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COVID-19: Managing rental properties remotely

8 April 2020

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These uncertain times are affecting many landlords and property investors in more ways than one. The lockdown makes it impossible to physically inspect properties, conduct viewings, meet tenants and majority of tasks need to be addressed while being quarantined at home.

Running a rental business remotely can feel like a challenge. But despite growing uncertainties, life and work don't just stop. So how can landlords stay productive and efficient during a crisis and keep their businesses ticking in the time of quarantines and social distancing?

Stay productive while working from home

Some people are struggling to work productively from home. Whether working from home is temporary or permanent, you need to:

  • carve a space for yourself,
  • set up a good routine,
  • create some boundaries between work and life,
  • have good systems in place.

Technology is your friend. There are so many fantastic tools available to help people do their best work from wherever they are. With systems, like Zoom, Facebook, Whatsapp and email, it's doable. And property management sites like myRent gives you the ability to streamline time-consuming, mundane processes like rent collection, accounting, document creation and advertising listings. Find the systems that work for you and lean on them in times when you can't personally be there.

Keep engaging with your tenants

Communication is essential in any relationship, but it really matters when you're managing tenants through difficult times. The COVID-19 crisis is affecting all of us, your tenants included. If you haven't already done it, reach out to your tenants today to discuss challenges both you and they might be facing, and offer solutions to their financial difficulties where possible. The more you communicate with your tenants now, the better off you'll be. Be clear how they can reach you - by email, text, phone or via a particular messaging app.

Use online technology to sign documents remotely

Thankfully, online document signing is a thing. It makes it easy and efficient for landlords and tenants to e-sign tenancy documents - whether they are agreements, bond lodgement forms or rent reduction contracts. Cloud-based solutions will help you move the business on and engage with your tenants holed up at their homes on the other side of town.

Stay on top of rental payments

In the current environment, you want to be one step ahead with your plans, and keeping your records up to date will help keep your business ticking no matter where you manage it from.

Check your bank account records regularly (if not daily), update your rent spreadsheets, send email reminders, follow up with your tenants in case there are any problems. Don't wait until they've racked up weeks of rent arrears. Consider automating rent collection to manage rent more efficiently, free up time, simplify record keeping and set up automatic notifications sent to tenants.

If your tenants are experiencing financial hardship and unable to make rent payments talk to them to come up with a solution that works for you both.

Plan your advertising campaign ahead of time

If your tenant is leaving, make sure you don't delay advertising. Give yourself as much time as you can to rent the property out. You can always use the best photos you have currently available and update them later when the lockdown is over.

Although no viewings or open homes can be scheduled until the Alert 4 restrictions are lifted, use technology to run virtual tours, showcase the property through pre-recorded videos and photos. It's not a replacement for face-to-face viewings, but it will allow you to move the process forward.

Use an online tenant screening service provider to run thorough, comprehensive checks on your prospective tenant.

To secure a tenant in the shortest time, make use of online technology to onboard tenants and sign tenancy documents remotely with no face-to-face contact required.

Don't stop looking for tenants until the agreement has been signed, and the bond payment is collected. Circumstances can change fast, and if for any reason a prospective tenant backs out at the very last minute, you do not want to be going all the way back to square one. This could mean weeks of extra work.

Keep up-to-date with the ever-changing laws

There has been a lot of Government announcements and tenancy related changes. One thing remains the same - the COVID-19 crisis doesn't change your obligations as a landlord. So make sure amongst all the chaos, you are clear about your responsibilities and rights.

If you need any general legal advice and information about renting in NZ, check out Tenancy Services has FAQs concerning COVID-19 on their website which may be useful. We have also been busy setting up a COVID-19 resource centre updating landlords with regular emails regarding most recent developments.

In December 2021 NZ moved away from the alert level system to the COVID-19 Protection Framework (traffic lights). Follow this link to the summary of real estate activities permitted under various traffic light settings

We understand that you may be faced with shifting priorities and an entirely new way of working during these challenging times. We want you to know that we've also changed our focus to developing features that are most useful to you right now.

