During lockdown, the rental sector was turned upside down. Lettings and estate agents across the country were hit hard – with some forced to close their doors for good.
Landlords and tenants also struggled. Many people were out of work, and the uncertainty of the future weighed on us all.
So, how did LettingaProperty.com keep going?
Ready for anything
When news of a “possible” coronavirus outbreak started to spread at the end of February – we took it seriously.
Taking no chances, we put together a contingency plan to prepare for working from home at any point. We set up equipment, adapted our processes, and on the 18th March, our team made the overnight transition from office desks to dining tables.
We aimed to keep things running smoothly – for our landlords and our team. The switch to home-working went virtually unnoticed by our landlords because we had everything in place well in advance – and that’s what we wanted.Lewis Chatham, Systems Engineer
Communication is key
As lockdown was formally announced, our entire focus was communication. We knew our landlords and tenants would be feeling everything – worry, panic, fear, confusion – and they’d have a lot of questions that needed answers.
We worked fast to provide tenants and landlords with reassurance of our business and update them on any changes to our service.
Every effort was put into monitoring the latest government guidance and keeping our customers in the loop. Admittedly, staying on top of the ever-changing advice and brand new rules was a hefty task – but the appreciation and gratitude shown to us by our landlords confirmed it was worth it.
Some mornings, something we’d written the day before would be scrapped because more COVID-19 guidance had been published. But that’s precisely why we needed to dedicate our time to it: with things changing so fast, our landlords and tenants depended on us for reliable information.Katie Todd, Digital Content Editor at LettingaProperty.com
Honesty is the best policy
It was one thing for us to communicate, but we also needed our landlords and tenants to talk to each other.
With fears of unpaid rent and possible evictions brewing, and phrases like “rent holiday” being thrown about – it was crucial for us to keep everyone informed, but also encourage landlords and tenants to be open and honest about their situations.
Everyone was dealing with something. Whether it was current financial troubles, worries about future job stability, or the sheer anxiety of living during a global pandemic – we were all overwhelmed with concern.
Some of our landlords temporarily reduced rents during the lockdown period to help struggling tenants. We made it clear that this was never an expectation from us – or the government. After all, for a lot of landlords, their rental property is their primary source of income.
Instead, we encouraged them to talk. Talk to us – and talk to each other – so we could reach an understanding yet realistic arrangement that everyone was happy with.
And it worked.
Out of the 4.1% of tenants that required some help with their rent, 87% of our landlords reached a reasonable compromise that worked for both parties.
Most tenants who had worries about their rent were comfortable in coming to us about their situation.
We then worked with the landlord to come to a temporary agreement – which the majority of landlords were happy to do. It wasn’t all back-and-forth demands or us begging on the phone for free rent – it merely boiled down to a reasonable understanding and open communication.Katie Randall, Lettings Executive at LettingaProperty.com
Find out how our landlord Mary managed to re-let her property during lockdown: Letting a Property During COVID-19: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.
The strengths of online lettings
For some high street agents, the social distancing measures put in place by the government brought all business to a screeching halt. In-person meetings to sign tenancy agreements and sort out paperwork were no longer an option.
Luckily for us, our way of doing things was already somewhat pandemic-proof.
All our ‘paperwork’ is securely sent and signed online, so our landlord or tenant never have to meet us. The majority of our processes and relevant checks (referencing, holding deposits, landlord checks) are carried out digitally – which we easily continued during lockdown.
Of course, the temporary ban of in-person viewings was not something we were accustomed to – but we quickly adapted by making video uploads and virtual viewings available.
With our Complete and Essential plans, we offer landlord’s rent guarantee insurance. We knew this would be a real peace of mind for our landlords and were thankful to be able to honour any new claims made by our existing landlords on our Complete and Essential plans.
Some providers, such as Direct Line, put a complete stop to any new claims – even on existing policies. Fortunately, we didn’t have to do this – but we did have to put a halt to new policies for a short while.
Truthfully, we were prepared for claims to skyrocket.
But through the combined efforts of our team and the open communication from our landlords and tenants, our rent claims stayed below 2% during April, May and June.
We would be lying if we said everything went swimmingly. It didn’t. Unfortunately, we had to make the hard decision to furlough 60% of our team.
This was difficult for everybody. With every team member being so valuable to us, it was tough to be without over half our usual staff. It was certainly a hard few months, but our remaining team members held the fort phenomenally well.
On the ‘other side’
The great news is that our entire team are now back in the office safe and sound – and we’ve even picked up a few new members along the way.
What’s more, June turned out to be a record month for us! With take-up of our rental plans up by 58% compared to this time last year.
Don’t get us wrong – we know that the pandemic (and all the havoc it’s brought) is by no means over. But we’re immensely proud of what we’ve managed to do these last couple of months – and we’re not going anywhere.