In two recent pieces, we touched on the various expenses and laws all residential landlords should be familiar with to effectively manage their properties, tenants, as well as property personnel. The COVID-19 pandemic has only intensified the need for landlords to be proactive in their communication efforts, as well as how they address health concerns and maintain property cleanliness. The onset of the pandemic has only bolstered the importance of things like the Implied Warranty of Habitability that ensures individuals a safe living arrangement.
In a recent review that came out over the summer, the National Institute of Health (NIH) revealed that COVID-19 can live on surfaces for extended periods of time:
· Viable on plastics for up to 72 hours
· Viable on stainless steel for up to 48 hours
· Viable on cardboard for up to 24 hours
· Viable on copper for up to 4 hours
If knowledge is the best offense against the spread of the virus, then new information from reputable sources should drive any decision-making on a landlord’s part. Disinfecting surfaces in shared spaces—elevator buttons, doorknobs, stairwell railings, public seating and tables, faucets, and keyboards in computer rooms—is now more vital than ever. While studies show that COVID-19 is unlikely to spread via touching an infected surface, it can’t be definitively stated as fact, and landlords should do their part to ensure optimal cleanliness in all shared spaces.
Cleaning and maintaining rental units between tenants have always been a big undertaking, even before COVID-19. But now, the efforts to clean and prepare units for new renters is more crucial than ever, starting from the moment a newly vacated apartment is entered. Landlords should wear masks and gloves when cleaning and should be careful when transporting any items that have been left behind.
While open houses or property tours have expectedly decreased, it’s still worth noting how to conduct them in a way that promotes social distancing and limits exposure to COVID-19:
· Communicate safety protocols well in advance of any event. Flyers, emails, and digital ads should all outline the precautions being taken to adhere to the CDC guidelines.
· Skip the usual coffee and snacks buffet to limit eating and drinking in shared spaces with others around.
· Strongly encourage visitors to wear masks while indoors, and if possible, provide some yourself for those who don’t have one on hand.
· Limit the number of individuals in one space atone time and, whenever possible, leave doors and windows open to let fresh air circulate indoors.
· As always, thoroughly disinfect surfaces between events!
While it’s generally good practice to become a more tech savvy property owner—think digital applications or marketing strategies—it isn ow more important than ever to provide safe options for would-be tenants to explore a property. Consider the benefits of giving virtual tours instead of worrying about visitors coming onsite. Streamline the rental screening, credit reporting, and document gathering process online to prevent surface transmissions through shared pens, folders, driver’s licenses, and the like.
Lastly, it’s important for landlords to be strategic in handling things like maintenance requests and repairs. Prioritize requests that are considered essential vs. those that are non-essential and encourage tenants to practice social distancing from any personnel entering their home.
During unprecedented times, property owners will likely face unforeseen challenges, though the many examples outlined here simply build upon best practices that should already be in effect.