Fair to report I never thought I would post an entry about a global pandemic and multifamily apartment communities. We are truly in uncharted waters here and need to best navigate the current environment. Everyone is making decisions in real time with imperfect (and possibly changing) information. It goes without saying that the health and safety of our residents, guests, and employees remain paramount. In addition to following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control as well as state and local authorities (hey, wash your hands regularly with soap for at least 20 seconds), here are some initial thoughts for apartment management companies:
First, don’t panic. Regional Property Managers and Property Managers are on the front lines interacting with employees and residents every day. Let’s try to make the best decisions we can using all the tools available to us. I would suggest streamlining who makes health-related decisions so as to avoid conflicting messaging. If you have not done so already, I suggest you develop a plan which includes items such as:
*Identifying the person to monitor federal, state, and local public health guidance daily. Incorporate new information into communications to staff and residents as appropriate. If a staff member does not report to work, have someone reach out.
*In our new era of “social distancing” – think about what amenities may need to temporarily close. Do you have a pool? What about a community or meeting room? Game room? Library? What about a playground? Dog park? To be clear, I am not telling you to shut everything down immediately. One intermediate option could be spread out usage such as to limit the number of people in a given area for a given time. But, as we learn more during the coming days and weeks, think about what makes the most sense for your community and your residents based on the most recent health updates. Look, closing public spaces needs to remain an option on the table at this point.
*Review your cleaning procedures. Obviously, keeping areas clean is now a critical function of managing any property. It is time to re-evaluate your cleaning policies and provide residents information concerning what is being done. For example, you will want to increase the frequency of cleaning hard surfaces (such as phones, tables, light switches, elevators, railings, and doorknobs) and offer residents appropriate cleaning wipes and/or alcohol-based hand sanitizer (if you can find such items, I know) so they can wipe down their personal spaces. Probably makes sense to post signage in common areas (including bathrooms) to remind people of best practices.
*If you use third party cleaning or janitorial company, reach out to those entities to discuss the new cleaning protocols. If you use your own employees, tell them to start immediately. Going forward, all restrooms should be thoroughly cleaned nightly with disinfectants including all fixtures, sinks, counter tops, stall handles and floors. If you can find them, all cleaning personnel should wear gloves at this point and they should dispose of gloves frequently.
*Depending on how the pandemic continues, other steps to think about might be limiting the number of entrances in use so you know who is coming and going (and so those coming in can be offered wipes). This is not to prohibit visitors, but we may want to limit meetings/gathering of large numbers of people. Now, this must not be done in such a manner as to preclude our disabled residents from entering their homes.
There will be more to come. Stay clean and safe. Take care of family. And if you see a health care professional going to work in this day and age, tip your cap.
Just A Thought.