Property Management: why pay someone else to do it?
Receiving a telephone call at 7.30pm on the Friday night to tell you about a large water leak at a property is not the ideal start to a bank holiday weekend. That is exactly what happened to one of our Property Managers on 3rd May 2013. We operate a 24/7 emergency line (for genuine emergencies), which is manned by our Property Managers – not run from a call centre – and so one of our North Oxford team took the call from an understandably distressed tenant who had returned home from work to find 2-3 inches of water throughout her apartment in Summertown.
Our Property Manager called her department manager as this was quite a serious leak (there had been mains-pressure water leaking from the flat above for approximately seven hours) and not something that she had dealt with before. They both decided that it would be appropriate to visit the property to see the situation first-hand.
En route to the property, our team arranged for a plumber to visit and fix the leak from the apartment upstairs. The situation could have been made more complex had the occupant of the upstairs property not been at home to let us in, as this would have then involved trying to contact the block management company (out of working hours) in an attempt to get a contact number for the owner or tenant. Bearing in mind that it was mains-water pressure, had we not been able to get into the apartment we would have called the emergency services on 101 to seek advice about entering the property to stop the leak. Fortunately, that tenant had arrived home by this time to allow access.
By the time our team had arrived on-site, they had also arranged for an electrician visit and check both apartments’ electrics. The problem was further complicated by the fact that the apartment was on the ground floor, and so for security reasons we couldn’t just leave the windows open to dry the property out. As such, we arranged for another of our trusted contractors to be on-site within an hour with dehumidifiers and air circulators. In the meantime, our Property Manager and Property Department Manager mopped up and removed the water in the dark apartment (as they couldn’t turn the lights on), rather than leaving the tenant to do it herself. The tenant of the upstairs apartment was able to stay because the bedroom had not been affected by the leak and fortunately, because it was the bank holiday weekend, the tenant of the ground floor flat had already planned to go away and so was able to stay elsewhere until the Tuesday.
The day after the bank holiday, the Property Manager who had been on call over the weekend handed the situation over to her colleague who normally manages the property and so knows the tenant, the landlord, the property and the block manager. He visited the apartment on the Tuesday morning to photograph the damage and then contacted the block manager and checked the landlord’s insurance policy. The landlord had taken advantage of our specially negotiated policy with Jelf Insurance and so his contents cover included ‘loss of rent’. Jelf advised us that the repairs would take between two and three months so, as the tenant had essentially become homeless, we were able to immediately refund May’s rent to her with the landlord being able to claim that on his insurance policy.
Although the landlord was not obliged to re-house the tenant, we of course were immediately on the case and found temporary accommodation for her as another of our corporate landlords was refurbishing an apartment ready for a new tenancy to start in early June, and so it was empty and provided our tenant with hot water, a kitchen, a bed etc. Following quotes for repair work and waiting for the buildings insurance to approve the job, it became clear towards the end of May that the tenant was not going to be able to move back into the apartment, but would have to move out of the temporary apartment by the start of June for the previously arranged tenancy to commence. As such, our Property Manager terminated the tenancy of the Summertown apartment using clause 3 of Schedule 3 in our tenancy agreement:
“Interruptions to the Tenancy
3.1. If the Property is destroyed or made uninhabitable by fire or any other risk against which the Landlord has insured, Rent will cease to be payable until the Property is reinstated and rendered habitable; unless the insurance monies are not recoverable (whether in whole or in part) because of any thing done or not done by the Tenant, his family or his visitors; or the insurer pays the costs of re-housing the Tenant. To avoid doubt between the parties the Landlord has no obligation to re-house the Tenant.
3.2. If the Property is not made habitable within one month, either party may terminate this Agreement by giving immediate written notice to the other party.”
Property Management can be complicated, unglamorous and dirty, and that’s why clients pay us to do it. We have the experience and the contacts to deal with the difficult scenarios, but we also have the human touch; Although we were not obliged to find another property for the tenant, we emailed a list of five suitable properties to rent in Oxford within eight minutes of terminating the tenancy. Our tenant viewed one of the properties four days later and moved in three days after that…to another apartment in the same Summertown block!
As for the property, we are awaiting feedback from the Loss Adjustor to find out what is covered under the landlord’s insurance and then Bricks & Mortar hope to have all the works completed by the end of June.