David Swigciski, Director of Client Services at DAS UK Group, and Oli Sherlock, Head of Insurance at Goodlord, reflect on the support they provided for agents, landlords and tenants during the Covid-19 crisis.
In autumn 2019, DAS UK, one of the leading underwriters of landlord legal expenses and rent guarantee products, was excited to announce a new partnership with property technology company Goodlord, one of the rising stars of the UK PropTech scene.
When we set out on this partnership, our objectives were clear - we wanted to improve the way insurance products such as Rent Protection and Landlord Legal Expenses worked, from the key benefits right through to assessing how Goodlord’s technology could support an advanced claims process. Of course, by early spring of this year it became clear things would be changing faster than we could have ever envisaged. 2020 would be anything but a normal year.
As we entered March, the scale of the Covid-19 crisis became apparent. When the government announced a lockdown of society and a ban on eviction proceedings, it was not clear how this law would be enacted, and what support would be put in place for society’s most vulnerable. With the halt in court proceedings also compounding landlords’ losses, we were immediately thrust into uncharted territory.
As an A-rated insurer, DAS UK’s very reason to exist is to pay claims through the good times and the bad. In combining Goodlord’s technological capability with our combined expertise, we were able to ensure we could do that as effectively as possible. We immediately confirmed that all existing claims would continue to be paid and raced to create the new processes needed for new claims.
Whilst we did this our legal advisers took thousands of calls from landlord customers and agents. At the same time, Goodlord was constantly speaking to agents to better understand their situation and experiences. We listened to what customers were telling us and to the government advice, and we analysed the data. We published updates on the legal situation on a daily basis. A few days later, as soon as the government announced how the changes would take effect (a stay on court proceedings and an extension of notice periods) we had the processes live to pay new claims.
In a matter of days during March we:
- Transferred all our operations to remote working, with zero employees furloughed;
- Answered thousands of customer calls, published legal advice, and ran legal advice webinars;
- Further digitised and evolved the initial claims handling processes to help agents and landlords reach mutually beneficial agreements with their tenants;
- Created the updated processes needed to pay valid rent arrears claims through the Covid-19 period, for both new and existing claims;
- Assessed the impact of the crisis, evolved the cover, and created the models so that we could keep offering cover at a fair and reasonable price.
Whilst others in the market reacted to the lockdown with urgent calls to buy policies and immediate price increases (sometimes triple the usual rate), it was obvious to us that there was no way in those first few days that the full impact of the crisis - and fair pricing - could be properly quantified.
In contrast, our immediate focus when the lockdown happened was on changes to our claims and service processes. This will continue to be our focus as we move out of lockdown and anticipate further changes to the law. The new processes we have rolled out have been successful in helping landlords and agents reach agreements with their tenants and, even where this is not possible, the processes make sure we are continuing to pay valid rent guarantee claims in full.
We don’t know what further surprises 2020 will bring but, by sticking to our principles and building partnerships for the long term, we’re confident that Goodlord and DAS UK will help our customers face the future with confidence.
As well as an enhanced claims process, Goodlord's market leading Rent Protection and Legal Expenses Insurance covers payments for up to 12 months, includes property damage cover as standard, and covers legal expenses up to £100,000. Find out more about our product here.