The challenges of on-boarding a portfolio in lockdown

Taking on the management of four large industrial estates in the North of England and Midlands, with a total of 85 units, would normally be a pretty straightforward task. It’s what we do.

But taking a new instruction on, effective 25th March 2020 was anything but routine, coming immediately as lockdown struck and coinciding with one of the most difficult Quarters for rent collection any of us have seen.

Based on our experience of on-boarding new management instructions, we have some clear priorities which we focus on in the first few months of any instruction. In this case we had to rapidly adapt to the circumstances.

A proactive approach to occupier engagement
Engaging with the occupiers to develop our relationships with them is always our main priority. Fortunately, in this case we started this process ahead of the ‘go-live’ date of 25th March by inspecting the properties, meeting the tenants to understand any issues or concerns they had as well as giving us insight into the nature of their businesses. This would have been extremely difficult to do had we waited until after the formal commencement of our instruction.

Establishing relationships with the occupiers early on also proved crucial in managing the rent collection process for rents due from 25th March. We were able to understand who was most affected by lockdown and have constructive, informed discussions on any concessions.

Despite only taking over the management on the actual due date, (one that was so significantly impacted by the COVID crises) we have still been achieved 94% of March Quarter rent collection and over 70% for June.

Effective transition management
Another key area of focus in the first weeks of any instruction is client communication. Whether with new or existing clients, regular dialogue, updates and meetings are the norm, to ensure the transition from previous managing agents is completed smoothly, feedback from discussions with tenants is considered and the client’s plans for the assets are shared and understood. In this case, this was all done remotely, but no less effectively.

Our property management and accounting colleagues were quickly working together with their client counterparts and the normal flow of management reporting was swiftly established.

While you wouldn’t choose March 2020 to take on a new management instruction, thanks to the team involved, this was another example of how we all had to quickly adapt to ensure ‘business as usual’.

By Anthony Boothman
Property Management Partner, Manchester