Property Management Considerations Concerning COVID-19

As we all make efforts to flatten the curve of the spread of Coronavirus, ensuring sufficient resources are available to our vulnerable and at-risk neighbors, there are things we might consider changing in the way we conduct our property management business. Please read on for various recommendations and practices.

General Guidance

The CDC provides specific recommendations for employers and workplaces, which can be found here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/guidance-business-response.html This is a comprehensive summary of policies and procedures that you should be enacting, and includes items for future planning that you may not have considered.

Office

  • Per the CDC guidelines, sick employees should not be coming to work. Ensure that you are enforcing compliance with an abundance of caution to preserve a sick-free workplace.
  • If you have a work-from-home policy, expand it. If you do not have a policy, now is the time to create and implement it. Many property managers have been working in an office-less environment for years. It’s possible, but requires flexibility and a little creativity.
  • Consider closing your office to all walk-in traffic, both public and current residents. Post a large, clear notice on your door with instructions for all walk-up visitors to call, text, or email your staff. Monitor the provided contact methods in real-time to provide quick responses.
    • Consider meeting walk-up visitors outside your office, with sufficient social distancing, in cases where an in-person interaction is required.
    • Consider requesting that walk-up visitors, including delivery personnel, leave any correspondence or packages outside your door when they are bringing something to you. Once an item is dropped off, collect it to bring it into the office.
  • When receiving a package, payment, or correspondence, handle it with gloves and disinfect it with spray and/or wipes where possible.
  • Frequently disinfect anything that may be touched by multiple people, including door handles, light switches, phones, etc.

Showings

People need to have a place to live, and we are the people who facilitate that for millions of Americans. During the pandemic, many things will slow or stop. However, there will still be people who find themselves needing to locate and secure housing.

We should consider limiting showings based on need. If you are performing a showing, keep these guidelines in mind:

  • Enact policies on protective measures, including using gloves, sanitizer, and masks as necessary.
  • Keep a barrier of physical distance between yourself and your prospects. While it may seem awkward, inform the prospects that your company policy currently dictates that you keep a minimum distance from all other people.
  • Avoid touching, and instruct your prospect to avoid touching, anything that does not need to be touched. We impulsively feel things to sense them, so it requires conscious effort to keep our hands out of contact.
  • Disinfect all items that are touched, like light switches and door handles, both before and after contact.
  • Disinfect surfaces that could come into contact with airborne droplets from coughs or sneezes.

Common Areas of Properties

Indoor common areas should be closed, including clubhouses, gyms/exercise rooms, and any other area where people would congregate.

Common area pools, hot tubs, and play/recreation areas should be closed.

Outdoor park/sitting areas, designated smoking areas, and the like should have notices posted advising of social distancing recommendations.

Maintenance and Repairs

It is imperative that we keep our residents’ homes in safe working order. However, with people staying home more than ever, they may find non-essential repairs that can wait, or may feel this is an ideal time to request maintenance that they’ve put off because of scheduling difficulties. Consider enacting an essential maintenance only policy, and informing your residents. Be sure to record all maintenance requests regardless of urgency, but postpone those that are not immediately necessary to ensure safe and healthy habitation.

  • When maintenance can be postponed:
    • Assure the resident you have received and recorded their request, but you are postponing scheduling at this time because of the pandemic.
    • Advise the resident to turn off, disconnect, or stop using the affected item as necessary to prevent further problems and/or damage.
    • As necessary, inform the resident that they are encouraged to contact you to escalate the issue if it becomes something that interferes or threatens to interfere with health and safety, or threatens further damage to the unit or property.
  • When maintenance must be performed:
    • Ensure that your staff and vendors maintain distance between themselves and the resident.
    • Have your staff and vendors use gloves, and face masks as advised.
    • Disinfect anything that is touched, both before and after contact.

Legal Issues Including Notices and Evictions

  • Check with your attorney before making decisions regarding posting of notices and/or filing of evictions.
  • Be aware that many courts are closed, while those that are open may not be processing or enforcing evictions.
  • Understand that we are in an environment of fear and uncertainty. Make every effort, in all of your interactions, to promote peace and calm where possible. Understand that when your tenants and owners act with you out of fear, it rarely promotes your mutual best interests.
  • Consider creative and alternative methods to deliver or delay bad news, with an eye on the big picture, understanding your fiduciary duty to your owner.
  • Keep your owners and staff closely in the loop – now more than ever.
  • Remember that we are all in this together, and together we win or lose. Take the high road, and work to agree with your owners that sometimes we must make short-term sacrifices for the long-term outcome we desire.
  • If all this feels brand-new, consider consulting with a property manager who has been through a natural or other disaster to help you gain perspective and learn creative approaches to problem solving in a high-stress environment.

