– 27 March 2020 –
We hope you are well and saying safe in these uncertain times. The current situation regarding COVID-19 is developing rapidly and we will do our best to keep you informed of our stance as a company as things progress in the coming days, weeks and months.
Please ensure that you follow our Facebook page, which can be found by clicking here, in order to stay up to date on a daily basis as we post regular updates as and when they happen on that page.
As you may have seen from our social media posts, we have now closed the office completely in line with Government guidance. Staff were asked not to come into the office from Monday 16th March, with only senior personnel still coming in as we were able to avoid the use of public transport and had no contact with members of the public, adhering to social distancing advice at all times. This has now ceased, however, and the office will be closed until further notice, with the Directors now set up to work from home.
We have secure remote access to all aspects of our databases and systems and have set up an internet-based telephone system that allows us to continue to deal with telephone calls to the office line (020 7691 9000). In recent months and years, we have been transitioning to a paperless system for processing Landlord statements, which is now fully operational, meaning you will continue to receive your rental statements as normal.
Operationally, Excel are set up to function in full capacity during this time, within the guidelines set out by the Government. There are obviously some restrictions in place that effect day to day operations, which we can now clarify:
We will be informing tenants in our managed properties that we can now only address urgent or emergency maintenance issues, with anything else that is non-essential being put on hold until we are advised otherwise. No work should be carried out in any household which is isolating or where an individual is being shielded, unless it is to remedy a direct risk to the safety of the household, such as emergency plumbing or repairs, and where the tradesperson is willing to do so. No work should be carried out by a tradesperson who has Coronavirus symptoms, however mild. In such cases, Public Health England can provide advice to tradespeople and households.
If urgent or emergency maintenance work is to be carried out, it is important to ensure Government guidelines are followed. This includes maintaining a 2–metre distance from others and washing hands with soap and water often for at least 20 seconds (or using hand sanitiser gel if soap and water is not available).
We have made every effort to carry out all outstanding Gas Safety Certificates and Energy Performance Certificates that are expiring within the next 2 months. As you may be aware, you can have the annual gas safety checks at their properties carried out any time from 10 to 12 calendar months after the previous check and still retain the original deadline date as if the check had been carried out exactly 12 months after the previous check.
Due to our forward planning, all our managed properties have up to date safety certificates in line with the law with the nearest expiry date on any property being 2 months away, which means that there is no extra pressure on contractors to attend properties for this reason during the current climate.
We will of course monitor the situation in the coming weeks to see what the guidance is for those properties with certificates expiring from the end of May onwards.
We are carrying on with arranging the renewal of fixed term tenancies as normal. As you may know, we introduced electronic signing of contracts recently, which allows us to complete renewals remotely. We can also serve all renewal compliance documents on the tenants through the same electronic system, to ensure you are fully compliant with the relevant legislation.
Right to Rent Checks
One of the issues with the social distancing measures that are in place currently is that we are unable to verify the original right to rent documents (passport, residence permit etc.) and so we will be attempting to complete these checks over video call and will document this accordingly. We haven’t received firm guidance from the Government on this matter yet and so will take the proactive measures to do all we can to remain compliant during this time.
Viewings on all marketed properties have now ceased, whether they are vacant or tenanted. The Government have advised for now that no new move-ins should take place, unless they are already underway (i.e. contracts signed – even then these should be delayed if possible). You may find other agents are continuing to show properties, “virtually” or otherwise, but we feel that in the current climate and in line with Government guidance this is irresponsible and puts people at unnecessary risk. Even if viewings can be carried out without contact between people, at this stage we don’t have a definite timeframe on when move-ins will be allowed to happen again, so it may put Landlords in a precarious position if an agreement is made with a Tenant during this period to rent a property.
Tenants have not been issued with any advice from Excel in terms of finances or their ability to pay rent at the moment. We have received a very small number of enquiries from Tenants, either querying their Landlord’s current position or asking what is going to happen in the future. We are treating all enquiries uniquely and will liaise with individual Landlords on a case–by–case basis if a Tenant advises they are experiencing difficulties in paying rent. For the most part, we are referring Tenants to the Government guidance on the financial help available for individuals during this period.
We will continue to update you on the current situation and advise what Excel are doing to ensure we can offer you the best service possible. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us by phone or email in the normal way.
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