Never before has the phrase “essential worker” been at the forefront of headlines and conversation alike. We are quick to classify doctors, nurses, and emergency responders as essential—as they are. But we are remiss if we don’t consider what the phrase means to different sectors such as real estate.
Property Management companies have had to tackle more than they are used to as the health crisis continues to pose new safety and hygiene protocols. With more and more closures and stay-at-home-orders, property managers and their employees are interacting with tenants even more.
“People are more likely to call the management team to ask, ‘What happens when someone in the building is exposed or tests positive for COVID? Is there a risk because of the ventilation in my home? How safe is the fitness center?” National Apartment Association Industry Operations Manager Stephanie Anderson said. “There’s a lot of news and social media residents are intaking, so it results in a lot more questions. The role of social worker has increased as part of the job.”Bisnow.com
Property Managers who oversee office, health care, and multifamily properties are acknowledging that these specific property types require more attention than others. The latter two types are spaces that no matter what restrictions are implemented, will always have a lot of people present.
Take for example what a property manager has to do to stay updated with the latest cleaning protocols and technology. Often times, the cleaning duties are contracted to a custodial firm. Communication becomes imperative between the property manager, custodial firm, and the vendor who supplies the firm with gear, to ensure the proper equipment and procedures are being utilized.
“Many of our members have not had increased budgets for cleaning, and some would schedule weekly cleaning for common spaces, often with a professional company,” Anderson said. “Now it’s daily cleanings. The staff is largely handling that, and it’s adding more responsibilities and more labor to what’s already a hard job.”
Ultimately, it falls on the property management team to effectively inform its tenants of any new protocols on the floor of the property; such as one-way entrances/exits, temperature checks, mask requirements in common areas, converting common areas into reservation-only areas, and etc. Tenants will likely not respond in a favorable manner when further liberties are being taken away from them inside what is supposed to be their ‘safe-haven.’
Bisnow.com reports that some property management companies are focusing solely on aspects of COVID-19. Blanton Turner Management is pulling from different departments to assemble a dedicated task force.
“We redirected people from human resources, property management, project management, marketing and communications, led by one of our principals,” Blanton Turner Management principal Barry Blanton said. “So the task force has been made up of between six and eight full-time people.”
With more tenants staying home it isn’t a surprise that the frequency of maintenance orders has increased. A workforce that is being stretched far past its comfort zone is also being saturated by an uptick in the typical labor you might expect in an apartment complex.
“So many are home a lot more during the pandemic, and a way of staying connected is to call up the property management team whether because of issues with paying rent or catching up on repairs that people brush to the side sometimes that aren’t emergencies, but people are staring at them a lot more and wanting it fixed,” Anderson said.