Understanding Harmony: Ugly Emails?

Life’s too short to send ugly emails, or let your software determine the look and feel of your company’s communications.

Harmony gives you full and complete control over the appearance and content of all emails you send and documents you create, and it’s really simple to customize everything to your liking.

Most messages are customized from the Messages & Letters option in your Settings. There you’ll find two lists of messages: System Message & Letter Templates, which correspond to different actions you’ll take in the system; and Custom Message & Letter Templates, which can be selected as templates when you’re composing a custom message or creating a custom letter. Once you select your message, you’ll see an easy-to-use editor where you have full control over formatting, including changing the layout, colors, fonts, content, images, and more. On the right, you’ll see a list of merge field. Insert a merge field and the specific data for that person or function will be merged into the message or document.

You’ll also find customizable templates in Agreements and Applications. In Agreements, you can customize and add templates for all of your agreement forms, addendums, and notices. In Applications, you’ll customize the templates for applicants starting and finishing an application, and being accepted or rejected.

Before you get too creative, remember to Backup your current template from Template Options. With a saved backup, we can help you get back to any previous version of a template.

If a default template is available for any specific template, select Replace from Template Options to go back to the system default.

Some templates can be loaded from a template library. When this option is available, you’ll see the Library button in your Template Options. Click or tap it to load the library, and select from the available templates provided by third parties.

Make sure your messages and letters are always wearing their best outfit, and say exactly what needs to be said, to spark joy in the inboxes of your owners, tenants, and vendors. If there’s anything we can do to help you look your best, just let us know.

Understanding Harmony: Serial Adder

Some managers do things one-at-a-time as they come up. Others prefer to roar through a pile of things all at once. Harmony has the solution for both.

In functions where multiples might be added in sequence, Harmony places an Add Another icon beside the Add/Save/Submit/Post button. Instead of adding a single item and then starting over with the next item, the Add Another function brings you directly to the screen for another related item, pre-filling and pre-setting values that make sense.

Depending on how you arrive at the function, Harmony will assess whether it makes more sense to add the next item to the same person, or to a different person. Where it’s likely you will want to add the next item for the same person, the icon will show up as a plus sign. Where it’s more likely that you’ll want to select a different person, the icon appears as ⚇ (select a person and add).

For users who find themselves preferring the keyboard over the mouse, after tabbing down to the Add button, simply tab once more to get to the Add Another icon, and press Enter or Space to move on.

Harmony allows you to cruise through the functions you perform every day. If you have ideas for how we can make the road even smoother and faster, just let us know!

Understanding Harmony: Queue it Up

Some things are better queued.

There are areas in Harmony where you want to do all the work now, but produce the result later. We’ll look at a couple of these.

If you write checks, you’ll often want to perform the financial transaction now, and issue checks at the end of the day, week, or month. When you queue a check (which you can set as a default preference), it will sit in the queue until you’re ready to process it. If a single owner or vendor has multiple checks in the queue, simply choose Consolidate to put all the transactions from a single bank account, to a single payee, on a single check. You can even set a preference for the maximum number of payouts to consolidate onto a single check.

If you send messages by email or text, you may find yourself wanting them to be delivered some time after you send them. This is a fantastic solution for those property managers working after hours, wanting their email to be delivered during normal business hours (either because you want to make sure it’s seen, or because you don’t want your owners thinking it’s a good idea to reply and start a middle-of-the-night conversation). To queue a message, simply compose it, then select Send Later and choose the date and time to send it.

You can also queue Appointment Confirmation messages. Whether you’re scheduling a meeting, a showing, or a workorder, you can queue up the appointment confirmation at the time you create the activity or maintenance, to be sent at a later time (like the day before, or the morning of). This optimizes your schedule – you’re reminding people of the event at the same time as you’re getting the most accurate response on whether you might be stood up.

All these tools are designed to improve your workflow and preserve your sanity. If you have other ideas for how Harmony can help you stay sane and productive, drop us a line.

Understanding Harmony: What’s Going On?

It’s the first essential question of successful management.

Harmony makes it easy to see what’s going on, at a glance. All things time-related, like workorders to be done, leases to renew, appointments to keep, and even things to pick up from the store, show up on your calendar. You can click or tap any item for details, color code things for quick reference, and easily move, hold, delegate, or defer things.

For appointments and events that involve a tenant or owner, you can easily send them an appointment confirmation, which you can customize to your liking. An unconfirmed appoint will show up on your calendar as pending. Once the person confirms (or cancels, or requests rescheduling), you’ll see that as well, with details.

