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.
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.
- 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.
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.