How property managers operate during the pandemic has been an ever-evolving challenge. How we show rentals, issue pay rent or quit notices, handle repair requests, and resolve employee issues are just a few of the issues we have had to face and may continue to see for years to come.
1. Showing rentals
Showing rentals during a stay at home order is probably one of the biggest changes we’ve seen in property management processes. Many have switched to using virtual showings or video tours in tandem with one of the many self-showing lockbox services. Some states have specific guidelines on how to show properties, which includes establishing a written plan for showing agents and home viewers. Using face coverings and hand sanitizer has become common practice, and unit walk-throughs discourage touching any surfaces, such as cabinets and closet doors, whenever possible. Both prospects and showing agents should confirm understanding of the rules, which are posted at the front of the property as well as on the online public and MLS listing. Of course, shown properties should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.
2. Handling evictions
California alone has had more than 150 changes to eviction law with regards to COVID-19. Within the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, there is a moratorium on evictions if the property has a federally insured loan. Before issuing any type of pay rent or quit notice, property managers must now first identify any new laws that have been enacted which may prevent them from filing either notice. If a property manager issues a notice illegally, the issuer could be liable for penalties of essentially unlimited dollar amounts because of how the temporary laws are written. Management policies must now be compliant in each of the jurisdictions where property managers operate.
3. Performing maintenance
Although this depends upon the local jurisdiction, maintenance procedures changed dramatically in 2020 as prioritizing repairs and implementing upgrades became a top concern. Maintenance managers now need to have clear and consistent policies as to what is an emergency or non-emergency repair. Vendors used for repairs must be carefully screened to ensure they are utilizing safe practices when entering a home to keep themselves and the residents safe. It’s imperative that property managers implement written policy on how to treat work orders in order to help alleviate some of the stress that maintenance staff and residents are feeling.
4. Implementing new employee guidelines
New employee guidelines implemented during the pandemic often depend on the local jurisdiction and whether your business was deemed essential. A few of the requirements that we’re now seeing include having a written plan for employee safety, performing regular and thorough cleaning, not sharing phones and other business supplies, encouraging and installing hands-free devices, modifying work hours to allow for more frequent cleaning, installing high-efficiency air cleaners, redesigning office layout, staggering work hours to allow for physical distancing, restricting areas where personnel are likely to congregate, closing self-service snack areas, limiting the number of people who can ride an elevator at any one time, and much more.
Although the hope is for this virus to die out in 2021, it’s likely that many of these changes will be with us for a long time, if not indefinitely. With a few simple adjustments to our property management businesses, we’ve been able to continue providing quality housing to our residents while keeping them and our employees safe.