A Guide to Property Managers Going virtual

There are many ways for property managers to try to mitigate the dangers of COVID-19 for residents, staff members and themselves. It is seriously important to keep up to date on public health guidelines, and below are seven tips to help steer you and help you thrive through these challenging times.

Prioritize Maintenance

Your duties as a property manager vary. During COVID-19 you will need to limit physical contact between maintenance staff and residents. When maintenance issues arise consider whether the problem is life-threatening or if it is an immediate threat to the property before dispatching employees. If the issue can be resolved virtually use that option. Routine maintenance on building mechanicals should continue to be done to avoid larger problems that may require more physical contact.

Cleaning 

Be aware of health department guidelines about cleaning product efficacy. Disinfectants must be applied using a strategy that minimizes your employees contact with the chemicals. Provide protective gear like masks, gloves, eye coverings and for some products full body disposable suits. These measures may not be physically comfortable but are necessary to the health of your employees. Clean common areas often, especially elevators, railings, and pulls on trash chutes and doorknobs. Touch-less entry systems may be a good investment at this time.

Buttonwood, who offer residential and commercial property management, states that landlords and property managers can help control the spread of COVID-19 by helping tenants follow good hygiene practices:

“The health and wellbeing of our tenants is a top priority for property managers. We recommend drawing up a plan which will include how your agency will handle and identify Coronavirus cases and emergencies, and how you will reinforce cleanliness and sanitation across your properties or common areas, such as setting up hand sanitizer stations. Providing tenants and landlords with consistent updates will make sure they feel connected and looked after in these troubling times.”

Communication

As the property manager it is your responsibility to be in contact with residents and staff. The easiest method is through email. If your tenants and staff are not able to access virtual communication send flyers and post to bulletin boards on each floor. Everyone will appreciate consistent and regular information concerning the building. Try to keep communication friendly and informative. During COVID-19 people are especially vulnerable to misinformation. Be factual and kind when writing notices, even when you need to admonish behavior that disregards health guidelines. 

Protocols in Place

Do not wait for an emergency to happen before you plan the appropriate response. Just like installing fire extinguishers and emergency exit plans, you must have a plan in place to deal with outbreaks of COVID-19 in your buildings. Your response plan will depend on the number of units in a building, accessibility to the building for tenants and mobility of residents. Amenities such as club rooms, workout facilities and swimming pools must be closed per health department orders. 

Maintenance Personnel

Communication with your staff is important during COVID-19. Staff members risk their own health when coming into close contact with residents. Make sure you provide personal protective gear for them. Take staff concerns seriously, listen to them when they express concern about the building or tenant’s behavior concerning social distancing or mask-wearing. If a maintenance person must be dispatched to a unit, ask the resident if they are ill before sending someone. This is also a great time to express your appreciation for your staff.  And tell your employees that if they themselves are sick,  they should stay home. 

Go Virtual 

Whether you’re renting a Wicker Park apartment in Chicago for an expensive price tag or a small suburban home in Wisconsin, it doesn’t matter, a vacancy is still costly but during COVID-19 an open house is out of the question. There are other ways to show a property with online property management software; virtual tours may be the method for showing all property in the future. A virtual tour can be made using your smartphone and the video posted to the building’s website. In buildings with remote locks people who have seen the virtual can do a self-tour. After someone has been in a unit make sure that all touch points are properly sanitized. Eliminating physical contact with prospective tenants is the logical thing to do. Contracts and deposits can be done virtually using apps like DocuSign and Venmo.

Your Health Department

Keep in touch with the local health department; they are working to help slow the spread of COVID-19. As a resource the health department can guide you through procedures if someone in your building is ill. 

Current HIPAA laws prohibit making anyone else’s health status public. Your residents will want to know details and there are guidelines the health department can share with you about the information you are able to divulge. It is not the duty of the property manager to screen residents as they enter the building nor is it their duty to notify residents of an incident of COVID-19. Call the health department and they will take the necessary steps to notify residents and perform contact tracings.

Daunting as it seems, with solid communication between residents and staff, you, as the property manager will be able to help everyone function safely throughout COVID-19.

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