How Pest Control Became a Hot Topic for Lettings Agents

About our guest blogger:
Based in Worthing, Lucy studied Economics, Finance and Management before turning her focus towards the property market.  She’s a specialist short/long stay holiday rentals and has written for a number of major industry blogs.

COVID-19 has had an impact on everyone, including lettings agents and the property market as a whole. But one consequence that may have been unexpected is that empty properties have become a haven for pests – something that letting agents are now having to deal with as lockdown measures begin to lift.

Empty properties can be a haven for pests

When pests are allowed free reign over a property, they’ll waste no time in causing havoc – something one student learned to his cost. Oluwageorge Johnson, a student from Nottingham Trent University, left halls at the beginning of March to stay with his parents during lockdown.

Student Kitch covered in pideon excrement Student Living Room covered in pigeon excrement

(Source: Mercury Press)

When he returned six months later, he found that pigeons had invaded his flat and destroyed his property, even leaving eggs and a chick in his kitchen sink. This type of event is far from unique however. Many people have returned from lockdown, having socially distanced themselves elsewhere, to find that unchecked properties, both residential and commercial, are now overrun with pests.

The problem is allowed to grow

The government’s decisions throughout lockdown meant a knock-on effect for pest control in properties around the country. With pest control considered an unnecessary service, many people were unable to utilise pest control services when managing properties.

“A lack of foresight in the early days of the pandemic meant the government forced pest control services to close,” says Mark Stanford of Empire Pest Control “this was a huge mistake; if left unchecked, pests can cause a significant amount of damage and the infestation could worsen, making it more difficult to get the situation under control”.

With the issue allowed to develop while the country was in lockdown, it’s now even more severe than if it had been managed over the course of the pandemic.

Who is responsible for dealing with pest problems?

Pest control has become a hot topic recently and it’s raised a few questions as a result. Primarily, who is responsible for dealing with the situation and does COVID-19 change anything in this regard? Citizens Advice state that it’s not a straightforward issue.

Landlords, for example, are responsible for dealing with an infestation if it is stated in the tenancy agreement that they will maintain the property to a hospitable state, or if the infestation was caused by disrepair that the landlord is responsible for such as a broken window or a hole in the wall. They may also take on the problem if the infestation makes the property unsafe to live in, such as causing illness to the tenants. But in other situations, such as neglect from a tenant, landlords may not be liable for the cost of dealing with an infestation.

A Rat

(Source: Pexels)

Different solutions for different pests

The type of infestation can determine who is responsible for dealing with pest issues, as sometimes tenants need to handle the problem and sometimes landlords are responsible. Landlords need to arrange for pest control if the issue is wasp nests, rats or a flea infestation if this becomes present at the start of a tenancy. It’s the landlord’s responsibility to ensure that carpets and upholstery are fumigated, providing that it is not the tenant’s pets that are the cause of the issue.

However, ants or mice are the tenant’s responsibility to remove. Bees are also an issue that the tenant needs to deal with, as these need to be removed by a professional beekeeper as they are protected.

Likewise, if a wasp nest appears mid-way through a tenancy agreement then the tenant will be responsible for paying for the removal. The intricacies of responsibility make the issue of pest control a difficult one to manage but understanding which types of infestations fall under the obligation of landlord or tenant can make it easier to deal with the problem quickly and efficiently from the start.

Final thoughts

Lettings agents have had a lot to contend with as lockdown measures have begun to lift and the property market adjusts to a new normal. But with so many properties left empty for months at a time, it’s unsurprising that pest infestations are now such a prominent issue.

It’s important that those involved, whether as landlords, letting agent professionals or tenants, stay up to date with the latest government guidelines on how to deal with pest control companies safely. It’s also important to maintain properties as safely and hygienically as possible, so as to prevent further infestations from developing.

How To Maintain Social Distancing At Your Lettings Agency

In light of the coronavirus pandemic, maintaining social distancing is now absolutely imperative – regardless of the industry you work in.