Need a little advance warning before that important lunch? Set yourself an alarm in Harmony, and you will be notified by your choice of method (pop-up alert, email, or text) at exactly the time you want.

What about the important things that aren’t necessarily calendar events? What if rent is late, or a vendor’s workers comp is expiring and they haven’t confirmed its renewal? Those show up, too, in dashboard panels that show items to be addressed and resolved.

Worried about missing a new item that has come in and hasn’t been scheduled or assigned yet? Perhaps a tenant has submitted a work request, or a prospect has sent a showing request or an application to rent. Those show up right along the top of your dashboard, as alert icons with a count of each item to deal with. Once you’ve processed it, the alert goes away. When a new item arrives, besides the alert icon, it will also show up as a browser alert – to be sure you never miss a thing.

If you need to do a deeper dive into things that may be going on and going wrong, run the company Concerns report. It will summarize all the things you should be concerned about – for all the people you interact with. You’ll see who is missing essential information, who has things overdue, who has a strange or mismatched status, and more details on dozens of data points.

Harmony provides numerous tools to help you quickly and easily see what’s going on in your management business. Do you have an idea for something else that would give you a view into your daily management? Drop us a line to let us know. It may already be there, but if it’s not, we want the opportunity to streamline your life and save your sanity!

Understanding Harmony: Something to Do

Task management is easy in HERO Harmony.

Some things, intrinsically and without additional explanation, require a task to be done. When you need to move in a tenant, renew a management agreement, check up on work assigned to a vendor, or get updated workers comp information from a vendor, the system knows there’s something to do and adds the item to your calendar. But there are countless other things that need to be done, like calling back an interested owner, having lunch with your favorite handyman, or picking up office supplies. For these, Harmony has activities and projects.

There are many things that can trigger the need for an activity (task, appointment, meeting, communication, etc.). Perhaps you received an email or a phone call, or sent a bill or a renewal notice, or received a notice to vacate, and you know that there’s more to do. From any item, it’s easy to add an activity, set the parameters, and add it to your calendar and/or someone else’s calendar. You don’t need to remember to add the task later – you can do it right in the middle of what you’re doing.

You’ll often find the need to do more than just complete a simple task. For example, you may get an email like this: “Hi, I’m looking for a new manager for my 19 houses – my current manager is retiring and he’s sold his accounts to my arch-nemesis.” Of course, you want to reply to this prospect. But you also want to set it up so she receives your “Introduction to Our Firm” email, gets a text three days later to ask if she has questions, and follow up with a phone call after 5 days. This is simple in Harmony, too. Just set up a “New Owner Prospect” campaign with all these actions, and when you reply, add the campaign to the prospect. The messages will go out automatically and you’ll be alerted when it’s time to make the phone call. You can get as elaborate as you want with campaigns and projects. They can contain any number of communications, tasks, meetings, events, and deliveries.

You can always see all of your to-do’s as a list, on your calendar, or by the person you’re doing them with and for. You can involve other people in your office, adding it to their calendar and lists. And you can set yourself or others as busy during the activity, putting them in do not disturb for the duration of the activity – and making sure nobody else schedules them during the time block.

If you want a gentle reminder that an activity is coming up, set an alarm. You can alert yourself any number of minutes, hours, or days in advance, by email, text, or pop-up. With all this, you can be confident that nothing will slip through the cracks!

Do you have ideas on how we can make your property management chaos more harmonious? Send us a message. We’re all ears when it comes to ways that we can contribute toward the improvement of your life and business.

Understanding Harmony: Like the Library of Congress

HERO PM has massive document servers, with the sole purpose of making sure that every document you touch can be stored in the cloud forever – associated with your company and, where relevant, the owner, tenant, or vendor it’s from or for.

Besides your company documents, each of your owners, tenants, and vendors has their own unlimited filing cabinet in the cloud. Any time you add a document, file, picture or video for anyone – in an email, a text message, an activity, a workorder, or anywhere else, it’s stored in their document storage automatically. Whenever you create a letter or agreement or save a report, it’s in their documents, too. And when a tenant or owner signs an agreement or notice online, the signed copy goes there, as well. You can also drag and drop to add documents and files of any type to any person you interact with.

Do you have something for all your owners, or all your tenants, or all your vendors? Select the “ALL” profile and add documents, and they’ll be available to everyone.

You can choose which documents to enable for viewing in each person’s portal, or set the parameter to automatically allow portal viewing of all documents (you can still disable individual documents). The person can organize and tag documents to their liking through their portal, or put them in the trash – but they’re still available to you exactly as you’ve organized and tagged them.

Your Harmony document management system is based on Dublin Core (DCMI), providing near-universal interoperability with any document organization or indexing system you might need to integrate or share with (ISO 15836). Your DCMI metadata can be easily viewed and updated for any document of any type.

