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Covid-19 Operational Guidelines

Operations | March 24, 2020
Adam Hooley

For many of us we are covering new territory and the landscape is continuing to change every day. Our minds are running at 150% and we are constantly having to assess the risk to our business and our team.

In the absence of any definitive industry support I have made a collection of core operational processes that I would recommend during the Covid-19 empedemic.

NOTE: This is by no means an instruction nor has it been endorsed by any legislative bodies, it is simply my opinion on operational best practice during Covid-19 to reduce risk to our team and clients.

Vacating Tenants Advise tenants that have given notice that they should stay in the property and we should put all moves on hold for the next 3-4 weeks and reassess where possible. Advise any upcoming lease expires or potential vacates to sit tight for now. Tenants can withdraw notice, however if they stay in the property the rent is still due as per the existing agreement or renegotiated otherwise.

Implementation Risk Level (All): Medium - only where necessary and safe

Vacate Inspections We have to consider the potential risk at the end of the tenancy of the condition not being recorded. We could potentially go to an empty property to quickly video it, with proper hygiene precautions, or ask the tenant to do it and email it to us. Leave keys somewhere at the property where possible. If you have to attend the property, no more than 2 people together and practicing social distancing guidelines.

Implementation Risk Level (All): Medium - only where necessary and safe

Ingoing Tenants We should contact all parties to see if this can be put on hold and we should be recommending they stay put where they are for now, and review in 3-4 weeks. Facilitate ingoing tenants in order to support essential service staff or prevent homelesness. Do this while adhering to social distancing guidelines and good hygiene practices.

Implementation Risk Level (All): Medium - only where necessary and safe

Ingoing Inspections There may be instances where the condition of the property may not be recorded. We could potentially go to an empty property to quickly video it, with proper hygiene precautions, or ask the ingoing tenant to do it and email it to us. Leave keys somewhere at the property where possible. If you have to attend the property, no more than 2 people together and practicing social distancing guidelines.

Implementation Risk Level (All): Medium - only where necessary and safe

Open Homes Open homes do not comply with social distancing guidelines and could put both the tenant and team member at risk. Steps should be taken to cancel all open home inspections.

Implementation Risk Level (All): High - Do not perform

Private Viewings They may be a need for properties to be leased sight unseen in order to accommodate landlords, essential care personnel or prevent homelessnes. If there is a need to conduct private inspections caution should be taken to adhere to social distancing guidelines and good hygiene practices. I would consider asking all attendees if they have recently been overseas or near someone who has.

Implementation Risk Level (All): Medium - only where necessary and safe

Compliance Common sense should be practiced here. I would consider delaying any compliance inspections for a short time should they put either the tenant or the contractor at risk. I understand that this may contraviene current legislation however common sense should be used in these circumstances. I would have the tenant check smoke alarms and pool fences and send photos in the short term.

Implementation Risk Level (All): Medium - only where necessary and safe

Routine Inspections Even though this is in our management agreement we should also practice care here. I would consider delaying any routine inspections for a short time should they put either the tenant or the team member at risk. Using virtual tools such as Zoom meeting or video recordings to conduct these in the interim may be an option. As scaling this can be time consuming, you might consider only conducting these for ‘higher risk’ tenants.

Implementation Risk Level (AU): Medium - only where necessary and safe Implementation Risk Level (NZ & USA): High - Do not perform

Maintenance I would consider only attending to urgent maintenance requests only. All non-urgent repairs and maintenance should be put on hold. An urgent repair should be defined as an essential service (Water/Electrical), the tenant being at risk, the property being at risk, further damage to the property or the property is not secure.

Implementation Risk Level (All): Medium - only where necessary and safe

Rent Arrears/Tenant Debt There is stimulus pending on what relief will be offered to tenants and landlords. Major financial institutions are offering mortgage freezes to anyone that has lost their job, however, may not yet apply to loss of rent. Landlords insurance currently covers loss of rent due to unemployment however may not cover loss of rent because the tenant has Covid-19.

We should remain diligent with managing rent arrears and apply to the tribunal for support where necessary, however, we should not evict tenants at this time. The priority is waiting for the government stimulus announcement in the next couple of days. Try to avoid rent holidays where possible, however, in negotiation with landlords a rent reduction, reviewed each month, may be a consideration to prevent the tenant from defaulting altogether or the property falling vacant.

Implementation Risk Level (All): Low - Continue as normal

Team Safety and Social Distancing I would encourage offices to relocate as many team members to work from home as possible giving priority to those that have to use public transport to commute to work. Practice safe social distancing for those that remain in the office by only using every second desk and lock the front door to appointments only. All offices should be closed during lockdown.

Where it is necessary to attend properties, good hygiene practices should be considered with the use of gloves that should be disposed of immediately on leaving the property. Attending properties to accommodate essential services personnel or prevent homelessness may be necessary during a lockdown.

Where it is necessary to work face to face with a client, limit to two people at one time and keep the recommended 1.5 meters distance from each other.

Implementation Risk Level (All): Medium - only where necessary and safe

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