Commercial property agency deals might have been shelved or placed on ice when Corona virus lockdown was announced. The switch to home working and impact on business models created the opposite, increased activity, for Drake Howard Property management, from both landlord and tenant perspectives.
March Quarter rent and service charges fell due immediately after pandemic safeguarding measures took hold. Tenant decision makers had little time to predict turnover downturn, reach cash flow decisions, or asses the level or speed with which Government assistance would be available.
If ever there was a time creating strong relationships between landlord and tenant and building trust in the property management relationship was to bear fruit, this proved to be it.
Most of our tenants were willing to meet March quarter contractual obligations to negate the impact on landlord investment businesses. However, where several tenants found themselves in uncertain times, open communication with us facilitated deferred or reduced rent payment plans to help them through the immediate crisis.
At the time of writing, June quarter payments are coming in on time and where appropriate, in accordance with temporary arrangements. Cooperation and the certainty of funding and grant assistance from Government is working to maintain full occupation across our portfolio of properties.
Now the call to return to work has been made, our focus is on health and safety, ensuring multi-let properties and estates comply with Covid-19 safe working and social distancing guidelines.
As an example, Victoria Court in Leamington Spa is a prestige building with office suites, with a relatively high density of IT employees. Marie Farrell has implemented a one-way system for entering the building from the front entrance and exiting via side emergency staircases, with use of lifts restricted to single occupancy travel. Signs and pop up banners are in place to reinforce guidance and social distancing with hand sanitiser units fitted in all lobbies and toilets. Communal area cleaning has been increased and even use of toilets is regulated!
Looking forward there is much speculation that home working will change the complexion of property markets and the use of offices. Feedback we are receiving from tenants suggests the change may not be as radical as many commentators would have us believe.
The loss of cross fertilisation of ideas and sharing of information ‘off the cuff’ in an open plan office environment is detrimental to productivity and innovation for many. Lease renewals we have completed in the last few weeks at Victoria Court and other properties may substantiate the point.
One of the renewals referred to above, was completed on the strength of an additional early break clause inserted by an owner sympathetic to the risk Coviid-19 presents to the company’s short-term business.
Flexibility will be key for Landlord’s and not necessarily to the detriment of the asset.
Drake Howard Property specialise in commercial property management and Landlord & Tenant legislation. We are fully regulated by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and have established and new property owners to testify to our skills set. Martyn Howard or Marie Farrell can be contacted on 02476 450045 to discuss our services and strategies.