One of the State's largest property owners, Irish Residential Properties REIT, said today that trading during the first quarter of 2020 was in line with its expectations, with net rental income margin remaining strong at 80.7%.

In a trading update, I-RES REIT said that residential rent collection rates were a stronger than expected 98% in April.

But it said there is no certainty in relation to the rate of rent collection in the upcoming months given the ongoing uncertainty related to the Covid-19 pandemic and Government measures.

In line with recent measures introduced by the Government, the company has implemented a temporary moratorium on rent increases to June 27 as well as on termination notices. 

It said it has also put in place additional processes to communicate and work with its residents on an ongoing basis during this time including in relation to payment of monthly rents.

"We look to provide solutions on a case-by-case basis for those residents facing financial hardship due to Covid-19," it said. 

The company also said it is ensuring that residents experiencing financial challenges are aware of the various Government supports available to help them.

I-RES REIT said it has limited its repairs and maintenance and capital expenditures on existing properties to essential works to allow it to maintain the safety of its residents.

During the three month period, the company said it took delivery of 55 units at Waterside and 18 units at Tallaght Cross West, bringing the total units owned to 3,739.

It also said it is in a strong financial position, with a robust balance sheet and strong liquidity position and said its dividend strategy continues, with a final dividend for 2019 of €16.2m. 

"Despite the ongoing challenging and unprecedented times, I believe that our high quality, diverse portfolio of assets, robust financial position and highly experienced property management team will ensure that our business emerges from the Covid-19 crisis in as strong a condition as possible," commented the company's chief executive Margaret Sweeney.

In a research note, Davy Stockbrokers said that I-RES REIT'S rent collection of 98% is extremely strong within the context of the European listed real estate sector.

The stockbrokers said this reaffirmed the defensive nature of residential assets and the company's "modern and diversified portfolio". 

They also noted that occupancy of 99% has increased from 98.3% at year-end, although it excludes a number of units that have been made available to help health service staff through the period of Covid-19. 

"There is clearly uncertainty over rent collection and occupancy going forward, but the current data are very encouraging," Davy added.