REIQ provides fast facts for property managers
The REIQ has been closely monitoring the impact of COVID-19. As your peak body, we have developed an article that answers the questions we’ve been fielding through our PMSS lines over the last few days.
We have also included some template letters for immediate use for client, tenant and contractor/tradespeople correspondence to further assist with property access and inspections.
CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE TEMPLATE LETTER FOR TENANTS CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE TEMPLATE LETTER FOR CONTRACTORS CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE DEED OF VARIATION OF TENANCY TEMPLATE CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE LANDLORD RENTAL ASSISTANCE TEMPLATE CLICK HERE TO ACCESS THE PROPERTY MANAGEMENT CORONAVIRUS WEBINAR
Please note: mobile users may experience difficulties downloading these templates – please try on your desktop instead.
PROPERTY MANAGEMENT & CORONAVIRUS WEBINAR:
Watch a recording of our webinar here. Held on Friday 3 April 2020 this webinar sees REIQ CEO Antonia Mercorella, Connie McKee REIQ Trainer and Property Management Support Service team member, and Laura Valenti, Solutions Property Management business owner respond to your questions and run through what you need to know as a property manager responding to the coronavirus situation.
Q: Should I still complete routine inspections? A: Agents (and property management staff) are required to comply with their contractual obligations and common law agency obligations. Unless otherwise excluded from the scope of the Form 6 (or any other relevant appointment), you are generally required to conduct regular routine inspections to monitor the condition of the property and its inclusions during the term of a tenancy. However, there may be extenuating circumstances for why it isn’t possible to conduct an inspection. This may include that the property manager or tenant/s are ill, showing symptoms of illness or infected with coronavirus and in self-isolation; the tenant has a visitor that is ill, showing symptoms of illness or infected with coronavirus and in self-isolation; or the tenant is refusing entry to the property due to the current conditions. The REIQ recommends that real estate principals keep their owners well informed of the situation in writing, including details as to what alternative measures will be put in place in lieu of a physical inspection where that is not practical or viable.
Q: What alternatives are available to me to inspect a property? A: If physical property inspections are not possible it is important to offer clients an alternative should they still require the property be inspected in accordance with the terms of the engagement. Some alternatives include virtual inspections via digital meeting programs, live streaming or by detailed photography.
Q: What information should I be recording? A: Fundamental to every role within property management is communication, which includes maintaining comprehensive records as situations arise. Detailed written documentary evidence of client communication is essential in the event of a claim by a client for breach of contract, professional negligence and/or mismanagement.
Q: What can I do if a tenant refuses entry to me as a property manager or a tradesperson? A: Generally speaking, if a tenant refuses entry, you as the agent (property manager) or tradesperson can enter the rental premises provided the correct notice has been issued and entry is at a reasonable time as required under the Residential Tenancies & Rooming Accommodation Act 2008. Should entry be refused due to the current conditions, inspection or access to the property should be postponed to an alternative date after 14 days (in accordance with Queensland Health directives). Such circumstances may include:
The tenant is suffering from respiratory illness, showing symptoms of respiratory illness, has been exposed to someone with the coronavirus or is suffering from coronavirus and is in self-isolation;
The tenant reasonably believes you or a tradesperson is suffering from respiratory illness, showing symptoms of respiratory illness, has been exposed to someone with the coronavirus or is suffering from coronavirus; or
The tenant is identified within the classifications of a high health risk (refer to high risk groups in our REIQ Coronavirus fast facts article).
Above all, communication will play a critical role in managing any unexpected situations related to property inspections and/or property access for tradespeople. Maintaining early and open communication with tenants on a regular basis should form part of your strategy so as to aid in the management of property access with minimal disruption. Refer to The REIQ’s template documents which are designed to further assist in this area.
Q: What can I do if a tenant refuses to pay rent? A: At the time of writing, the normal requirements and processes relating to non-payment of rent apply and exceptions have not been introduced specifically relating to the coronavirus. Further information regarding non-payment of rent can be found here.
Should a tenant be experiencing excessive hardship (such as financial hardship as a direct result of the coronavirus), the tenant may make an urgent application to QCAT for an order terminating the agreement (further information can be found here). Excessive hardship is not defined in the Residential Tenancies & Rooming Accommodation Act 2008 however loss of employment or illness due to the coronavirus is likely to be within the parameters.
As highlighted earlier, communication will play an essential role in minimising any unforeseen issues should a tenant fall into arrears due to the coronavirus. Making early contact with tenants now should form part of your communications strategy. This will allow you to explore alternative arrangements, such as delayed payments or payment plans should the owner be amenable to such arrangements.
