Coronavirus & property management – be sensible but don’t panic

Coronavirus & property management – be sensible but don’t panic

While the media could be blamed for fear mongering when it comes to coronavirus and some would argue that it’s nothing more than a ‘storm in a teacup’, we all need to take sensible, measured precautions. But what do ‘sensible precautions’ look like at work and in particular, in property management?

According to the OECD, Australia will be “one of the worst effected economies” from a novel (new) coronavirus (COVID-19). At the same time we are seeing reports that house prices could hit record highs in some parts of Australia in coming weeks. Is it any wonder people are confused?

One thing that there should be no confusion about however is the need to adapt our day-to-day habits, both at home and in the workplace during this time. This includes common sense practices like taking extra care with hand and surface hygiene and staying home if you are unwell.

Below is the specific advice from Safe Work Australia about managing COVID-19 in the workplace and our view on how some of this advice translates to property management.

First the facts

  • The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Australia is rising.
  • Australian residents most at risk of contracting the virus are those who have:
    • Recently returned from a high risk country, or
    • Been in close contact with someone who has a confirmed case of the virus.
  • The recovery rate is high, with around 80% of those contracting the virus displaying only mild symptoms.
  • Scientists around the world are working hard to develop a vaccine with human trials about to commence.

Managing the risks in the workplace

According to Safe Work Australia, exposure to COVID-19 is a potential hazard for workers and other people at workplaces.

Business owners must have measures in place to protect worker health and safety and manage these risks. Business owners must also:

  • Stay up to date with the latest information and advice by monitoring official Government sources.
  • Review and discuss the company’s policies and measures for infection control with the team.
  • Ensure all staff are aware of the isolation/quarantine advice in accordance with the Australian Government Department of Health.
  • Advise staff when they should stay home.
  • Eliminate or minimise international work travel in line with the latest official travel advice.
  • Provide regular staff updates on the situation.
  • Create a contingency plan to manage potentially higher than average staff absences.
  • Provide staff with information and links to relevant online resources should they need support.

Staff also have a duty of care to “reasonably care for their own health and safety and to not adversely affect the health and safety of others”. The current advice is to:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water as often as practical.
  • Carry hand sanitiser and use it as needed (a good idea when out and about as property managers).
  • Cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing, using your elbow rather than your hand.
  • Stay home if unwell and see a medical professional for diagnosis.
  • If unwell, avoid contact with others (including hand shakes and hugs etc.).

Click here for comprehensive COVID-19 information from Safe Work Australia including links to all the important government websites.

What about property inspections and leasing appointments?

Property managers spend much of their time out of the office conducting inspections and meeting landlords and prospective tenants. Here are a few other measures you may like to consider in the current environment.

NOTE: These are suggestions only. It is up to each office to determine their own practices beyond those advised by Safe Work Australia.

  • Send a bulk email to tenants requesting that they advise you if they have recently travelled overseas or have plans to travel overseas within the next 30 days.
  • Not conducting routine inspections on properties where the tenants have travelled overseas in the last 30 days.
  • Putting routine inspections on hold until further notice (ensure landlords and tenants are advised, including the reason, if you decide to do this). This would be good practice in areas where a higher number of COVID-19 cases have been confirmed. Just ensure you keep everyone in the loop.
  • When advising tenants of an upcoming inspection, request that they advise you within 48 hours if anyone on the premises is unwell so that you can reschedule.

The above are a few ideas only. Let us know what practices you are implementing at your workplace. Most importantly, be sensible but don’t panic. This too shall pass.