In June Fixflo hosted a webinar with the UKAA where our MD Rajeev Nayyar and a panel of experts from across the legal and property fields discussed how the Build to Rent (BTR) sector is faring in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The distinguished panel, made up of Lesley Roberts, Partner at Allsop and President of the UKAA, David Smith, Partner at JMW Solicitors and Kevin Watson, Operations & Commercial Director at PLATFORM_ and co-chair of the UKAA Operations Committee, also explored best practices and legal know-how in this webinar.
Here were our top seven key takeaways.
Demand metrics trending positively
While a global pandemic is never going to be good for business, the good news is that BTR has definitely stabilised. While enquiry levels dropped by about 80% at the beginning of lockdown, they began to come back by the end of May. There was another surge in June and our experts all agreed demand is still there. On an additional positive note, renewal rates are also steadily creeping up and rental levels have been maintained.
You can’t plan for everything but a proper risk assessment must be done
There’s a big government thrust towards companies putting risk assessment structures in place. In terms of BTR, assessments that relate to staffing can be circulated on internal intranets but residents should have access to assessments that relate to the building at large, whether that means displaying them in communal spaces or distributing them digitally.
Be kind to your contractors
Although there was an initial decrease in all non-emergency repairs as the country went into lockdown, Fixflo's aggregated figures for repairs across the sector indicate a spike in non-essential repairs since the easing of restrictions began. While there is still a wide availability of contractors, if you’ve treated your contractor well in the past, they are more likely to make themselves available to you now. The panel suggested continuing those strong relationships is not only the best way to do business, but also a lesson in human kindness. Property managers should cluster jobs together where possible, make sure keys are ready and sites are prepped, and pay supplier invoices promptly.
How to deal with arrears
While apprehension was expressed about asking beleaguered residents for evidence as to why they needed financial relief, our experts pointed out that sometimes the evidence provides BTR companies with the best ways of helping residents in need, whether that be through deferred payment, downsizing or the other options available. The advantage BTR companies have over other forms of landlord/renter relationship is that they tend to be longer-term, with higher trust levels.
Check the fine print and record everything
No matter how trustworthy the resident, it’s still imperative to keep accurate written records of every transaction. If you do opt to provide rent relief to a resident make sure that you’ve kept a record of exactly what the terms are. Be explicit about matters like the repayment schedule, interest levels and what happens if the resident leaves the property before they’ve paid the arrears back. Setting these terms in stone at the outset protects both the operator and the resident and will provide the much-needed clarity when both parties need it most.
BTR still has a community to offer
While some communal spaces (outdoor gyms, cinemas etc) can now be operated, many cannot and BTR’s digital offerings still add huge value. Examples like online yoga, colouring competitions for children, Strava groups and routes and resident chat groups are all ways to build a community.
Even with increased digitalisation, companies need to reassess what digital amenities people are prepared to pay for. The best way to calculate this is to take a holistic approach about what BTR offers and listen to the residents. Every community is unique, communicating with residents about what they want will always be the best way to offer a great resident experience.
This is just a brief summary of a highly informative webinar. Click here to watch the webinar in full and hear directly from our expert speakers.