About our guest blogger:
Dakota Murphey has experience in property management with her portfolio of properties expanding in the South of England. Her passion for renovation and home improvement projects is shared through her writing to help educate and inspire others.

However, within the property sphere, it is especially important to ensure that correct practice is followed, due to the largely client-facing nature of the role.

From showing potential renters around homes in-person to signing any required paperwork in the office itself, there are a number of changes your agency will need to consider when trying to keep employees safe from COVID-19.

Whether it be managing how employees or customers arrive in and out of the office, implementing changes to ensure safe desk work, or sourcing new ways to interact with customers, there are many areas you’ll need to think about.

Join us as we run through some of the best ways to ensure your agency not only maintains its social distancing measures effectively but also helps keep the deadly COVID-19 virus at bay.

  1. Wash Your Hands. Provide hand-washing facilities and hand sanitiser at all of your office entrances and exits. Also, make sure to wash your hands after any home viewings you take.

  2. Stagger Employees. To reduce everyone coming into the workplace at the same time, stagger your employees’ arrival and departure times.

  3. Take Care During Viewings. While it may be difficult to arrange flat viewings right now, if the property is empty then it should be OK for potential renters to see. However, during these viewings take the necessary steps to ensure both your agents’ and customers’ safety. De-sanitise any rooms they visit or handles they touch – from the living room to the garage – and ensure they’re kept as safe as possible for future viewings.

  4. Add Markings. Introduce a one-way flow system in and around your workplace. Provide floor markings and signage where appropriate to help your staff and visitors navigate it correctly.

  5. Regulate Traffic. If you have any particularly high-traffic areas of the office, such as corridors, lifts, turnstiles or walkways, manage their use to prevent congestion from occurring.

  6. Reposition Desks. In order to adhere to social distancing rules, reposition your desks to ensure your staff are at least two metres apart. If this isn’t possible, consider whether they’re required in the office or not and offer working from home as a potential alternative.

  7. Discourage Face-To-Face. Reposition desks so that your employees aren’t working face-to-face. Instead, encourage them to work side-by-side or in a way that faces away from one another.

  8. Use Screens. By adding a Perspex screen to each desk, you can help create a physical barrier between people – whether that be employees or customers coming in and out of the workplace.

  9. Meetings. Avoid holding in-person meetings if you can, and opt for a remote alternative instead. However, if you can’t avoid in-person meetings, then try to ensure social distancing measures during them, maintaining a two-metre separation between attendees. Also, host them either outdoors or in a well-ventilated room while providing a range of hand sanitising options.

  10. Stagger Breaks. To reduce the pressure on your break room, stagger your employee’s break times. Create other safe areas around the office for your staff to eat and encourage them to spend their break time outside if required as well, in order to keep them a safe distance apart.

  11. Safe Appointments Only. Enable customers to visit your agency on an appointment-only basis. Try to discourage in-person appointments where possible and, instead, prioritise conversations that could alternatively take place over the phone or via a remote means. If in-person appointments can’t be avoided though, try to minimise any contact between yourself and the customer. Also, provide your customer with clear guidance on your agency’s social distancing and hygiene procedures prior to arrival, encouraging them to use any signage and visual aids you have set up around the workplace.

  12. Limit Your Customers. Define how many customers you can realistically expect to home within your work while adhering to the two-metre social distancing guidelines and procedures you’ve set up in advance. Limit this number down to ‘one customer at a time’ if required.

  13. Suspend Unneeded Services. If you have any services that cannot currently be offered or undertaken without contravening social distancing guidelines, suspend them until the government’s guidelines tell you otherwise.

  14. Change Your Transactions. If you need to conduct any transactions in the office then consider using contactless payments only, rather than cash. However, if cash or pin-entry card payment is absolutely essential, make sure to wear gloves during handling. Also, use hand sanitiser and de-sanitise any equipment that could potentially harness any harmful viruses or bacteria on them.

6 ways to stay in control of keys when working at distance

Most of us are in an extraordinary situation right now, as we try suppress the COVID-19 coronavirus. As we distance ourselves from others, we’re all mindful that we still need to look after our clients, and that still means issuing and tracking keys.

