Here are five tips to keep your rental safe and healthy during COVID-19 from a veteran property manager and owner.
By Justin Becker
In just a matter of weeks, the coronavirus pandemic has radically altered the way we live and work. It has especially affected those who live in rental housing, specifically apartment dwellers, because of the close proximity of units and the use of common spaces.
It has also changed the way apartment owners, property managers, landlords and maintenance workers must approach their jobs. Their primary focus must now be on keeping tenants/renters safe and as clean as possible in order to prevent the possible spread of the virus. This is even more important now, with so many people under shelter-in-place orders and spending all their time at home, other than making essential trips.
Good property managers and landlords already do a superb job of keeping up their facilities. In these unprecedented times, this will take extra steps that haven’t been needed before.
Here are five ways to keep your rental safe during the coronavirus pandemic:
No. 1 – Implement and communicate information from official sources only
Governors and mayors across the country have handed down shelter-in-place orders and usually have daily briefings to provide information on how to stay healthy during the outbreak.
Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Preventionl (CDC) have issued numerous guidelines covering procedures such as social distancing, the importance of washing hands frequently, and wearing a mask or a bandana.
In order to help prevent the spread of false information, and keep your rental safe, you should post various guidelines around your complex or rental housing. If possible, check in with residents or renters to make sure they are following the guidelines and ask if they have any needs or concerns. It will take everyone working together to get through this.
No. 2 – Close common areas that aren’t essential, and regulate others
Close any common areas outside your rentals so people will not gather.
If your apartment building has a pool, patio, recreation room, gym or any other non-essential common area where several people can gather, close it until health authorities say it is OK for crowds to gather again.
The CDC believes that social distancing is the best way to limit or prevent the spread of COVID-19. By closing these areas, you are reducing the temptation people might have to use them.
You are also saving the time and expense of having to clean and disinfect those areas more often than normal if they remained open. If residents complain, you need to explain to them the need to follow social-distancing guidelines. Suggest to residents that they can get physical exercise by going for a walk or a bike ride, as long as they follow social distancing guidelines and wear a mask, if necessary.
You should also ask tenants to limit guests beyond immediate family members. Stress to them that this is not the time to have social gatherings, even if they are small, because you are trying to keep your rental safe. Limiting the number of guests can limit the exposure to germs.
No. 3 – Establish a schedule for the laundry room
If the apartment building or rental property you manage has a laundry room, you’ll be doing everyone a service if you set a schedule for its use.
A laundry room is one of the few essential common areas that need to be kept open, and it should be regulated. A schedule is necessary to keep the room from becoming overcrowded and to assure that everyone will have an equal chance to do their laundry while remaining safe. Either you can set the schedule yourself, or provide a signup sheet and have residents pick times.
You should limit access to the room to one or two residents at a time in order to follow social distancing. Give elderly or frail residents first crack at times that are convenient to them. Lastly, you’ll need to make sure the laundry room is kept clean and disinfected, whether you or your staff do it, or that residents wipe down common surfaces after they use them. If possible, provide disposable gloves and sanitary wipes for your tenants to use.
No. 4 – Clean and disinfect often to keep your rental safe
Even when you’ve closed off many common areas, there are still numerous common surfaces throughout the building that residents can’t avoid touching.
Those include door handles and knobs, elevator buttons, handrails in stairwells, mailboxes, and other surfaces. Even if you need to hire additional staff or give your cleaning staff extra hours, it is incumbent on you to make sure these areas are kept wiped down and sanitized. As mentioned before, the laundry room is one area that must be kept spotless in order to prevent the potential spread of the virus and keep your residents safe.
You should also make sure to have hand sanitizer stations located in high-use common areas such as the lobby, at each elevator, doorways to stairwells, near mailboxes and in the laundry room. You can either mount sanitizer pumps on walls or place them on stands. Having sanitizer readily available will heighten your residents’ sense of security before and after they touch these common surfaces.
No. 5 – Know your legal obligations and rights, and establish protocols
There will be many “new normals” during this outbreak, and if you manage a building with apartments for rent, you need to be prepared to deal with them.
Inform tenants and renters that they should notify their building manager if they have been identified as a presumptive or confirmed case of COVID-19. In turn, managers are expected to keep such information strictly confidential in order to support those residents. Building managers should consider advising residents of known cases in the building without disclosing their identities. That will allow other residents to take further precautions.
If the pandemic forces an interruption to any repair or construction projects at your property, you’ll need to determine if that stoppage affects any contracts. Or, determine if the repair or construction can be considered essential, which would allow it to continue.
Lastly, be understanding and lenient with tenants, especially if you have mobile homes for rent, if they have trouble paying rent. Many Americans have been laid off or furloughed, and money will be tight. Some people will have limited money to even buy food with, so they won’t be able to pay their rent.
Now’s the time to be flexible with these residents. If possible, give them a few months, or whenever the crisis subsides, to come up with the rent. That in turn will ease their fears and anxiety of dealing with this unseen enemy that is affecting everyone.