COVID -19 : Frequently Asked Questions from Owners and Tenants
What should I expect when I visit your offices? –
- Our office hours:are from 9:00am to 1:00pm Monday to Friday.
- We are still working behind the scenes and contactable via email firstname.lastname@example.org
- If you need to speak to a staff member urgently please call 4727 2400.
- Our reception flooring is marked where to stand to maintain the social distancing rules.
- Inside our front entrance there is a drop box located for anything to be dropped in rather than entering the receptiuon area.
- For outside of our office hours we also have a drop box at the bottom of the dissability ramp facing the car park.
- During our office hours there is a desk in front of reception with an area to drop your documents.
- If you need to sign something, we ask you to supply your own pen and phone ahead to advise you are coming into the office.
How can I contact my Property Manager?
- Our Property Managers are utilising online systems to successfully perform most of their duties remotely. We have activated a phone diversion, so their contact details remain the same.
- In most cases, we encourage email as the best form of communication.
Hasn’t the Government Banned Open Homes?
- Yes, that’s correct. Many of our properties have virtual inspections, and all our inspections are by appointment only and these will continue as per the Government Guidelines.
Will Maintenance still be done at the Property?
- Our contractors have their own protocols in place to minimise risk when visiting tenanted properties, so we expect routine maintenance to be attended to as per normal times.
- The exceptions are those households that have occupants who are high risk, unwell, or in self-isolation, we ask if you are in this situation, please advise our office.
- Maintenance is actioned through our online Maintenance Manager program which allows tenants to take photos of the issue. The contractor may be able to determine the problem without visiting first, reducing the number of visits required.
What is happening with Lease Renewals?
- Now more than ever, it is vital to maintain stable, secure and safe tenancies, which is achieved by renewing fixed-term leases. Tenants are encouraged to sign their lease renewals several weeks prior to the end of the lease.
- We have introduced electronic signing of leases, so lease renewals are processed efficiently and safely without the need for face-to-face meetings or exchange of paperwork.
How are Smoke Alarm checks being managed?
- The law still requires a property owner to have smoke alarms checked within 30 days of the start of a new lease.
- If tenants identify themselves as high risk we will request to cancel the technician’s visit. In such cases, we must accept the tenant’s wishes, and the responsibility for testing the smoke alarm is passed onto the tenant in writing.
- Once the crisis is over, we will of course arrange for the check to be completed for those that were postponed.
What Happens when a Tenant Vacates the Property?
- To limit face-to-face contact with our staff, we are asking tenants to drop off their keys in our after-hours drop boxes rather than bring them in personally.
- All documentation including the Exit Condition Report are to be emailed directly to the Property Manager.
- The vacate procedure remains the same, as our Vacate Specialist performs the vacate inspections without the tenant present.
I want to help my Tenants – What should I do?
- Many owners have expressed concern for their tenants and have asked if there was anything they could do to help.
- We have asked that our tenants fill in a form that explains their financial hardship and provide evidence of this. For example a letter of employment termination.
- If we receive the above from your tenant we will be in touch to discuss arrangements.
- Both parties will then sign an agreement that states the details of the arrangement. For example, the tenant can afford to pay $150 per week for a certain time, and after this time will pay an extra $50 per week until caught up on rent.
- Sometimes it’s not about the money. Tenants can feel unsettled at the best of times. A simple idea is to post a hand-written letter to them. You could even add a gift card to buy groceries (eg Coles/Myer card). Even a small gesture will show them you are thinking of them.
Are you doing Routine Property Inspections?
- We decided that entering a tenanted property to do a thorough inspection exposed both our staff and the tenant to an unacceptable level of risk.
- Our Routine Inspector is conducting drive by inspections and we ask that the tenants send through any maintenance and photos.
How do you Manage the New Tenant Sign-up?
- We have introduced electronic signing of leases, and tenants love the convenience of being able to sign their lease to secure their property within 24 hours of being approved.
- Secondly, we have replaced our face-to-face ‘Tenant Induction Appointment’ with a ‘Online Induction’, where all the documentation, introductions to our service, and tips on how to ensure a smooth enjoyable tenancy.
- On the commencement of the lease, the tenant makes their one and only visit to our office, where they spend a maximum of 10 minutes signing for the keys and Entry Condition Report and collecting their Welcome Pack.
How are you Managing the Process of Finding New Tenants?
- We have managed to limit face-to-face contact yet continue to provide a high level of service to owners and tenants.
- To protect both current and prospective tenants, we have made it policy to NOT hold viewings while tenants are still in place. Our first viewing is held after the property has been cleaned and the vacate inspection has been completed.
- We utilise InspectRealEstate, a state-of-the-art online enquiry and booking system which manages all enquiries and maintains communication to ensure we do not lose any potential tenants.
- To compensate for the delay in being able to view the property, we encourage interested tenants to apply so that they can be ‘short-listed’ if everything checks out fine.
- If the tenant is happy to take the property sight unseen, we can accommodate an early approval.
- At the property viewing, we strictly adhere to social distancing.
Can I get a Rent Reduction?
- If you find yourself in financial stress due to the COVID-19 crisis, your first action should be to contact Centrelink and other government agencies who are supplying emergency assistance to all affected by COVID-19.
- You should be aware that many property owners are also experiencing serious hardship at this time and may not be in a position to offer a rent reduction.
- Please contact our office, and we will send you a “Tenant Financial Hardship” form that you can fill in and explain your circumstances. We will process this application and pass on your request to the owner.
What is happening with Rent Payments?
- We understand the financial difficulty that many tenants will be experiencing – through no fault of their own. We also understand that most property owners will be going through similar hardships, and they need the rent money to make their mortgage payments.
- Tenants are expected to keep making their rent payments and, until otherwise advised by the government.
- The government will eventually announce their decision around rental assistance to those who have lost their jobs due to this crisis. When we receive this information we will provide this to our tenants.