We’ve already helped a number of you adapt to ensure your key processes still operate safely and securely when the office is unattended or on a skeleton staff.

I hope the below list is a helpful reminder of the ways you can use Keyzapp to manage keys and access to buildings/rooms whilst maintaining social distance.

1. Call us if you need anything!

All of us at Keyzapp are here for you as usual, so please do reach out if we can be of any assistance. We’re working mostly from home (so if you call us, please forgive any background child or pet noises!). Do call us anytime if you need help, on +44 (0)3300 88 55 01. Don’t forget the support portal is there if you need it.

The below tips utilise some features that are only available on our professional subscription and above. During the period of the Coronavirus, we are offering these features free to everybody, so if you can’t see the feature you need, please give us a call.

2. Make sure everyone can log in from home or mobile phone

You can make Keyzapp accessible to anyone from anywhere by giving them a username and password. It will work just as it does in the office.

  • Existing users just need to go to https://www.keyzapp.com/login and enter their username and password to gain access.
  • This works just as well from a mobile as from a laptop or tablet

Once logged in it’s a good idea save a shortcut to your phone’s home screen or desktop, so you can get back quickly.

Useful links:
Add new users | Create a Desktop Shortcut

3. Find, issue and check what’s going on with your keys, wherever you’re working

Once you’re logged in, it’s easy to see what’s going on and help others take keys and return keys- even if you’re not there to help them in person.

  • You can use Keyzapp’s search from any location to see which keys are available right now (or if they’re not in the office, who has them)
  • You can tell people by phone which keys they need to get and can remotely sign the keys in and out to them without having to physically scan the key.
  • Keep an eye on the activity within the office even if you’re not there in person

Useful links:
Search | Sign Keys In and Out | View Reports

4. Use reservations when you know a key is going to be needed

Keyzapp allows you to add a reservation note against a key if you know someone is going to need it. This not only helps stop others taking the key when someone is on their way to get it, but the reservations are recorded, so you can see who was supposed to get a key at a certain time, and check if they did.

Useful links:
Reserve Keys

5. Give your trusted contractors an account to look up keys themselves

You might want your more trusted contractors to have a degree of self-sufficiency during these difficult times, so that they are not directly reliant on you. You can choose to give them some limited access to Keyzapp to find and sign out their own keys. Here are two options:

Option 1: Key Holder

The Key Holder account is very limited, giving people access only to the keys that they are currently holding. They can sign the keys out by scanning the tag on their mobile phone, but cannot sign them back in again – this needs confirmation from you. They also cannot search for keys, so they’ll need to be told exactly which key number to collect.

Option 2: Key Holder Plus (Recommended)

This type of user account is great for trusted contractors, as they can search for properties to find the keys they need, then sign them in and out themselves. It doesn’t provide any personal data beyond the name of the person who holds a key (so is GDPR compliant), nor will let let them see the activity history or download reports of your properties.

6. Set up any computer in the office as a self-service kiosk

With more people working outside of the office, you may have a free computer you can use as a dedicated terminal for looking up keys. It’s secure, and is as easy to use as a Supermarket Self-Service checkout. Here’s how it works:

  1. Give everyone an ID fob (if you don’t have any to hand, give us a call and we’ll sort you out!)
  2. When a user scans their ID on the designated computer, they are instantly logged in (no need for a password as the physical tag provides the security)
  3. They can search and sign out keys according to their permissions
  4. When finished, the Kiosk goes back to a blank screen, ready for the next user.

Check out Phillip’s introduction here:

To set up a kiosk, you’ll need to create a special “Kiosk” user and log it in, on the computer you choose. There are a few other things we can do to really optimise the experience for you, so give us a call and we’ll gladly talk you through it

Useful links:
In this Case Study, Amthal Fire & Security are using a computer in kiosk mode

Please take care of yourselves and contact us if we can help

Here’s our number again, and as always we’re glad to help you out wherever we can.

  • Call on +44(0) 3300 88 55 01
  • Email us at support@keyzapp.com