By Laurie Mega
Across the U.S. businesses, schools and average citizens have been scrambling to keep ahead of the novel coronavirus. That includes landlords, property managers, and real estate business owners.
As the virus spreads, it’s important to take action to keep your tenants and real estate business safe and make sure you’re well educated for the upcoming weeks.
Here are our tips to help you and your tenants weather the storm.
1. Implement Sanitation Guidelines
Across industries, companies are putting guidelines in place to help keep their employees — and the general public — safe. Here are some suggestions that apply to rental properties:
- Hand Sanitizer. Before it closed, Disney World had placed hand sanitizing stations throughout the park, in easy-to-find areas. You may want to do the same in high-touch areas such as entrances, laundry rooms, and mailrooms.
- Cleaning Schedules. Large and local businesses alike have created cleaning and sanitizing schedules for their employees. Do the same by setting a reasonable schedule for wiping down high-traffic areas and high-touch surfaces.
- Frequent Hand Washing. In addition to cleaning surfaces, companies are also mandating hand washing policies. Stress the importance of hand-washing to your employees, especially if they work in your buildings, and put in place specific rules around when and how often they should be washing.
- Deep Cleaning. Schools across the country are closed for a deep clean if a student shows any symptoms of the virus. If a tenant falls ill, it’s time for you to do the same.
The CDC has posted guidelines on proper cleaning and disinfection.
2. Educate Tenants, Employees, and Contractors
There is a lot of panic and misinformation about the coronavirus right now, from toilet paper shortages to scam websites. One of the best ways to fight this pandemic is with education.
First, make sure any employees or contractors you’re working with are following proper hygiene procedures. Distribute flyers and email your tenants letting them know what you are doing to prevent the spread of the virus.
You can use your social media channels to share links on proper hygiene, local closures and programs, and where to go if they show symptoms, as well.
3. Be Mindful of Your Tenant Population
According to the CDC, older adults and those with underlying medical conditions are most at risk of a serious, or even fatal, infection.
No matter your tenant demographics, you should ramp up sanitizing and keep a close eye on your properties. But if your tenants skew older, for example, it’s wise to be more vigilant and to clean more frequently.
Check on your tenants, as well. Many of the elderly are afraid to go out. They may need help getting groceries or medications. You can even make them aware of companies and programs that have been set up to help them get through this crisis.
Pharmacy chains CVS and Walgreens, for example, have waived home delivery fees for prescriptions.
4. Limit Meetings and Events
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a 3-foot buffer between people, what they’re calling social distancing, to keep from spreading the coronavirus.
To do that, it’s best to limit in-person meetings and events as much as possible. If your building holds regular social events, consider rescheduling them. Common areas like pools and game rooms should be closed, as well.
5. Limit the Need for In-Person Rent Collection
Maintaining a social distancing policy includes collecting rent in person. If your tenants usually drop off rent at your office, consider changing your policy. Here are some suggestions from fellow landlords:
- Send out self-addressed envelopes so tenants can mail in their rent.
- Set up a way for tenants to pay online. You could use Paypal, Square, and Apple Pay or Google Pay.
- If tenants absolutely have to drop off rent in person, set up a secure dropbox.
6. Prepare for Late — or No — Rent Payments
Workers are already starting to feel the economic impact of the pandemic. Airlines, cruises, event companies, and travel agencies have already laid off hundreds of workers.
Canceled events like SXSW and NBA games have an indirect effect on local businesses that would have benefited from the influx of attendees. Small businesses and restaurants are hurting, too, as people avoid gathering in public places.
All of it boils down to one thing for landlords: missing rent payments.
This is a good time to devise your own plan to make sure you can take the financial hit. In cities such as San Jose and San Francisco, moratoria on evictions are being discussed or have already passed legislation.
If you have tenants who have lost their jobs or are at risk, talk to them to see if you can come up with a payment plan or other agreement until they can find work.
7. Start Now
Even if you’re not aware of any cases in your building or you’re in an area that hasn’t seen an outbreak, you should put the above measures in place now. Getting ahead of the situation can put you and your tenant in a better position to deal with an outbreak.
* Looking for more helpful resources that provide coronavirus updates for your rental market? Visit Rentometer's Live Map: COVID-19 Rental Property Resources
About the Author: Laurie Mega is a writer, editor, and former landlord. She also specializes in content marketing and SEO. Her work has been published by HomeandGarden.com, The Economist, Buildium, and FamilyEducation, among others. She lives in the Greater Boston Area with her husband and two boys.
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