Real estate developers and property managers have a responsibility to their tenants to keep them safe and secure. This includes disaster recovery and assisting with regulatory compliance during and in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This applies to both commercial and residential properties. In both cases, your liability likely extends to all common areas as well as the exterior at a minimum. But the responsibilities for most real estate management companies extends far beyond the baseline.
Here are some tips on how to minimize risks while keeping tenants happy and healthy.
- 1 1. Make Sure Everyone Is on the Same Page
- 2 2. Utilize Crowd Management Products for Regulatory Compliance
- 3 3. Create or Extend Risk Management Division
- 4 4. Help the Businesses You Manage Succeed
- 5 5. Create a Collaborative Environment
- 6 6. Maintaining the Lobby and Entrances
- 7 7. Reopening Public Areas
- 8 8. Parking Services, Parking Lots, and Garages
- 9 9. Better Safe Than Sorry
1. Make Sure Everyone Is on the Same Page
Each type of property will have its own set of best practices and regulatory necessities. But there will be a huge amount of crossover, such as the need for increased sanitation, physical distancing, and limiting capacity.
The easiest way to facilitate a lot of this is through custom signage. Before people enter a business or apartment complex, they can review the expectations, which can include maintaining six feet of space. Messages like, “No mask, no service,” can eliminate potential confrontations.
Here are some more general tips:
- Screen all guests with a questionnaire. (A good example from the South Dakota Department of Health.)
- Consider implementing temperature checks.
- Create separate entry and exit points.
- Install hand-sanitizer stations.
2. Utilize Crowd Management Products for Regulatory Compliance
Every type of property can be unique in a number of ways, including aesthetics. For some properties, it may make the most sense to simply invest in a bulk order of physical distancing stanchions to use universally. For others, a wide variety of products might be necessary.
For example, an outdoor property may be better served by steel barricades with barricade covers. Parking lot dining and streateries will need water-filled barriers to keep traffic away from customers. Construction sites may need a COVID-19 fence screen.
Consider seeking expert advice from a crowd management company. Each property can be wildly different, so it’s likely best to get more personalized guidance.
3. Create or Extend Risk Management Division
Many real estate development and management companies offer risk management services. Simply investing in more support for that division, both internally and client-facing, can go a long way in minimizing risk.
COVID-19 can reemerge in the coming months and years. Until we have a vaccine, it will remain a major point of concern in risk management assessments.
Further, the need for unprecedented preparation should be clearer now than ever before. No one was truly prepared for this disaster. The most forward-thinking companies will be more than ready for the next one.
4. Help the Businesses You Manage Succeed
It’s crucial that you make it clear to all lessees and clients that everything you’re doing is for their well-being. Whether that means tenant safety or preventing businesses from being shut down, your efforts to minimize risks are for their benefit.
This will be especially important when cleaning fees inevitably increase, or when it takes longer for someone to enter their home. Make it clear that you’re optimizing and learning as you go with two goals in mind: boost safety while improving cost efficiency.
5. Create a Collaborative Environment
When you’re a B2B service, you’re inherently a collaborative entity. And the commercial real estate companies with the highest ratings are universally lauded for their emphasis on collaboration.
During the COVID-19 pandemic and in its aftermath, this needs to be especially emphasized. You’re on the same team, working to ensure that everyone gets through this, including on a fiscal level.
Encourage communication with your tenants. See how they can best be served. Find out how you can prioritize—or even pivot—services to best suit their needs.
The more you emphasize collaboration, the more you’re increasing trust, satisfaction, and long-term clientele.
6. Maintaining the Lobby and Entrances
Possibly the most common area that real estate companies manage is the lobby. That means they’re in charge of the security personnel and equipment as well as the cleaning.
If you outsource one or both to third-parties, you’ll need to ensure that they’re going above and beyond to stay in compliance and keep people safe. You don’t want an outbreak in your building to be a result of careless management of areas run by your company.
It can be extremely proactive to make sure all tenants are aware of every phase of protocol. Putting responsibility on the building rather than on the staff can help maintain order among guests and residents.
7. Reopening Public Areas
Your residential properties likely have amenities that serve as major selling points. These include gyms, pools, saunas, and rec rooms. Tenant engagement and relations is a crucial part of property management, and closing down access to amenities that are included in rent can be detrimental.
But while it’s tempting to reopen those the moment you get the greenlight, it’s important to consider the lasting impact of an infection. If opening the pool facilitates a disease outbreak, you could scare folks into never using the pool again. Word travels fast, online reviews can discourage new residents, and your investment in that amenity can be a complete waste.
The same goes for gym equipment and saunas. If you didn’t have a full-time attendant before, you might want one now to make sure the equipment is always wiped down and people maintain physical distance.
If that’s not feasible, doubling or tripling the amount of signage is another route that can, at the very least, increase awareness.
An abundance of caution today means long-term sustainability. Check out this New York Times on reopening amenities, it has a lot of good info.
8. Parking Services, Parking Lots, and Garages
If you provide parking services to tenants, new safety protocols will be necessary. Valet personnel will need to wear gloves, wipe down handles and the steering wheel, and have plans in place to access cars in the case of lockdowns.
To maintain social distancing, many parking lots across the country are implementing traffic safety cones in every other spot. This is especially important for events and hospitality industries, but may be something worth considering in the case of peak hours.
Also, be sure that your parking garage follows the proper protocols specific to outdoor or indoor best practice. Where a semi-indoor parking garage may be considered an outdoor area in the past, local regulations may have changed its designation.
9. Better Safe Than Sorry
From a business perspective, it makes the most sense to get through today while staying focused on tomorrow. Businesses that don’t require masks run the risk of being the contract tracing ground zero for an infection spread. Many restaurants have been shut down for contamination. It’s logical to assume the same can happen with a COVID-19 outbreak. Best case scenario, it’s terrible publicity.
This same mentality should be applied to all industries. No matter what sector you’re in, you can’t be too careful. You can only be too careless. We’ve seen evidence of that already, and it would be a shocking turn of events if the evidence doesn’t mount.
We’re all hoping for the best here. But as both a human being and a business, preparing for the worst and hoping for the best is always an expression of good foresight. That’s true, even in the best of times.
Stay strong, stay safe, we will get through this.
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