Our Covid Diary
27 January 2021
(10 months into a rental market during Covid)
10 months during which reality seemed to change at breathtaking speed, nothing predictable, and adapability the order of every day.
We’ve been burning the midnight oil trying to do our best in this new and constantly varied rental and life reality. So in that vein would like to explain a little.
From the start of Covid lockdown, while many folks seemed to be pondering on which book to read and how to fill their time, we were immediately hit with a completely different and demanding reality… Leases, tenancies, rent payments, rent deferments, deposit utilisations, and feeling emotionally drained after dealing with waves of emotion from many tenants suddenly, overnight, losing part or all of their monthly income.
And then further by the fact that those who had signed new leases, or given notice somewhere and had to move on a given date, were suddenly prohibited from legally doing so, but somehow expected us to magically make it happen. Property rentals in the Covid lockdown was certainly a test of patience and adaptability.
Every change in lockdown level brought on a new challenge in this industry, never experienced before. A landscape which changed dramatically with every next level of restrictions announced. Yet, it seemed almost everyone expected us to have immediate answers and to operate as usual – mostly an impossibility in the eye of something never faced before, with suddenly limited staff and a near-impossibility of employing needed qualified help.
We, like everyone in our industry, relied on attorneys to analyse and advise on what we may/may not do, what was/wasn’t legal under each level.
And then, in January 2021, we opened after the short ‘season’ break, hit by a market once again changed on a dime. An avalanche of demand flooded us, and suddenly everyone who couldn’t sell their property wanted to rent, and everyone looking to rent wanted to do so – now. We thought we could handle everything (by now we’d gained one, lost one, and gained one), but… within a week, we were one man down due to Covid isolation.
We’ve adjusted once more to this yet again new 2021 reality, getting back on track (the track we thought we’d start with after our short close).
If there’s one thing we’ve realised since March 2020, it’s that reality changes before you can blink, and with the many turns we’ve been through in this industry – and there have many during our last trip around the sun – I hope we now have sufficient experience and resilience in this new environment to face the market curveballs and turn them into home runs.
We must say that the rental market has been a challenging environment over the past +/- 21 months with constant learning curves and quick pivots needed… things we had to lean into fast with Covid and the economic effects taking its toll on tenants and landlords. And it seems that its ongoing, coupled now with the traditional year-end frenzied market and a 4th wave.
Overall, think that we can take pride that we’ve successfully navigated this so far. Our portfolio doesn’t have any tenants who don’t pay their rent, in a market where currently in South Africa the percentage of tenants who don’t pay has been far higher than before.
I think though we need to be aware that this learning curve will be a pretty constant reality for some time.
We take seriously our role of Risk Management for our landlords and the tenant selection process – always critical – has become somewhat challenging since the onset of Covid.
We are often processing many applications on each property, sometimes as many as 5 or 6, before finding a tenant who qualifies and meets the criteria in terms of affordability, solid employment, and credit scores etc. Whereas pre-Covid we’d need to process 1 or 2 per property. Property rentals in the Covid lockdown have made us far more aware of factors that could risk affordability.
Still, we currently don’t have any properties where tenants aren’t paying on time because we are and always have been so aware that the prime reason for negative experiences in property letting is a result of rentals agents or landlords who loosely implement this tenant selection step. We take pride in that we have managed to successfully navigate these turbulent times, working without the admin support we all used to have.
The only way forward – in what can universally be called “unprecedented times” – is with an attitude of versatility and optimism. While no small task, we believe that this approach is the best way to combat any future hurdles which we may (or, more accurately, will) encounter.