Some tenants may qualify for financial assistance as part of the Australian Government’s response to coronavirus (further details here). Assistance is available to people receiving the following payments:
ABSTUDY (Living Allowance)
Disability Support Pension
Double Orphan Pension
Family Tax Benefit A
Family Tax Benefit B
Farm Household Allowance
Widow B Pension
The Australian Government’s payment is also available to people who have the following concession cards:
Commonwealth Seniors Health Card
Pensioner Concession Card
Veteran Gold Card.
Further, tenants are also eligible for payments if they receive one of the following Department of Veterans’ Affairs payments:
Veteran Compensation payments, including lump sum payments
Veteran Service Pension
Veteran Income Support Supplement
War Widow(er) Pension.
Q: How can I get a contract signed? A: Signing of documents can take place in person, ensuring the hygiene protocols are followed as highlighted for tenants attending your office. An available alternative is using electronic signatures which are recognised by law in Australia (Electronic Transactions Act 1999 Cth). There are many free online platforms available to choose from (refer to Tech Solutions within this toolkit for ideas).
As the rapid spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to cause significant disruptions globally, Aon recognises that Queensland real estate businesses may also have some concerns around the extent of coverage available under the CGU Landlord Insurance products you distribute in partnership with Aon. As conditions for landlords and tenants continue to rapidly evolve, AON have provided answers to some of the more frequently asked questions in relation to the coverage provided by CGU. Please note given the fluidity of the situation, further responses may be necessary, and we will keep you regularly updated.
Q: What occurs if following unemployment due to coronavirus (COVID-19), a tenant wants to break their lease due to financial hardship? A: Coverage may be available under the rent default section based on hardship, but the normal rules of termination will apply subject to the policy terms and conditions and coverage limits.
Q: Can rent default be claimed if the tenant is unable to pay rent due to coronavirus (COVID-19)? A: Yes, this is claimable under the rent default section of the policy. Please refer to the Landlord Insurance PDS.
Q: Can a shortfall be claimed if the landlord and their tenant mutually agree to a reduction in the weekly rental payments? A: No, the difference in weekly rent is not claimable as this is a mutual agreement between the landlord and tenant.
Q: Can rent default be claimed if the landlord and their tenant mutually agree upon a suspension of their rental payments? A: No, as this is a mutual agreement between the landlord and the tenant.
Q: Are there any restrictions in place should a landlord wish to take out a new Landlord Insurance policy that might cover a coronavirus (COVID-19) related event? A: From 5pm AEST, Friday, 3 April 2020, CGU will not be able to offer ‘Rent default and theft by a tenant’ cover on new policies. The cover will remain on all existing policies. Aon and CGU are committed to helping customers through this difficult period, so CGU will continue to offer cover for Contents, Loss of Rent and Liability on new Landlords Insurance policies. Insurance is intended to protect customers from unforeseen events. During this difficult economic period, it is likely that some tenants will struggle to meet their rental payments and that cover for ‘Rent default and theft by a tenant’ is not unforeseeable and therefore it is not appropriate to offer this cover on new Landlords Insurance policies. This will continue until further advised.
Q: If a tenant were to die inside a leased property from coronavirus (COVID-19), will Landlords Insurance cover a forensic clean and property fumigation? A: No, however clean-up costs up to the bond amount are permitted as per your lease agreement for reletting expenses.
Q: In the case of a death of a tenant due to coronavirus (COVID-19), how long will rent default cover apply for if the property remains vacant? A: Landlord Insurance is available to cover the loss of rental income due to the death of a tenant provided that tenant was the only person named on the lease. The policy will pay up to 15 weeks rent with a six-week reletting period. Please note that a $12,000 maximum limit applies.
Q: Coronavirus (COVID-19) may cause a decline in the demand for rental properties. If the tenant’s lease is about to come to an end and I am unable to secure another tenant due to lack of demand in the rental market, will losses be covered? A: No, the policy does not respond to rental market fluctuations.
Q: If the tenant advises the agent/landlord of a trip overseas and then abandons the property following country lockouts and falls into rental payment arrears, how will insurance respond if it is deemed a claimable event? A: This is claimable under the rent default section of the policy. Please refer to the Landlord Insurance PDS.
Q: What is the claims process should I need to make a claim? A: We have a 24-hour claims hotline. Please call 1800 105 900 to lodge your claim over the phone. To help you answer questions from your landlords, we have prepared a separate communication that we recommend you share with them: aon.com.au/landlord
Q: What tech can I use to best support my tenants and landlords during this time? A: Tech for virtual inspections: Virtual Tours Creator also works well in this space as you can share the finished file with your landlord, allowing them to zoom into areas of interest. But if you trust your tenant, using a Messenger video call could also get you through at a pinch and you can use it even if you don’t have a Facebook account. Onboard new tenants using Loom videos or Zoom.