AN IMPORTANT MESSAGE.

WE ARE OPEN, BUT…………

….Not without modifying and adapting most of our normal services as The Corona Virus impact unfolds.

I seem to have been constantly reading Covid-19 response statements from businesses and, because of how those came across, considered not making one. The more a business showcases its resilience and “business-as-usual” attitude, the more they appear to be marketing themselves.

This is not a “look at what we are doing” statement. It is here to quickly remove some uncertainties and potential false assumptions. Since we are not conducting business-as-usual, we are clarifying that.

While we are busy addressing concerns directly with individuals by phone and email, we are building an understanding of where our clients and customers might need some information and reassurance.

 

The most relevant issues being raised are:

  1. CARRYING ON LEASES UNDER CHANGED CIRCUMSTANCES;
  2. SAFE WORK PRACTICE TO COMPLY WITH CONTACT RESTRICTIONS;
  3. RENTALS AND SALES MARKETS.

 

CARRYING ON LEASES UNDER CHANGED CIRCUMSTANCES

 

Most leases are going to continue under normal circumstances. However, questions arise for a significant percentage of tenants whose source of income has been shut down. The same applies to those who are under threat of this happening or of having their income greatly reduced.

For tenants the question is: “What happens if we can’t pay our rent?”

It is difficult to answer that in full and may vary from case to case, but the basic principles are worth covering and should ease some concerns.

The measures put in place by The Government are intended for you to retain your home. Nobody with financial hardship is under threat of eviction. The message is to keep paying your rent, but if your income has suddenly disappeared, The Government will help.

The directive that tenants are still required to meet all rental obligations, but there will be no evictions, is not a contradiction. It is the framework by which both tenants and landlords are protected.

The assistance packages for tenants are available for this exact scenario.  There are likely to be delays in accessing the funds, so the sooner the process begins, the better. Your best endeavours to obtain whatever subsidies are available is a way to protect yourself and your landlord.

Where the Government support packages do not fully cover the existing arrangements, the moratorium on rental evictions for 6 months provides a reasonable balance of interests from which to negotiate a fair solution with your landlord. According to a statement by The Prime Minister, where the assistance does not meet the rental obligation, it is up to tenants and landlords to make appropriate arrangements to maintain the tenancy for the next 6 months. Those arrangements have not been defined other than to suggest that common sense applies under a “work together” principle. It should not be assumed that the only solution is a change in the rent obligation. Some landlord insurance policies cover loss of rent, but not if it results from an arranged reduction in rent, so some arrangements may be negotiated differently to others.

Note that there has been some misinformation circulating, along the lines of landlords gaining benefits and entitlements (including not having to pay their mortgage!) for tenants to exploit.  They have been very much misunderstood and are not a helpful basis for negotiation.

Rest assured we are hearing from many landlords who have a genuine concern for their tenants whom they do not want to see move out.

If you are at all concerned, please call us on 07 3848 0202.

 

 

  SAFE WORK PRACTICE TO COMPLY WITH CONTACT RESTRICTIONS

 

For those businesses which involve bringing numerous people together, the only safe option is to shut down. Our business was not affected by the enforced shut down of auctions and open houses because we don’t engage in those particular activities. However, we are under no illusion that this gives us a licence to carry on as usual, as we realise some activities fall within a grey area. Our workplace is not just our office. It includes being on site at rental and sale properties.

With regard to rentals, there are no formal restrictions on property visits, but we feel right now is not the time for routine inspections of rental properties. We will extend the due date of property visits wherever practicable.

Any activity which normally involves contact with the outside world is being reviewed. If it is something that can be carried out remotely or postponed, we will avoid the contact, thereby removing all risks associated with contact.

Where we have to operate in person we are thinking about the risks and making sure we are not compromising safety.

As a place of contact, our office remains open, but we are going to be a little distant (physically not figuratively!). We are not encouraging visits but recognise that keys and documents can be exchanged with acceptable risk if enough care is taken.

Likewise, at properties, we feel that distancing and good hygiene will allow important services to be carried out.

However, we would be downplaying the risks if we did not insist on a certain level of communication prior to any contact.

There should be no situation where, due to lack of communication, we are unknowingly meeting somebody who has tested positive for the virus, or is in compulsory or voluntary home quarantine, or has respiratory symptoms, or who has been feeling unwell.

We will assess the risks for all concerned wherever there is an instance of contact. Every appointment for tradesmen carrying out essential repairs and every appointment for prospective tenants or buyers viewing properties will be planned with this is mind.

 

RENTALS AND SALES MARKETS

 

We are very much open for business when it comes to rentals and sales. Those services are still very much in play to help navigate the turbulence of the virus impact.

Both markets are still operating, but in something akin to a “parallel universe” given that they bear no resemblance to the market activity of just a few weeks ago.

We have seen a lot of recently active renters and buyers decide to put their plans on hold, not merely in response to the instruction to the community to “stay at home,” but following an instinct to wait when we are in a time of crisis and significant changes are happening.

A decline in numbers is normally more gradual and filters through to an eventual shift in prices, which can be observed over time. However, we have experienced such a large and sudden drop in numbers that the dust is yet to settle on a revised price level.

We know prices should fall but we don’t know by how much and for how long. This is very much a “how long is a piece of string?” situation. What is the accepted level of discount in a lockdown situation? Well there isn’t one, of course and it will depend on an individual’s perception of how temporary or how inconsequential the current lockdown is. It is unrealistic to expect anybody to find it inconsequential. However, some may be accepting of a smaller adjustment than others. We are commonly seeing a 10% adjustment from pre-lockdown prices.

Sales are still happening, and rentals are still happening.  With that in mind, there has never been a better time to recognise the value of an agent.

 

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