News & Events

June 22nd at 3:37am

Navigating the coronavirus crisis for real estate agents

With Presidents all over the world weighing in on COVID-19, we thought it was time you heard from your presidents. Sam sat down with REIWA President Damian Collins, REINSW’s Leanne Pilkington and REIV’s Leah Calnan to get an overview of what is happening in the industry since the pandemic hit and what needs to happen for real estate professionals, tenants and landlords to get through the crisis.

Click here to view webinar.

Key points covered in this webinar:

The biggest challenges the real estate industry is facing are:

  • Rental relief for both residential and commercial tenants
  • Separating institutional landlords from mum-and-dad investors
  • Conflicting and changing information – each announcement leads to more questions and it’s difficult keeping on top of everything
  • Getting information to members and to the wider public
  • Misunderstandings around the announcement of no evictions

Tenants unable to pay – While there is still uncertainty in this area, you can ask for letters from employers to verify tenants’ circumstances.

Landlords – They are getting some bad PR, but many landlords are in a position to assist and it’s worth asking the question.

Evictions – The no evictions rule only applies to non-payment of rent, but does still apply where the is a risk to public health or damage to property.

Tenants in distress – Let them know all their options, what support from the government they can access, direct them to Centrelink and other appropriate supports, as well as making them aware of options to access super.

Landlord insurance – The majority of insurers have shut down and aren’t taking new policies, but in the case of non-payment of rent, it’s still unclear how this will work as insurers require landlords to initiate the eviction process if they are to make a claim. In Victoria they have raised the suggestion with VCAT for the potential of in-chamber payment plans registered by VCAT, so instead of needing to go through order-agreed payment plans, a presiding member of VCAT could rubber-stamp the order and minimise the delays.

Rent relief – There is hope in the industry that this will be administered through agencies and the state/federal government will pay 100 per cent of rent for those unable to continue paying. More realistically this will be 75 per cent or similar. Until the government makes an announcement on this and the quantity of the relief Is known, it’s uncertain the effect this will have on property management fees.

Technology – Moving auctions and inspections – and even meetings – online has forced agents to take up technology more quickly, but long-term this could be a good thing for the industry.

Legislative changes – In WA, a new strata titles regime and changes to the Residential Tenancies Act were due May 1 – REIWA are pushing for a delay in these as the industry grapples with COVID-19. In Victoria, new legislations with 130 changes are due to come into effect July 1 – REIV are also pushing for a six-month delay. A new Residential Tenancies Act came into effect in NSW in March – while it will go ahead, no prosecutions will be made for the first six months.

Stamp duty – The industry is lobbying the government for a cut to stamp duty for those who are forced to sell due to COVID19.

PM mental health – Property managers are bearing the brunt of rent relief stress. They are encouraged to access employee assistance programs where they exist, and industry and business leaders are called upon to step up communication with PMs to calm anxiety. Leaders are encouraging people to turn off social media for periods of the day, participate in things like virtual drinks with their staff and check in more frequently so PMs feel supported.

Vacating tenants – There is talk of people needing to employ a professional cleaner when vacating a property. It’s unlikely governments will mandate this additional cost so agencies are urged to communicate good hygiene and cleaning requirements with tenants, and to come up with processes where a vacating property may have been home to someone in isolation or who has tested positive to COVID-19.

The message to government – Everyone in the industry needs to stay on the same page with messaging so the government is getting clear messages about the need for rent relief and stamp duty relief in particular.

Forums – Check in with forums for ideas that might be applicable to your business, but always check back with credible news sources and the industry bodies.

Final points:

  • The times of the greatest challenge are when we find the greatest innovation, so focus on that. Focus on what you can do and not what you can’t do.
  • This is a short term issue, it won’t be forever, don’t lose hope.
  • This is an opportune time for the industry to step up and be empathetic, and for leaders to give the community a sense of what real estate professionals really do.