. You may wish to adopt your own form of questions or passwords for this process.
If a landlord requests to change any details, whether it is their postal address or bank details, always request that they submit this in writing and ensure that all property owners listed on the management agreement sign the request.
While this situation did not result in a fraudulent or unauthorised transaction, the following outcomes could have taken place if it was not the verified landlord:
SCENERIO ONE (This really did happen) A couple are in the midst of a divorce. The husband is not happy with the wife taking the house and the fact that the rental money is going direct into her account. He telephones the Real Estate and requests that the bank details are changed to his bank account. Would you do this?
SCENERIO TWO (This really did happen) A fraudulent accountant is under pressure with his finances due to a gambling problem. He is now desperate for funds and starts to manipulate his client's accounts. The accountant's client has many properties with your company and the accountant believes that his client won't miss a couple of properties income in comparison to his huge property portfolio. The accountant contacts your office on behalf of the landlord to request bank detail changes. Would you do this?
Both of these situations can obviously be rectified within your office by changing the details back; however who is responsible for the recovery of the unauthorised money being deposited into the new account. Not to mention the embarrassment of your level of professionalism and confidentiality displayed.
Do your staff know the importance of protecting the landlords information? Maybe this should be a topic that you address at your next staff meeting.Source Debbie Palmer
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