The property industry has faced a seemingly endless string of challenges thanks to measures set up to prevent the spread of Covid-19. In 2021, with another national lockdown in place, estate agents, property managers and landlords will have many more to face before a semblance of normality returns.
2020 sparked a range of new tools in the proptech sector that allowed property professionals to keep working remotely and with limited access to their tenants’ homes. These include live remote inspections and viewings, as well as self-service check-in, interim and check-out inspections.
These tools offer safe alternatives to many routine procedures managers and landlords need to carry out but there are some, like Electrical Inspection Condition Reports (EICR), which still need to be carried out in a property by a professional. From safe and secure remote practices to what to do if you can’t get access to your tenant’s home, prioritising health and safety will be essential to the work of everyone in the property industry this year.
Meeting the April EICR deadline
The EICR is a required document for every property let after June 2020. However, in April 2021, this will also become a requirement for all properties that were already let at the last deadline. This means thousands of properties with tenants still in them must be inspected by a registered professional.
This inspection can only be carried out by electricians on the registered competent person list and, given the problems homeowners encountered when finding contractors that qualified for the Green Homes Grant scheme last year, this could cause a problem on its own.
Compounding this with the fact that many tenants still feel uneasy about inviting other people into their homes, ensuring all properties are inspected before the deadline is going to be challenging.
Carrying out inspections in between tenants
The easiest strategy to safely carry out the EICR is to have it completed in between tenants. The certificate lasts for 5 years so if your tenants are moving out before April, leaving time in between tenants for a professional to complete the work will mean your property is covered.
Supporting long-term tenants
For landlords and property managers with long-term tenants, it’s important to reassure them that their health is being considered while still ensuring the work is carried out. Negotiating a suitable time when the tenant is at work or a time when the tenant can safely remain in a separate room for the duration of inspection will show you are considering their safety at all times. The inspection includes a survey of all electrical outlets in the property so the electrician is likely to need access to every room. Inform your tenants of this before the inspection starts and consider helping them plan how to minimise contact during the visit if they have concerns for their safety.
What to do if you can’t get access to your property before the deadline
If your tenant is unwilling to work with you to have the inspection completed, or you have difficulty securing an electrician before the deadline, the government has stated they will allow exceptions where there is evidence from the property owner that the inspection couldn’t be scheduled. For this reason, it would be wise to conduct all communication through email so you have records of the attempts to book an inspection with both your electrician and tenants.
How to conduct checks & inspections during continued coronavirus measures
While check-in and check-out inspections can be done when a property is empty and in between tenants, many property managers and landlords need to carry out interim inspections. This is particularly important for long-term tenants but has been made much more complicated by social distancing measures in the past year.
InventoryBase launched a self-service inspection template last March which allows tenants to complete their own inspections. This means that no inspectors or landlords need to enter the property but a comprehensive, detailed inspection can still be carried out. This template was downloaded over 20,000 times in the first three months and has been helping property managers deliver a top-quality service through continued lockdowns and tier changes across the country.
Live remote inspections
InventoryBase also launched a live inspection platform at the end of 2020 which enables property managers to invite inspectors into a property for an in-depth inspection without them needing to physically be there. Live inspections limit household mixing as they can be carried out once the property is empty and only require one person to be in the property at one time.
With reports suggesting the housing market could close again to curb the spread of the virus, and over half of agents surveyed in a recent poll believe their work environment isn’t Covid safe, it’s important to take steps like this to limit interactions. The EICR deadline is probably the last thing on many landlords’ and managers’ minds as rent arrears climb along with UK-wide infection rates.
However, making sure your property is compliant with these new rules, as well as understanding how best to conduct work remotely, will keep operations running smoothly while also delivering a quality service for your tenants throughout 2021.