Actions We're Taking

Digital Inspections
We've used the time during the lockdown to build Digital Inspection Reports. This allow you to go completely paperless, create inspection reports on the go just by using an app, collaborate with your tenants and e-sign them.

Alerts throughout the site to both landlords and tenants

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Staying compliant is now tricker than ever. To make sure both you and your tenants aware of your current obligations, we've created alerts on various internal pages to remind you when specific actions can and can't be taken.

Rent reductions
Many landlords are asking us to assist with addressing rent changes discussed and agreed with their tenants in the form of putting rent holidays and temporary rent reductions. We've built the system that not only allows you to make necessary adjustments to rent statement but also helps you create a variation to the tenancy agreement that can be digitally signed by both you and your tenants to make sure you don't accidentally breach the Act.

Payment Plans
Similar to rent reductions, the landlords can now set up payment plans on myRent and create written digitally signed agreements to acknowledge these plans were accepted by both a landlord and a tenant.

One-off credit card payments
In the current situation, any payment is better than no payment. So we've made it easier for tenants to make a one-off card payment.

This option is available to all landlords using Hands-Free rent collection with us.

Educational content

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The landlords are looking for information. We've created a COVID-19 resource centre to help you stay current and stay informed. You can also find guides that may be helpful for you on a variety of topics from how to handle inspections and viewings during the lockdown to the information available on the Government assistance for both landlords and tenants. If you're not one of our current users but want to stay up-to-date on all important tenancy law changes, subscribe to our free newsletter. The link is at the bottom of this page.

Amendments to tenancy agreement
There are a lot of tenancies that have signed agreements before the lockdown rules have been put in place. The tenants are still eager to move into their new homes as soon as the opportunity becomes available and the restrictions go down to Level 3. You may likely need to make some adjustments to the contract you've signed by changing dates. We're building a feature to assist you in addressing these agreement adjustments in a compliant way by creating formal agreement variation signed by all parties online to make this process smooth and manageable.

Bulk messaging to tenants

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As you needed a more efficient way to connect and stay in touch with your current tenants, we've built a bulk messaging system to our management product that allows you to broadcast messages to all your tenants with one click of the button. This feature was well received and is available from your Dashboard.

Bulk messaging to applicants
We've added the ability to bulk-email current applicants when you're advertising your rental through us. So that you're able to message them about upcoming viewing times, or update them on the status of the property, or simply follow them up to see if they are still interested.

Adding more services to our Advertising platform
We're working to extend our current advertising reach by adding more partners to our network. Most recently we've partnered with Trovit to allow landlords to advertise their properties not only on, OneRoof and Facebook but beyond for the same low price of $50+gst. Landlords have the option to include a Trade Me and a adverts for an additional $140+gst.

Standalone tenant checks
We anticipate some tenant changes within the existing tenancies. Landlords have been asking about running tenants checks without the need to advertise the property. We have now separated our tenant checks into a standalone service. We can now collect employment, previous landlord, and personal references from your potential tenants. Then use Cloudcheck and Centrix to run ID verifications and credit checks. We also check for any court fines and judgements, applicant's insolvency history, company affiliations, credit file activity as well as check Tenancy Tribunal orders database. This time-saving service is available for the same low price of $35+gst.

Expanded our tenant checks

We've partnered with not just one, but three credit bureaux to create the most thorough tenant checks for NZ landlords. Thanks to our new partnership with illion Tenancy our checks now cover Police, Interpol and Parole Board name match searches, property ownership records review and social media and news search. Our new $55 tenant check now covers all three of the leading credit agencies operating in New Zealand - Centrix, Equifax and illion; as well as other 20 sources including illion Tenancy database (previously TINZ) – New Zealand's largest tenancy database.

COVID-19 is changing the landscape for all of us. And while the challenges for each of us are unique, we are all being impacted in some way. We'll continue to update our product as the situation evolves. If you have any suggestions on ways we can support you, please reach out.

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