COVID-19 and the lettings response

Jonathan Rudd, Head of Operations, Cherish Property

April and May have been challenging months for the lettings industry. The world has had to get used to new ways of property move-ins, whilst trying not to fall foul of social distancing guidelines. We have seen many agents across the board decide to shut-up shop leaving many landlords in limbo with their properties sat vacant, costing them money.

We decided to take a more proactive approach whilst also carefully considering the safety of our tenants and staff. To great success, we’ve produced video viewing tours for all of our vacant properties, giving a comprehensive tour of each (see an example here). We actually saw tenant applications increase in April (figures from our referencing company, demonstrating that there is a demand from prospective tenants to move despite the ongoing pandemic.

Regardless of what is going on in the wider world people still need to move; we are seeing relocations due to work, relationship changes and growing families, etc. It is apparent that while people are observing the lockdown, the world carries on and peoples’ lives continue regardless. I feel that as this lockdown continues we will see the demand for people wanting to move continue to increase and it’s important that, as an industry, we are ready and able to cope with the demand.

Our biggest concern when the lockdown was announced was that tenants would struggle to be able to pay their rents. We have found that the government response on the whole has been impressive in supporting tenants with regard to maintaining their rent payments. Whilst we have had to make special arrangements with a small proportion of tenants, on the whole we have been reassured that the government has reacted well to protect landlords from bearing the brunt of the financial fallout of what are truly unprecedented times. With the further extension of the furlough scheme until October, this should be seen by all landlords as a huge shot in the arm for the economy, but in particular for private landlords. It should give confidence to all in the desire to support the private rented sector.

Lots of people still seem to be under the impression that rents will fall across the board. While I would be lying if I said the market hasn’t been affected, generally we’ve seen rents hold out. Any rent falls, in my opinion, is a culmination of the fact that an abundance of new stock has recently become available and a large population of overseas students have been recalled by their respective embassies. We are seeing landlords being flexible across the city centre to secure tenants. Away from the city centre and across the North of England we are also seeing rents hold up and a high demand for available stock.

Our biggest challenge in the current climate is being able to secure new business to keep up with the renewed demand. As we go into a new month our pipeline of new developments is looking unlikely to complete leaving our available stock dwindling. This, coupled with the regular churn of our managed portfolio being limited due to tenants not being able to move into their new home, is going to leave us in the unexpected position of running out of stock by the end of the month unless restrictions are lifted soon.

We are keen to speak to landlords currently sitting with vacant units, Cherish Property will happily work on a ‘no-let-no-fee’ basis, leaving landlords with vacant units nothing to lose!

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