HouseMark publishes first COVID-19 sector impact report

HouseMark has launched its first sector-wide coronavirus impact report highlighting the pandemic’s significant impact on the sector.

The organisation is delivering a series of solutions to help landlords quantify the impact of COVID-19, forecast the future and take action. The first full report looks at the impact of COVID-19 on key operational areas. 

The report has revealed that in the month of March, 52.2% of staff within the social housing sector were distance working, with 31.6% still being in contact with other staff and or residents due to their role as an essential front-line worker. A total of 7.3% were off sick with 8.8% work working and potentially furloughed.

The data found that sickness had risen by 65% with 7.3% of staff off sick in March compared to a sector norm of 4.4%. This rise presented a challenge for some landlords, particularly where sickness is front-line specialist teams and people can’t readily step into the roles.

HouseMark said that it has seen an increased level of flexibility with landlords, where they can be.

The organisation expects sickness to increase in April before coming back down again in May.

The report has also revealed a 5% increase in arrears. The average arrears as a percentage of the annual rent due rose to 2.99% compared to the 2.85% that would normally be expected at this time of year. This equates to an additional £33m of arrears UK-wide, with the prognosis for April and May even more challenging.

Letting activity dropped by 11% in March, despite lockdown only coming into force on March 23. Despite the best efforts of landlords to do virtual sign-ups, this drop-off in activity is likely to be exacerbated in April and May, which will have a significant and long-lasting impact on void loss.

The data has also revealed that despite the landlord’s best efforts, the number of gas safety certificates renewed before expiry dropped to 96.6%, compared to a more usual sector performance of 99.9%.

In practice, this relates to an additional 10,000 properties without a valid gas safety certificate. Given the number of people self-isolating has grown since the end of March, expect this figure will worsen for the next six weeks before it begins to improve.

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