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Life, Law and Leases – Building Resilience in a Crisis

Resilience seems to be the buzz word at the moment. 

What are the laws surrounding property management in these unprecedented times?  Ultimately, let’s all stay in legislation, let’s not take risks and let’s keep our tenants, colleagues, employees, leaseholders, family and friends safe, as best we feasibly can, in these extraordinary times.

Property managers and agents are seeing challenges never seen before (and certainly in a generation), and the implications for operational conduct and delivering the best possible service is currently compromised.

At the time of writing, the new Coronavirus Bill has been released.  Please click here to read it.

Working from home

Working from home and managing a property - property law advice from LMP Law
Working from home and managing a property

Site visits are going to be extremely hard to organize, however, there are ways of communicating with the leaseholders and tenants to check in with them and ensure there are no immediate requirements or repairs doing.  What is critical at the moment? Many contractors, such as health & safety advisors, electricians, plumbers and cleaners are working through their own problems  (owing to COVID-19), therefore having a contingency plan in place with all of your regular contractors and suppliers will no doubt be high up on your agenda.  If you have good working relations with other agents in the profession, club together and work as a crisis consolidation team to provide solutions.  Remember to write it all down though and sign it!

As for you and your colleagues, have you worked out the best way to communicate?  It could be through Microsoft’s Teams software, which you may already have.  We’ve documented some free video conference software, that may help of the meantime.

Best free video conferencing software

Zoom Meeting 1-1 any length, 40 min limit for up to 100 people in free version, white boarding, recording application sharing

Skype – Group video calls for up to 50 people (pay after that for up to 250 people) screen sharing, recording

Free Conference – International video conference / text chats up to 5 people, can record calls

Cisco Webex Meetings – Unlimited Video meetings for up to 100 people, recording, screen sharing , private chat rooms

Contractors and Site Visits

Working out ways to adapt to ensure your customers and tenants are safe and that you are supporting them is of course, so important and will keep the trust open. You are taken on by the landlord to ensure the building is looked after.  All buildings and properties, new or old have their existing maintenance problems, or major works that require doing.  But what happens with it comes to contractors being called out for urgent repairs, or existing maintenance, what are the options?  Do you have an emergency policy in place?  Your suppliers and contractors may be self-isolating, so are they sub-subcontracting?  Now is the time to ensure everything is agreed and put in writing.

The last thing you want is to come through these tough times and end up in costly disputes owing to panic.  If you’d like to have a chat to see if there are pointers we can put in place for you, we welcome your questions.  Just contact Laura or the team here.

Accounts

Client funds are so important of course; are they set up as individual accounts or as a block?  Who does your accounts? An agency who can access software remotely, or a p/t person who comes in to the office once a week?  It’s all about contingency plans. Could you split the ledgers? The risk of criminal activity taking advantage of the vulnerable is upsetting, but a sad fact – cybersecurity and data assets should be high on your insurance or compliance lists at this time.

Service charges and ground rent still need to be collected, so tenants still need to be aware that these funds still need to be paid.  However, communication is again key, keep the lines of engagement open, as times of hardship cause mental health problems, our property ethics and boundaries need to take this into consideration at this time.  Talk about payment plans and what individual situations are.   Of course service charges are paying contractors, so it’s a cycle that all of us are facing at this present time.  A tenant might be a freelancer with no income and unless helped out by family or the government at this time, may be extremely vulnerable, therefore do check what back up you, as the agent, from government tax cuts, benefits or waivers and set aside provisions for individuals.

Insurance

Issues that might arise, and we all need to be aware of government guidelines and sources of help.  The main insurance questions being asked right now include:

1  CASHFLOW and RENT

What happens with the loss of rental income due to a reduction in customers for a commercial unit?

What happens with a tenant with cash flow problems struggling to pay the rent?

What happens when household income is reduced by huge margins and the rent can’t be paid?

2  PROPERTY ISOLATION        

If a block of flats has a property outbreak of CORID-19, who is responsible for the deep clean? Would a contractor put themselves at risk?

How immediate might a contractor be available?

Does insurance cover this?  Is it deemed as a Force Majeure clause?

Force Majeure Insurance Definition — provides coverage for financial losses arising out of the inability to bring a project to completion. The coverage encompasses delays as well as total termination of the contract resulting from events totally outside the control of the contractor (i.e fire, earthquake, war, revolution, flood, and epidemics). Types of losses covered by the policy include continued debt servicing, loss of income, ongoing fixed costs, spoilage, and related contingencies. The coverage has a very limited domestic market but is commonly placed as political risk coverage for contractors working in foreign countries.

Each contractor should come with its own secure insurance package and provider.

Ethics

A little like the RICS’ ethical standards, now is the time to remind ourselves about the property profession as a whole:

  • Act with integrity
  • Always provide a high standard of service
  • Act in a way that promotes trust in the profession
  • Treat others with respect
  • Take responsibility

How can we build resilience?

Building Resilience in a Crisis - Property Law experts LMP Law discussStrength in the face of adversity is one of the most important characteristics any of us can have. Challenges and disappointments are inevitable, but a crisis like this seems to be pulling us altogether.  Wealth can’t protect us from trauma and tragedy — but resilience does.  Building resilience will safeguard us against long-term difficulties.  The team at LMP Law are making sure we communicate and help not only each other, but of course of clients and their clients etc.  We are lawyers, by no means psychologists, but our minds are focused on research and solutions.

We are telling ourselves to skip forward and imagine telling someone about how we overcame this obstacle.   Let’s see ourselves as those strong, capable people who pulled through with grace and courage. ….and humour!

We are here for you.

The team here at LMP Law are passionate about helping property managing agents, block managers and leaseholders alike when it comes to understanding major works and ensuring you are legally tight.

You can contact us any time for a chat – we welcome your questions!

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