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Coronavirus Tips: Keeping your Apartment Community Healthy

By: Justin Chaplin
March 23, 2020

The coronavirus outbreak has turned everyone’s lives upside down. As the number of people affected by the pandemic increases each day, businesses and schools have shuttered. 

All of these containment efforts help to promote social distancing, which can slow down the spread of the coronavirus. As a result, we’ve all been given the same prescription: stay home as much as possible. 

As a landlord of an apartment complex, this poses a whole new set of worries. From entryways to everyday amenities, renters face extra challenges in social distancing and staying healthy in apartment communities. Here are some preventive measures you can take.

1. Disinfect Shared Spaces Daily

The novel coronavirus, COVID-19, is highly contagious. That’s in part because the virus is stable for hours to days on surfaces

Some people catch the virus through the air. However, many others are infected by contaminated objects and surfaces. 

Keeping this in mind, a key preventive measure is to disinfect all shared spaces of the apartment complex at least twice a day. This includes:

  • High-Traffic Areas: Entryways, elevators, pools, mailrooms, laundry rooms, gyms
  • High-Touch Areas:  Countertops, door handles, railings, buttons

Here are some key tips for disinfecting property, as recommended by the CDC:

  1. Before you begin cleaning and disinfecting surfaces, put on disposable gloves, and throw them away after cleaning. 
  2. If you notice a surface is dirty, first clean it with soap or detergent and water. 
  3. To disinfect, you have a few options: household bleach, 70% alcohol solutions, or common household disinfectants that are EPA-registered. Make sure none of the products are expired and remember never to mix ammonia and bleach.
  4. You can prepare a bleach solution by mixing 1/3rd of a cup of bleach with a gallon of water. 

For your tenants, let them know that disinfecting their apartments is also a great preventive measure.

2. Limit Use/Occupancy of Shared Spaces

Within your apartment complex, promote social distancing by limiting the use and occupancy of shared spaces. Notify all tenants about these changes. Suggested alterations include:

  • Limiting the hours that common areas are now open.
  • Restricting occupancy within these spaces, down to as much as 50% or 25% of the usual limit. 
  • Promote hand hygiene by making alcohol-based sanitizers and disposable wipes easily accessible for tenant use.

Keep in mind, you may have to completely close some of these common areas until the danger passes. Unfortunately, the disease can still spread despite our best efforts. However, it’s better to be safe than sorry, and the gym and pool area are non-essential.

3. Cancel All Resident Events

As much as cancellations may lead to disappointment, it’s essential to call off all resident events in the name of social distancing. Do make sure to inform all residents of cancellations via your communication methods.

In lieu of activities that’ll bring large groups together in person, try suggesting other ways to connect. A community Facebook group or some social distancing-friendly activities like virtual book clubs or virtual movie nights can be a great way to keep your community's spirits up.

4. Encourage Tenants to Pay Rent Online

As we mentioned earlier, the coronavirus lives for hours to days on surfaces. This includes checks, envelopes, and mailboxes. Furthermore, for a tenant to pay rent in person or even by mail requires them to go out and potentially expose themselves (and, ultimately, you!) to contaminated areas. 

If your tenants aren’t paying rent online already, encourage them to do so. It won’t require them to leave their apartment, which can further minimize risk.

5. Set Guidelines on Maintenance Requests

Maintenance requests will likely still trickle in during this time. Let residents know that emergency maintenance requests will take priority. You can even go as far as to restrict maintenance requests to emergency-only for the time being.

Ahead of the arrival of maintenance workers, encourage residents to keep 6-foot distance from them.

6. Be a Resource

It’s a shaky time for everyone, and your tenants will continue to look for guidance and answers during the coming weeks. Take it upon yourself to be a solid resource.

For one, keep residents in the loop on local regulatory changes, particularly if it impacts the operations of the community.

Additionally, make sure local resources are readily available. Send emails (or communicate through other preferred methods) containing CDC guidelines and resources, symptoms of COVID-19, and where to get tested locally.

7. Effectively Communicate with Tenants

Effective communication is important in general, but even more so during the COVID-19 crisis. You need to take charge of notifying everyone of changes and making sure they’re all aware of any new policies.

Inform tenants of occupancy limits, limited hours, and/or closure of common spaces and maintenance policies.

Encourage/inform tenants to come forward if someone with COVID-19 is present in the building. Being proactive about potential exposure and opening these lines of communication are hardly optional. You never know, it could make a difference in protecting others from getting sick.

8. Check-In With All Service Vendors

Any outside company performing a service including repairs, cleaning, security, and the like are in the same boat. They’re reassessing how to operate, and it’s important you stay in touch with them.

Ask them to provide you with their response to the virus and how they’re working to keep people safe. You can forward this information to your tenants to ease any concerns.

9. Keep Your Employees Safe

Alongside your tenants, you’ll need to ensure you’re effectively and consistently communicating with your employees. That especially applies to any who are in regular contact with tenants or are on the property frequently. 

Set up a set of standards to keep them safe, as well. Those include:

  • Encourage them to practice good hygiene.
    • No more handshakes. Encourage other non-contact greeting methods. A wave or nod is fine.
    • Tell them to disinfect or wash their hands when they come in, and remind them to wash them several times a day.
    • Encourage them to avoid touching their faces, and to cover their mouths when sneezing or coughing. 
  • Call off in-person business-related meetings
    • Switch over to video conferencing. Make all of your employees aware of these changes and instructions for online contact.
  • Encourage communication.
    • Stress the importance of staying in touch. If they’re feeling sick, or a family member is, they should bring this to your attention immediately. 
  • Allow working from home when possible
    • The property manager may need to be available, but the marketing manager might be fine at home. Allow your employees to work from home if possible.

10. Be Prepared

In the unfortunate event that a tenant is diagnosed with COVID-19, know what you need to do ahead of time. Follow the guidelines of the NAA.

  • Do not direct any maintenance or management staff to the apartment.
  • Notify the local health department immediately and contact the CDC for further guidance.
  • Communicate with the tenant privately to understand how they plan to manage the illness. Will there be any medical support visiting? Will they self-quarantine? Will they leave their apartment? Knowing their plan will help you make decisions accordingly.

You should alert the other occupants in the complex that there is a confirmed case. Explain the measures in place to prevent further spread. What you don’t want to do is compromise the individual’s privacy. Do not mention them by name, but do mention that this person is self-quarantining.

11. Consider New Rules

Should the coronavirus come eerily close to nearby neighborhoods and municipalities, you may want to up the stakes. For example, if your apartment complex houses many people in high-risk groups, such as the elderly, you may want to consider restricting guest access for the next few weeks to prevent exposure.

Though you may have a lot of tenant pushback to this, you can also make visitor access only available to essential/emergency visits. That can limit the number of people coming in and out.

Final Thoughts

There’s no denying that these are difficult times. In fact, when the history books are written, they’re guaranteed to discuss the coronavirus pandemic. 

As we live through the pandemic and work to “flatten the curve,” it’s imperative that we all take precautions to protect not just ourselves, but others, as well. Wash your hands, practice social distancing, and stay positive!

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