COVID-19 has resulted in a lot of new challenges for landlords, property managers and Executive Committees. Find out how to ensure your property is still taken care of. 

While the year 2020 started out with business as usual, the sudden rise of the COVID-19 virus in March resulted in almost every Australian making major adjustments to their life and work. 

Strata premises and tenanted properties have not been immune to the crisis, with a number of new challenges being faced by the people who own, manage and reside in them. 

One problem which has arisen is the clash between people’s need to isolate and the property owner’s contractual obligation to stay up to date with maintenance and repairs. Here’s an outline of how to approach this situation. 

Managing property repair requests during COVID-19

Leaky taps and faulty fire alarms happen, regardless of international pandemics. Your tenant has a right to live in a safe, secure and functional property, no matter what is going on in the outside world. 

Fortunately, Australia’s shutdown still allows people to do repair and maintenance work. Many tradespeople are still operating, and able to provide services. As a strata manager or landlord, it should be ok to book these professionals the way you usually would, especially if a job can be deemed ‘essential’. 

The challenge is the need to observe social distancing and good hygiene practices. If you’re self-managing your investment property, before you book a job for a tenant, find out if they will be home so the tradesperson knows who to expect. Ask both parties if they have travelled overseas within the last two weeks and if they have been unwell in the past few days. Should they say yes, you may need to reschedule for everyone’s safety.

Another thing to take into account is age. If a tradesperson needs to visit the home of someone over 70, they should take as many precautions as possible. This may include wearing a face mask while they’re on the premises and wiping down all surfaces before they leave. 

Good hygiene at rental properties

Despite COVID-19 restrictions, there are still people coming and going from strata premises. 

Ideally, the Executive Committee at your premises are supporting tenants, owners and visitors by communicating with everyone about the importance of safe hygiene practices like hand washing, maintaining a physical distance of around 1.5 metres and avoiding touching items like door handles, lift buttons and handrails. It may be worth touching base to see what they have been doing, if you haven’t already heard from them.

If you’re booking tradespeople on your tenants’ behalf, you may wish to send a pre-visit email to make sure they are respectful of the hygiene practices on your premises. Ask your tenants if they felt the tradesperson was taking hygiene seriously and if you don’t get good feedback, consider switching providers for the time being. 

Bigger property repair jobs during COVID-19

Sorting out a leaky tap or fixing a fire alarm can be considered urgent and you are legally obliged to respond to these requests in the best way possible. 

Many landlords and property managers would have received requests for more significant upgrades prior to the virus outbreak. With things changing so rapidly, all of a sudden having a crew of people in to replace carpet or do major remedial work may not be within social distancing rules.  It may also be against restrictions if it is not deemed essential.

In these circumstances, you may wish to speak to the tenant about delaying the work. They may be pleased for this to happen because they do not wish to have a lot of visitors in their home.  

While a tenant is living in a rental property, the responsibility of the landlord to maintain the premises remains. However, health and safety is also a priority. Communication is key to ensure you can uphold your responsibilities and support your tenants during this time. If in doubt, speak to your Executive Committee to find out what is the best course of action.