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Covid 19 Virus and how Ruby Housing will manage

March 13th 2020

At present we are hearing of restrictions overseas throughout many areas, with travel, business, schools, sports and other gatherings all impacted. 

While New Zealand hasn’t had that level of restriction imposed yet,  from what we’re seeing around the world there may be a very quick decision to close all everyday activities in order to contain and slow the spread. 

Ruby Housing has had cloud-based management systems for many years, which stood us in good stead with the Christchurch Earthquakes and subsequent natural disasters; flooding, power outages and snow. 

In that regard we are well set to manage if the shut-down of businesses is enforced in New Zealand as it is more widely overseas. Most of our communication is by email or other apps, which can be accessed off-site; rents are received and receipted online; and the majority of tenants have at least a smartphone to enable access to our office and rental documents as needed. We have an on-call phone for emergencies out of hours, and we’re aware of the few tenants who are in fragile health and don’t have access to email. 

We have emailed all tenants and let them know about government assistance available if their work decreases or stops altogether. We’ve also asked tenants to let us know straight away if they are in serious hardship that affects their ability to pay rent. 

To maintain a high level of preparedness some of the other options we are investigating are to minimise disruption if a shutdown extends beyond a few weeks. 

Travel restrictions will probably limit the number of people moving into Christchurch, although that may also mean people who expected to move to other centres or countries will still be in the city and need a home.

It’s imperative that any vacant properties are still marketed effectively and tenancy applications processed as quickly as possible. Detailed virtual video tours are the next best alternative to physical viewings of properties, and we already have an online systemised process for receiving applications.   

In terms of property inspections, continuing these will be decided week by week following public advice from the Ministry of Health. Until we hear otherwise, or believe there is a risk to staff, we will continue to do physical inspections as we do currently. If this changes, and inspections aren’t able to be deferred for a short period, the next best option is to carry out virtual inspections. In this instance the tenant walks through the home with a phone or i-pad, following instruction from the inspection agent. This isn’t ideal but there may be timing issues or other considerations that make it a better option than delaying for weeks or months. 

While we’re all hoping for a healthy future and limited impact from this virus, we prefer to have a managed plan of minimising harm, for everybody’s peace of mind. 

If you have comments, questions or suggestions please let us know!