Impacts of COVID-19
We’ve been watching the COVID-19 situation as it evolves our country, state and suburbs. Each passing day brings new developments. Our nation is now in uncharted waters. We need to stay pro-active, responsive and FLEXIBLE.
This world wide epidemic is very complex and emotions to process these circumstances are at an all time high. We recognise how stressful this particular situation is, and we share your concerns. We stand with all of you and the broader business community during a time when the property management industry is being affected.
There may be instances that arise in the near future where tenants or occupants of dwellings are ill and may have contracted the virus and are unable to facilitate things such as routine property inspections, open for inspections or maintenance issues that were planned for as they may be protecting themselves from the public and for health reasons may not be willing to allow the public to walk though your property in fear of spreading the virus. We need to respect their decisions and living space.
There may be financial pressures that take affect. Job losses, inability to earn, loss of trade and business. We can all be sensitive to the financial realities of such turbulent times and play a part to support one another with understanding if genuine pressures are at play.
Feeling sick? Stay home!
If you are sick, the Health Department tells us not to go to public places, such as work, school, shopping centres, large gatherings or events or even childcare or university.
- flu-like symptoms
- runny nose
- shortness of breath
- sore throat.
You don’t want to put ANYONE at risk!
Our role as landlords is people management just as much as property management.
So that we can best keep each other safe from infection if you or anyone in your property is sick and have any one or a combination of the above symptoms they must be isolated for a minimum 14 days. We acknowledge the increased need for flexibility in times of uncertainty, and we must act in the best interests of public health and safety over monetary gains and benefits at the present moment.
- Place notices in common areas about increase hygiene and any new policy should be served on occupants ideally electronically or in person
- Occupants should notify management immediately if they are medically required to be isolated, so as to protect other occupants of the building. Boarding Houses have high levels of shared facilities, and depending on the structure of the building, occupants may have to serve out isolation in more appropriate facilities better suited to quarantining. For example:
- Occupations with appropriate levels of exclusive-use amenities, ie with private bathrooms facilities, that can cater for full isolation inside the occupation, then the occupant can serve out their quarantine there, with the assistance of outside services, eg food delivery.
- Occupations with higher levels of NON-exclusive use amenities, eg share bathrooms only, that are not appropriately set up, then those occupants should serve out any quarantine in appropriate facilities that can cater for isolation, to protect other occupants that would have to share amenities with them. They can return once medically directed isolation ends.
- Any expectations, guidelines and fact sheets should be served
- Supply extra hygienic products such as sanitisers, gloves, disposable plates, cups etc
- Increase communal area cleaning and sanitising
- Restrict common area use or close down those areas as required (many strata buildings containing gyms, spas and pools have been closed)
- Rent assistance is available via NSW Govt
- The laws do not specifically deal with this crises
- Check your landlords insurance policies for coverage and make sure your policy is paid up to date. In most cases rent default cover will be in place and insurers will be if there is a default despite your personal tenants circumstances
- Rent default coverage can be subject to landlord or property manager following correct practices and procedures in the management of rent arrears. Investigate if say a termination notice is not served for rent breach in a timely manner, does this void your policy?
- NCAT is open for hearings but there has been some change to their health policy. Phone conferencing hearings are available. Please read latest update here
- We believe hearing lists will surge. There will be delays. Best policy is to negotiate your own outcomes with your tenants
- Communicate up front about consequences for non payment of rent. They understand you have a mortgage and bills that don't stop
- Rent is due and payable but there may be hardship circumstances that come into play. Be flexible with repayment plans and empathetic with tenants' situation but stay firm. Have systems and processes in place to manage arrears
- Expect break lease and understand current laws and legislation about break lease notice periods and how this works. This is the most confusing area of tenancy legislation. New break lease laws begin 23/3/2020
- Expect some resistance to inspections during occupancy. This may be on the rental front and also if you are considering selling the property
- Expect tenants not to renew fixed term agreements that are about to expire and rent reduction requests. Be prepared for some uneasy conversations on this front.
Landlords financial assistance
Currently the big banks are offering support under existing financial hardship policies on a case-by-case basis. The existing support available includes deferring mortgage repayments, suspending interest, waiving fees and charges, reducing the loan amount or re-ageing the loan. Don't be shy in asking for help from your financial institution. The Australian Bankers Association provides an industry guideline fact sheet. Download here.
The NSW Energy and Water Ombudsman website also has valuable information about rebates and counselling.
General consumer and business rights information
The impact of COVID-19 is being felt by consumers and businesses as events and travel are cancelled. Consumer rights will depend on whether a business has decided to cancel a product or service, or whether government restrictions caused the cancellation which is outside of the business’ control. More information can be found on Fair Trading website here.
Staying informed about the impact of the coronavirus around the world is vital to ensuring your safety and the well-being of your tenants. In addition to your local public health officials and local authorities be sure read information and download fact sheets from Health NSW.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) offers plenty information as well as the highest authority on this crises.
We will keep you up to date with future changes as soon as they come to hand. This is a challenging time, but we take comfort in knowing that your co-operation,understanding and your patience is core to the human experience. We will learn so much from this unfortunate experience and be better prepared if and when it arrives again.
At this stage much of our communication to you will be general guidance rather than directives or certainties as the government is still at stage one of containing the virus and working towards the best outcomes (in the short-term) to minimise the spread while protecting the people and businesses as best as possible. It may be some time until we have any formal decisions on individual situations that many of you and us are facing.