Navigating Rental Arrears over Christmas
December is the most stressful and expensive time of the year, more so than ever this year. Whatever a tenant’s circumstances, it’s important to have a sense of what they’re dealing with and respond accordingly.
They may need support and understanding (because they’re good tenants in a difficult situation), or some clear and strict guidelines that ensure defaults and safeguards are in place (in anticipation of things going badly). The reality is, if a tenant can’t pay their rent there’s not much you can do after the fact. There are however some things you can do to engage them more, put reminders in place and keep the lines of communication open and strong.
Aside from Christmas, having good communication channels with your tenants is our goal. It helps to ensure ongoing compliance where rent and tenancy obligations are concerned. We make choices about how to engage regularly, in useful and non-invasive ways, which is in the best interests of everyone.
As far as Christmas goes though, digital updates can be a good way to manage rental due dates, payment plans and so on. Ideally these start in October, as the holiday season always sneaks up on people, but even at this early part of the month they could be just the trigger someone needs to call their agent and reach out for some advice or support. We decide whether email or text messages will best suit your tenants and start putting out some regular updates in the last quarter of the year.
This not only helps get people’s head in the game, but gives them reminders about rent due dates, as well as important information like office closure dates, and contacts while the office is closed. It also takes the excuse of ‘I didn’t know when it was due because of the holidays’ off the table. That’s why our communication includes a reference to how they can access assistance if needed where rent is concerned.
If tenants have had adjusted rent throughout 2020 due to COVID-19, there may need to be an adjustment to what has been agreed. Suggesting reduced payments for a month or two for example (and rolling over the balance) could be the difference between most of the rent being paid, or none at all. Alternatively, if their circumstances were unchanged this year, check in with tenants to make sure they’re on track for their rent payments as usual, and offer some flexibility if they expect they will have difficulties. Contacting them in October to advise them on the benefits of being in credit for rent in December might have a better outcome then you think!
Summer is a great time for tenants with rental arrears to slip off the radar, so we try to get a sense of any holiday plans tenants might have. Unpaid rent, no response to calls or texts and nobody at home could mean they’re in hiding. If you have a rough idea of which tenants are going away and when, time spent on pointless chasing is saved.