March 27, 2020
We appreciate that this is a really worrying time for all of our communities. We are working really hard to provide them with regular updates in this unprecedented situation. This article displays the various strategies and protocols put in place in response to the 2020 COVID-19 outbreak. The following procedures ensure that we as a Landlord are acting responsibly by putting our customers and employees safety first, as well as protecting our brand and investor reputation.
What internal processes are being put in place to monitor and manage the COVID-19 situation?
- Sigma, on behalf of the Simple Life brand has scheduled daily calls with key member of the team to discuss updates and any communications that are required for our customers
- Very regularly, we are giving customers updates on how the COVID-19 situation might affect them, their tenancy or our services to them. Where possible, we are also sharing helpful guidance that might be of interest to customers, for example NSPCC’s tips on how to explain Coronavirus to children
- Recently a number of staff attended a crisis management course to ensure that at times like these, we are responding to the situation and managing our communications in the best way possible. We are also continually forward planning communications so we are able to react quickly to any changes that might arise
- Preserving our resource to be capable of managing these situations, plus looking after the safety of our staff is paramount, therefore the entire Sigma team is working remotely from home
What steps has Sigma/Simple Life taken to protect residents?
- During periods of lock down, no home visits will be taking place unless it is absolutely critical, a legal or compliance issue such as annual Gas Safety Check or due to an emergency
- Anyone visiting a resident during this period will call before the visit to assess the health and safety risks
- Any staff visiting a property will be carrying out routine hygiene checks before and after entering, including regular hand washing and regularly using anti-bacterial hand gel. Where available face masks and gloves will also be used. In the case of a visit, we’re asking residents to open all doors for our team, put lights on where appropriate and abide by the social distancing guidelines.
- The majority of our office staff will be working remotely, minimalizing social contact. Our team will still be available over the phone and email for all of our customers
- We are continually looking to put alternative processes in place to ensure our customers are safe, whilst also maintaining customer service, this include virtual viewings and property videos where possible
Where we are not in periods of lock down we will be able to hold virtual open days on Facebook, conduct viewings over FaceTime or by sending you a video. During lockdown periods, viewings will not be taking place, however we will be able to send enquirers property photos, floorplans and pre-recorded videos where possible.
People are still able to register their interest in a property off-plan and pay their holding deposit to reserve the plot they are interested in. Our lettings team are available to take calls and to discuss all availability with enquirers. New applicants are being made aware that move in dates for any new applications may be quite fluid due to delays on-site as a result of lock down period, therefore we are unlikely to start new applications and referencing until business is back to usual. Our lettings team will be able to give enquirers more information on individual developments and properties over the phone or by email.
As we are now in lockdown we are following government guidance in ensuring that we are focusing on any move in’s that are due imminently. We have already contacted all of our customers to establish if they would still like to move and if so have successfully managed to bring their move in date forward to Friday 27th March. Due to government guidance we can no longer facilitate move in’s until we are out of lockdown. We will be in regular contact with those who’s move in dates are affected, to ensure they are being kept fully up to date as to when their new move in date will be.
Ideally we would have liked to have been able to secure all existing move in dates, but guaranteeing that our customer’s property is fully complete and 100% safe to live in, is of upmost importance to us.
For those who are moving in to a property and need to collect keys, we are putting measures in place to ensure that social distancing is practiced. This includes minimal staff and maintaining a safe distance at any key collection point, or where possible, customers may be able to collect keys from a designated key nest.
Residents can still report maintenance, but at this time we will be attending to emergency repair works only. This is to protect our staff, contractors and our customers. Health and safety must come first, so if we need to enter a property to fix an emergency repair, we will ask the customer a series of health and safety questions before visiting. Anyone visiting a property on behalf of Simple Life will be carrying out appropriate hygiene measures before their visit. We’re encouraging all residents to think about the urgency of their maintenance request before logging it, and we would recommend that all residents attempt to self-fix the issue if appropriate, using the how to videos featured on our Simple Life You Tube channel.
Emergency works include:
- Uninhabitable living conditions such as no heating or hot water
- Uncontainable water leak
- Gas leaks
- No water supply to the property
- No other cooking facilities, no other bathing facilities, no other W/C facilities
- Break-ins or fire and security risks
Emergency repair works will only address the emergency and make it safe, subsequent remedial works may follow.
Contacting Simple Life
Our staff our now working remotely, however the solutions in place have allowed us to maintain the same standard of service via phone or email.
Residents Suffering From Financial Hardship Due to COVID-19
Whilst everyone will be in different situations we understand a few will be experiencing genuine financial hardship with a dramatic reduction in income as a result of COVID-19. We are asking that if any resident falls in to this category, they should contact us directly. We will be ready to take their call and we will work with them to seek a solution such as deferred rental payments, for those most in need.
Those that are employed but are experiencing reduced income or threat of lay off should speak to their employer about the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and being furloughed thus allowing their employer to claim 80% of their wage. This could also apply to anyone who has been made redundant as a result of Covid-19 but worked for a company that is still viable. More details can be found in the attached link.
Most importantly, we are encouraging our customers to speak to us, treating all communications with empathy and compassion. We want to make sure our residents feel that they are safe and secure and that their landlord is approachable and understanding of the situation.
We’re encouraging our residents to follow all government guidelines in this current climate and practice social distancing. This means they should only leave their home for daily exercise, essential shopping items and for emergency situations only. This is paramount to everyone’s safety and to limiting the spread of the virus. Please follow the latest advice:
Looking Out For Neighbours
We’re actively encouraging residents to look out for one another at this difficult time. We have asked that if residents have any concerns for the welfare of any of their neighbours, then to let us know and we will do our best to check if they are ok and step in where appropriate.
If customers are due to move out of their property during this period, they are still able to, as long as they are comfortable that it is safe enough for them to do so. We have put alternative processes in place for key handovers to avoid any physical interaction.
If customers are due to move out and they now wish to stay either more permanently or for a short time, we’re giving them the reassurance that they can stay in their Simple Life home for as long as they need it. We are more than happy to talk to residents about extending their contract or coming to a solution that works for both parties.
Health and Wellbeing
We are aware that financial pressures and isolation could have some very negative impacts on people’s mental health. Other than making sure that our residents feel welcomed to speak to us, we’re also launching a number of initiatives to enhance positivity among our residents.
We would like to find opportunities out of a difficult situation and we feel that at a time where everyone is interacting online, we have a huge opportunity to build on our community spirit and customer interaction. For the second year running we will be launching our Peace of Mind Month which will include:
- Resident competition which will allow people to win a spa break for two and a tailored peace of mind prize worth up to £500
- Health and Wellbeing Series – we will be featuring a number of online tutorials and classes, all related to having a healthy mind, body and soul. This will include anything from Yoga classes, cooking tutorials, self-image seminars and meditation classes. Where possible, we are looking to get residents to lead some of these classes themselves. The full series will be supported by regular inspirational quotes and tasks which can be done at home
We hope that our Peace of Mind Month helps to inject some positivity and raises people’s spirits, defeats any loneliness and generates unity amongst our residents.
Supporting NHS Workers
We have a high proportion of NHS workers living in our homes. In recognition of the hard work they do for our country, particularly at gruelling times like this, we’re giving those residents 20% off their rent for the next 3 months.
Helping the Wider Community
In immediate response to the current crisis, we have donated a further £5,000 to the foodbanks that we support throughout the country. We hope that these donations will help to see them through the next few months with food supplies, running costs and resource.