The real estate industry, like so many others, has been hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis. The changes to the real estate landscape are unprecedented, ones that we could not have predicted a mere few months ago. Yet it is a situation requiring open communication lines and reasonable negotiations between Property Managers, Landlords and Tenants in order to come out the other side. From tenants unable to meet rental repayments, a quash on auctions and open inspections and moratorium on commercial evictions in place, the industry is working in an environment we have never seen before.
Restrictions on the Real Estate Industry
Open Inspections and Auctions
As per the Public Health (COVID-19 Restrictions on Gathering and Movement) Order 2020, restrictions have been placed on open homes and auctions. With gatherings of more than two people at one time disallowed, agents have been forced to think outside of the box when it comes to home inspections. We are seeing virtual tours via mobile technology and online auctions taking place. One on one appointments and inspections are currently allowed provided social distancing measures are taken into account.
Ongoing routine rental inspections can still take place however via the use of technology as opposed to in-house inspections. Tenants can use Facetime or Zoom meetings to conduct a virtual rental inspection with their agent. In-person inspections are permitted as long as social distancing measures are in place. However, it is recommended virtual tours are utilised where possible to avoid unnecessary interaction.
The COVID-19 Legislation Amendment (Emergency Measures) Act 2020 (NSW) prohibits revisions for both residential and commercial tenants for the next six months. If tenants are having issues paying their rent, the Government has advised for tenants and landlords to have open discussions and come to an agreement regarding rental payments together. Landlords and tenants who are experiencing financial distress are to come to a mutual agreement where possible.
Additional Help for Tenants
Alongside having discussions with their landlord, there are other steps tenants can take to help alleviate their financial concerns. If tenants are having trouble paying other household bills such as electricity, gas or water contact, they are initially advised to contact their provider directly. Enquire about their customer assistance program and their eligibility criteria. It is a requirement that all electricity and gas retailers have a customer assistance program. If you are eligible under the program, you are protected from disconnection. Your provider will work with you to develop a suitable payment arrangement and offer other relevant relief or support.
Tenants may have questions in relation to maintenance requests throughout COVID. As usual, Property Managers will be prioritising any urgent repairs. Some tenants may have some concerns about tradespeople visiting their property at this time. If the repair is urgent such as a smoke alarm or hot water system, the repair must proceed as it is deemed urgent according to the Residential Tenancy Agreement. If tenants have any general repairs, they will be tended to as soon as possible once the Property Manager can confirm available tradespeople. Social distancing protocols must also be followed. If tenants have any concerns, they are advised to contact their Property Manager and ask what precautions the tradesperson will be taking prior to and during visiting the property.
Jane Morgan is the Director of End of Month Angels, a consultancy firm specialising in Trust Accounting. Jane knows the legislative requirements of running a successful Real Estate office through her 23 years’ industry experience. Don’t trust just anyone with your trust accounting. Book an appointment with an End of Month Angel today.