While visiting tenants most private spaces and glimpsing the true reality of their home lives, real estate workers become potential witnesses to signs of domestic and family violence.
With that in mind, the Real Estate Institute Queensland is ensuring real estate agents and property managers are trained to not only identify domestic and family violence (DFV), but also take necessary action when they encounter it as part of their work.
The REIQ has teamed up with Q shelter to develop a DFV toolkit, along with an educational package, aimed at real estate professionals.
Funded by the Queensland Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women, in partnership with the Department of Social Services, the Domestic and Family Violence: Strengthening the Real Estate Agent Response Toolkit features information and resources that broaden understandings of DFV.
REIQ CEO Antonia Mercorella said with one in six women affected by DFV, there was a high probability a real estate professional would interact with a victim of this crime, so real estate workers understanding their role in community intervention was pivotal.
“We are committed to strengthening the response to domestic and family violence within the real estate industry, as the nation strives to put a stop to this national crisis,” Ms Mercorella.
“By incorporating appropriate training within our courses, we will also ensure that real estate agencies develop an awareness and understanding of the impact that domestic and family violence can have on a tenancy, providing them with the tools for an appropriate response.
“Following completion, participants will have a better understanding of their role in responding to domestic and family violence as part of a whole-of-community response.
“They will build proficiency in responding appropriately to tenants impacted by DFV, whilst prioritising the safety of women and children.
“We will also ensure participants understand referral pathways for assisting tenants in accessing appropriate information and support services.”
Ms Mercorella said the response to the toolkit from the industry had been heartening.
“Q Shelter and the REIQ have held numerous focus groups, which clearly demonstrate the significant impact that real estate professionals can have on victims of domestic and family violence,” she said.
“For example, property managers are in an ideal position to help victims of domestic violence understand their rights under the Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act.”
The Act gives rights to people in a domestic relationship whether they are a tenant named on the tenancy agreement or not.
These rights include a victim of DFV being able to end their tenancy agreement or become recognised as a tenant.
Ms Mercorella said one example that came out of a focus group was of a woman who was a cotenant with her former partner in a private rental.
“Concerned about the financial repercussions of leaving the property, along with damage made by her domestically violent ex-partner, she turned to her property manager for help,” Ms Mercorella said
“After raising her concerns, the ultimate outcome for her was avoiding financial accountability, receiving her portion of the bond back, and being able to remove her name from the lease and move out of the property, with the support of her real estate agency.
“In this case, the understanding, support and guidance provided by the property manager empowered and enabled her to follow the legal process required to allow her to escape a dangerous situation.”
REIQ students already have access to the toolkit and the new content will be introduced into REIQ training early next year.