How the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak will change property management
The impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is being felt by everyone. Non-essential gatherings are being cancelled, and we are all being urged to practice social distancing. These new measures are set to be in place long-term – six months at the very least.
So, what does that mean for property management? Tenants are still living in their rental properties – some will need to move to a new rental property – and they still have the right to property inspections, maintenance, and other management services.
Amid the outbreak of coronavirus, property management must adapt. Let’s take a look at what property management might look like in the coming weeks and months as COVID-19 continues to take hold and change the way we live.
Will rental properties still be open for inspection?
All properties listed on the market – homes for sale, private rentals, granny flats for rent, and so on – are required to be inspected before they are leased or sold. However, as the infection rate continues to increase, these kinds of close-quarter situations have been banned. So, what’s the solution?
Real estate agents and property managers are already exploring the possibility of remote, 360-degree virtual tours and video. To complement these tours, agents and owners will need to increase the level of detail in their property descriptions, giving tenants as much information as possible about the property’s features and condition.
Can property managers work from home?
Estimates suggest that anywhere between 20 and 80 per cent of Australia’s population will contract COVID-19 at some point. It may be a matter of when and not a matter of if someone on your property management team is at home in quarantine.
Even if you dodge the virus, most offices have already moved to an at-home work arrangement. How are you going to cope?
The best thing to do is to prepare for the worst. Review how your office operates and who is responsible for what. Put a plan in place that details how you would manage day-to-day things like inspections, front office admin tasks, lease signing, and tenant induction. It is possible to undergo the vast majority of property management activities at home via the internet.
Don’t forget to communicate with your team. Video conferencing software enables you to host full-team meetings remotely, and a reliable instant messaging app (like Zoom and Slack) ensures your staff can get their questions answered fast.
What about routine inspections?
Rental inspections benefit both the tenant and the landlord by opening a discussion and enabling the renter to bring any issues or maintenance requirements to the manager’s attention. There are two distinct issues with conducting routine inspection amid the virus outbreak:
- Your tenants may be in home quarantine. To ensure the safety of yourself or your staff, it’s crucial that you reschedule the inspection or take an alternate approach, such as asking the tenant to send current photos or use their phone to take a video of the property.
- Your staff may be carrying the virus unknowingly, putting the tenant at-risk. This one is a bit trickier. Again, it may be wise to reschedule or ask tenants to send through up-to-date photos or video.
Tenants can’t pay their rent – now what?
Casual workers, contractors, and the self-employed may find themselves in hot water as businesses across the country are forced to close their doors. Estimates suggest that at least one million people could become unemployed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The government has introduced stimulus packages and a coronavirus supplement alongside the pre-existing Jobseeker payment, but time will tell whether or not that’s enough to keep tenants in their homes.
Experts and advocacy groups across the globe are calling for relief for tenants and homeowners in the form of an eviction ban and rent and mortgage freezes. If these measures do come into effect, the way you, as a property manager, get paid will likely change, too.
The great unknown
The coronavirus pandemic is unprecedented. None of us have experienced anything like it. How it will affect the way we live, work, and socialise is unknown. The best property managers can do is adapt to the circumstances and engage with tenants and fellow staff with compassion. This isn’t an easy time for anyone.
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