With borders being shut at a national, state, and regional level, there are major implications to property management to consider.
It’s no stretch to say property management is already suffering a major headache from the impact of COVID-19.
People will always need a roof above their heads, and there’ll always be demand for rental properties for Australia’s growing renter population. But what could be the impact of the COVID-19 on property management?
Here are some of the key issues rent.com.au’s National Agent Services Manager, David Berridge, has identified as immediate and emerging issues for property managers.
Open for inspection. Maybe not?
Imagine not being able to open a property for inspection. If the infection rate increases, any close-quarter situation where many people come together in a single location could become too risky. Update: As of the 25th March all public open for inspections are now banned.
There could be cause to offer remote inspections through 360 virtual tours. There would be a need for an increased depth of detail in property descriptions, helping tenants make an informed decision to accept a property without needing a physical inspection.
For now, ensure all tenant rental inspection emails inform prospective tenants of hygiene and precautions when attending an inspection. Advise them not to attend if they’re showing any signs of the infection or if they’ve been in contact with anyone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the last 14 days.
Property management – from home
It could be case of ‘not if, but when’ someone on your property management team is quarantined at home, having tested positive to COVID-19. How will your office manage this? Depending on how your office operated (e.g. task-based versus portfolio-based), consider how you’d manage routine inspections, your front office (for the occasional tenant cash payment), lease signing and tenant induction. All these procedures should be reviewed.
Routine inspections: another potential hornet’s nest
There are two distinct issues here. Firstly, imagine if one of your tenants was placed into home quarantine. It’s important to ensure your staff member does not come into close contact with an infected tenant or surface the tenant may have touched. Where possible, consider rescheduling the routine inspection.
If the person in your team who typically does your inspections becomes infected, you will need to manage a different staff member (or contractor) performing the inspection. Or will it be simpler for you to reschedule?
Many agents are already having their tenants facilitate the routine inspection on behalf of the property manager, with full guidelines on how the tenant needs to perform this.
On the road? Be prepared
To protect your staff from potential infection, develop guidelines for anyone who is likely to be in contact with the public as part of their role. The Australian Government has resources you can use on the Department of Health website.
The real risk of rent not being paid
Unfortunately, Australia’s workplace laws don’t protect income for many workers who find themselves unable to work from quarantine. Casual workers could be in real financial trouble if they’re forced to stay at home and can’t get paid, which means they can’t meet their rental payment obligations. This could have major consequences for your landlords.
But wait, there’s more
Property management has many facets and tasks that must be performed. This also applies to other staff members including BDMs and tradespeople.
Of course, this isn’t an exhaustive list and there are many more implications to consider. Hopefully a vaccine is quickly developed to help control the spread of the virus, and much of the above is superfluous, but until it’s worth discussing and planning for before it becomes a real issue.
Keep an eye out on our Agent Blog for updates and tips about Coronavirus and other challenges for the property management industry.