The current situation is not an ideal time to be house-hunting, but nevertheless there are tenants looking for somewhere to rent. As property experts, it’s your job to help them find the right place. These are unusual times however, and potential tenants might be under additional pressure. There are things you can do to make sure their search is as straightforward as possible.
Learn about current government support and guidelines.
The media is pushing the message that “we are all in this together,” and the outpouring of support for NHS staff and other key workers has been huge. Make sure that you and your team are up to date on all the government schemes and proposals. Many hotels and landlords are giving extra support to NHS workers by offering free accommodation to save commuting time and enable staff to self-isolate if necessary.
Another recent update is the emergency legislation brought through to suspend the eviction process starting on any new cases in social and privately rented accommodation for as long as this unprecedented crisis continues. The temporary rules in the first instance cover the 90 day period starting on 27th March. This date could be reviewed as the government works further on its exit strategy.
This ‘freeze’ covers the period of unprecedented support for furlough leave designed to save jobs. Your business might already be claiming the 80 per cent of employees’ salaries to help you through this sharp downturn and avoid redundancies.
Make the most of technology
Since lockdown, people are spending 23 hours a day inside, meaning their property search will be exclusively online. If your business can offer virtual viewings, you can gain an advantage over your competitors. Property inventory software can help you keep on top of all the necessary paperwork and make sure the end to end process runs smoothly.
When you do need to speak to people face to face, make the most of video calling programs such as Skype or Zoom, which are easy to use with colleagues, landlords and potential tenants.
Remember the human side of the interaction
Chances are, your business has seen a downturn over the past few weeks as a direct result of the coronavirus lockdown. Be ready to take extra time with each potential customer as they may well have additional questions, even ‘silly’ questions that they might not normally ask. Talk them through the full process in as much detail as required. Even something as seemingly simple as reading a floor plan might take on extra challenges when the tenant cannot see the property ‘for real’ to visualise everything.
Rules around ‘right to rent’ checks have been relaxed and you are allowed to use video calls to carry out the conversation so try these on Skype and Zoom too. There is no obligation to see original documentation and, instead, taking scans via email is acceptable for the moment. Updating your tenants on these temporary changes can iron out any confusion.
Be upfront about the likely costs that will be incurred. Being as transparent as possible will earn you the trust and respect of your potential tenants, so share details such as anticipated utility bills or the council tax banding.
While things might be tough for potential tenants, they might also be difficult for you and you might have worries and concerns of your own, either on a personal level, or for your business and its future. Be sure to follow some advice yourself to cut some slack if you can. This situation won’t last forever and things will return for normal, even if normal doesn’t look quite as it did previously.