Will Compass be closing their office?
In short, no.
Managing rental properties is considered an essential service, as we are facilitating shelter for our tenant population. Therefore, we are confident that our business will be allowed to continue to operate – albeit in a slightly different form.
We have moved our whole property management team offsite to work from home. Our offices will remain open for a central place to collect keys and other necessary items.
To date, all our staff are well and healthy and able to perform their duties.
The office will return to full onsite operation for all staff on the 25th May 2020.
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.
To ensure continuity of service and promote a healthy work-life balance for our staff, we have asked them to maintain regular work hours (Monday-Friday 8.30am-5pm).
What should I expect when I visit your offices?
Strict hygiene protocols have been set up to protect our staff and visitors. Visitors must remain at reception and will not be permitted into our meeting rooms or back of office. This includes contractors. If there are too many people at reception to maintain the social distancing rules, we will ask visitors to remain outside until it is safe to enter.
Please do not touch anything in the office including the reception counter. If you need to sign something, we ask you to supply your own pen.
Those who wish to drop off keys or documentation are encouraged to use our after-hours drop box outside the office.
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.
If a tenant’s situation has not changed and they are not affected by COVID-19, they are expected to keep making their rent payments. We are obligated in these cases to issue breach notices and follow the eviction process for non-payment of rent.
If tenants are unable to make their full rental payments as a result of COVID-19, they need to contact us immediately (preferably by email). We will send them a document to complete, providing evidence of financial difficulty as a result of COVID-19. We will then present this to the owner for their consideration.
The government is of course providing emergency assistance to those who have lost their jobs due to this crisis, so we are urging all tenants to take advantage of these grants and use this money to prioritise their rent payments.
Can I get a rent reduction?
The following information applies to our tenants who find themselves in financial stress and unable to make their full rental payments due to the COVID-19 crisis. Tenants who have not been financially affected by COVID-19 are expected to continue making their rent payments.
Your first action should be to contact Centrelink and other government agencies who are supplying emergency assistance to all affected by COVID-19. See the links above for access to this assistance. You are also required to visit the RTA website as this will provide you with the criteria to meet, and the steps required to negotiate your tenancy terms.
Next, you need to contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org. We will require evidence of financial difficulty as a result of COVID-19. We will then present this to the owner for their consideration.
Please 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. However, we hope to be able to work with all parties to get through this crisis together.
How are you Managing the Process of Finding New Tenants?
The Leasing process proved to be a challenge, but 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 limit viewings while tenants are still in place.
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. Our application form makes applying for a property quick and effortless – If the prospect is happy to take the property sight unseen, we can accommodate an early approval.
At the property viewing, we strictly adhere to social distancing and hygiene protocols. Firstly the staff member opens up the property to allow a free flow of air. Then high-touch surfaces like door handles and benches are wiped over with anti-bacterial solution.
If there is more than one group attending, we schedule mini time slots so that groups are given private access one at a time. We ask other groups to wait for their time slot in the comfort of their car, and keep at least 2 metres from other groups when approaching the property. We also ask visitors to avoid touching anything inside the house.
How do you Manage the New Tenant Sign-up?
Because we place a high importance on personal service in welcoming a new tenant, we needed to find alternate ways to keep the personal touch while maintaining social distancing.
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 Welcome Appointment’ with a ‘Tenant Welcome Video Chat’, where the property manager takes them through the documentation, introduces our service, and gives tips on how to ensure a smooth enjoyable tenancy.
Now that restrictions have somewhat loosened, our handover with the new tenant takes place face to face as per normal procedure. This is where they collect the keys and Entry Condition Report along with their Welcome Pack.
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. We are monitoring the REIQ advice regarding Routine Inspections, and we will re-adopt these as soon as possible.
We have implemented a virtual inspection system as at 16th April, and are working with our tenants to complete photography and data in real time Landlords will then receive a full inspection report as per normal.
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.
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.
Owners need to be aware that most contractors will not be willing to attend a tenanted property to quote a job; at best they can provide a desktop estimate.
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 will be introducing electronic signing of leases this month, so lease renewals are processed efficiently and safely without the need for face-to-face meetings or exchange of paperwork.
We recommend to owners to consider carefully any rent raises as many tenants’ financial situation will be unsettled and the goodwill an owner shows in these circumstances will benefit you in the long run.
How are Smoke Alarm checks being managed?
As you are aware, the law requires a property owner to have smoke alarms checked within 30 days of the start of a new lease.
Since the COVID-19 crisis began, several tenants identifying themselves as high risk have requested 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.
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 box rather than bring them in personally.
All documentation including the Exit Condition Report are to be emailed directly to the Property Manger.
The vacate procedure remains the same, as our property managers perform their 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 understand that many property owners are going through the same financial difficulties as their tenants and may not be in a position to give extra assistance.
Sometimes it’s not about the money. Tenants can feel unsettled at the best of times, because they don’t have total control over their tenancy if owners decide to sell or move in. Right now, they will be feeling even more anxious and some words of comfort from the owner of the property may make a big difference. Even a small gesture will show them you are thinking of them.