The COVID-19 outbreak made last year an exceptional year for our tenants and for the Operations department at Vesteda. We had to adjust our work processes due to the government measures, but we felt it was even more important to maintain an open dialogue with our tenants on how COVID-19 was affecting them.
Did our tenants have (financial) concerns due to the rise in unemployment and restrictions imposed by the government? How did they experience their home and living situation during the COVID-19 outbreak, when working from home became the norm?
Vesteda offered tenants tailor-made solutions if they saw a decline in their income, to help tenants who found themselves in acute financial difficulties due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to tailor-made solutions, such as payment arrangements, Vesteda also took a number of additional measures. For instance, we put a freeze on evictions of tenants in rent arrears and we did not charge collection costs. We also moderated our annual rent increase in July 2020 for the regulated segment to CPI and for the liberalised segment to a maximum of CPI plus 1%.
We asked a large group of tenants whether their homes still met their housing requirements following the COVID-19 outbreak. Working from home meant that most of our tenants are spending more time at home than ever before. This may have consequences for their housing requirements and living experience. Around 1,100 tenants shared their input with us. Please refer to page 19 and 20 for the key outcomes.
In the first half of 2020, we launched a new ERP system, new rental and My Vesteda portals and we insourced the former Delta Lloyd portfolio. Due to COVID-19, we did experience a rise in vacancy in the second half of the year, mainly in the higher rental segment and especially in Amsterdam, as a result of less demand for housing by expats and freelancers. Subsequent lettings declined, as it proved difficult to arrange viewings by (potential) new tenants with departing tenants.