Document management with HERO Harmony is simple, automated, and robust. We’re confident that using it will make your life a whole lot cleaner, more organized, and give you (and the people you work and interact with) quick, easy, accurate access to any file you’re looking for. If you have other ideas for how we can make document storage, management, and retrieval easier for you or your owners, tenants, and vendors, please let us know.

Understanding Harmony: Look at that Leak!

Sometimes a description of a maintenance problem simply isn’t enough. Many problems defy explanation, but a photo or a video sure helps!

When submitting a work request, it’s easy to add a photo or video of the problem area. If the request is being submitted from a phone or tablet, simply tap the button and take the photo or video. If it’s being submitted from a computer, select the photo or video file, or drag and drop it. The photo or video becomes a part of the work request, and when you create a workorder from the request, it’s available to the vendor, too. When you require owner approval for a workorder, the owner can review the photo and video to help them approve the work in their portal.

Photos and videos are invaluable in inspections, too. When inspecting, you can add an unlimited number of photos and videos to every area and item inspected. You can even require that the inspector add a photo if they’re going to indicate that any area has a problem. These stay with the inspection forever, and are easily viewable when comparing conditions, like from the start of management to the end of management, or from move-in to move-out. They’re also on all the inspection reports, which you can send to the owner or tenant, and view yourself at any time – from the unit, from the Inspections list, of from the Inspections view for any involved owner or tenant.

HERO Harmony makes maintenance and inspections simple for you, and for your owners, tenants, and vendors. If you have ideas for us to make your life even simpler, please let us know.

Understanding Harmony: Hold it Right There!

Sometimes you need to hold back money for an expense that you know is coming, but hasn’t hit the books yet. Whether it’s a roof, a water heater, or an AC unit, Harmony has your solution!

While some solutions require that you adjust the owner’s distribution reserve, then set yourself a reminder to adjust it back, Harmony makes it much easier. From the owner’s Money view, simply click or tap the Withhold Amount. You’ll get a dialog showing their distribution reserve and any un-invoiced work with estimates or totals, and the magical Temporary Holdback option.

Set the amount you want to hold back from the owner in Temporary Holdback Amount. If you want the holdback to automatically drop off and release the money after a certain date, enter that date. Enter the reason for the holdback to jog your memory when you see it in the future, or to help another user (or the owner) understand why money is being held.

For example, you may have a tenant report the AC is out on the 2nd of the month. You know that the last time the tech worked on that unit, they told you it was likely to need replacement. You suspect you’ll need to set aside a couple grand, but you’re not sure yet – a technician hasn’t even been dispatched. However, you know for sure that you don’t want to send the money to the owner if you’re going to need to turn around and ask for it back. Set the holdback to $2,000, with an expire date set for a day or two after the vendor is scheduled to get you the estimate. Once the estimate is in the system, the holdback can be expired, since the estimate will show up when it’s time to pay distributions (although you can keep it in place, or adjust it to the actual estimate, to be sure the money doesn’t get distributed).

You can always see the holdbacks for all owners from the Distributions view. The Reserve column contains their established reserve. If there are temporary holdbacks, they will be added to the reserve in this column (in italics), and the total to reserve from distribution will display below. Select Show Details for any owner to see the full details of the holdback, along with other details that affect distributions.

You can also hold back money for tenants, which is useful on move-out if you have reason to believe there are damages that will need to be paid for, and want to make sure you don’t pay out too early.

We are confident this simple solution will save you pads of post-it notes, while keeping both you and your owners happy as clams. If you have other ideas for how we can simplify your work as a property manager, please send them along!

Understanding Harmony: On the Tip of My Tongue

Harmony makes it easy to find the people and things you’re looking for.

You can always use the “Search Anything” box to find any person or item. This will find all active records where something matches your search term.

On each view (like Owners, Tenants, Documents, or Maintenance) there is an additional search box, which allows an advanced search including inactive records. Most views also include a Filter, to select specific types or classes to display, or toggle active/inactive records. You can set the defaults on many of these filters from your Settings.

If you’re stumped and can’t remember anything about what you’re looking for, use the “~all” code in the search box to return everything, and scroll through until you find what you’re looking for.

When you need to add something to Harmony, you can start with the Who and select the What, or start with What and select Who. Let’s say, for example, you need to add a document to a tenant. You can start by locating the tenant, selecting documents, and adding the document. Or, you can start by selecting documents, locate the tenant, and add the document.

Harmony makes it easy to find what you’re looking for and get to where you’re going. Do you have an idea for how it could be faster and easier? Send your suggestions our way, we want to bring harmony to your life as a property manager.