It’s been just over two weeks since we could start completing viewings on properties. During that time it feels like more businesses and services are finding ways to operate safely. We have been completing viewings on empty properties, with success, which is reassuringly normal! The viewings are completed under strict rules with a limit of one person with our team member, and everyone wearing gloves and a mask. Like so many things, weird at first, but soon becomes normal!
We are insisting all people view these before visiting the property, to minimise physical viewings where possible, however, we usually ‘accompany’ them on the 360 tours through a call with a shared screen, so we can answer questions.
We are also seeing tenants starting to allow access to their homes. Where we have asked contractors to complete works such as Gas Safety Certificate checks these had largely stopped as tenants understandably had prevented access.
However, contractors are re-checking and some tenants are now allowing access. Clearly it is right for tenants to have the choice to make this decision. The good news is the sooner we can start these works, the sooner we can work on the backlog.
The main areas we have not yet seen a change is access to properties for routine property visits. Clearly tenants are more prepared to allow someone in their home for a repair or safety check than they are for a routine visit by our staff to check there are no fundamental issues.
We anticipate the lockdown rules need to be much more relaxed before we can return to normal visits.
We continue to closely monitor the impact of COVID19 on rent payments. Happily, only 5% of tenants are having a problem, and most of those are paying most of their rent. Almost all have undertaken to repay any shortfall over time. Whilst we are pleased it is only 5%, it clearly is clearly no comfort to you if you are one of this unhappy minority. We have invested more staff time in making sure we closely liaise between both landlords and tenants in these situations. We are also monitoring all rents more closely as we all think the ‘you know what’ situation is a less short term than originally anticipated, so we expect some tenants who currently pay may have COVID related difficulties paying rent in a couple of months.
The thing that can’t be underestimated is the extra time it takes to do things. There are the process changes we have had to design and implement. In the past, we would complete activities in person. Now we use video calls but then need to have a separate exchange of documents, all of which add time.
There are also small but frequent issues. If you phone us we can all take your call when working from home, but we can’t transfer your call to the person you need. Therefore we have to send a message asking our colleague to call you. We are sorry if that makes speaking to us more clunky than normal!
We are working to improve this, as we think we will be working from home for some time.
Throughout this, we have kept all staff fully employed and paid, without needing to use the furlough scheme. That means we have continued to be available to you and working for you throughout the lockdown. We are continually improving our working arrangements so our service from home for you is no different from when our staff is in the office.
We hope this is helpful. If you have any questions then please let me know.
Matthew Lester, MARLA
t: 01480 494967