Coronavirus Tips: Effective Landlord-Tenant Communication
Though we aren’t even a quarter of the way through the year, the spread and danger of the coronavirus or COVID-19 has effectively changed life as we know it. While virtually every aspect of normal daily life has been altered by the pandemic, we must do all we can to stay safe and be proactive when it comes to flattening the curve.
One of the most effective things we can do to decrease the exponential spread of the virus is to practice “social distancing.” Maintaining a distance of at least six feet away from others, limiting contact with anyone who doesn’t reside in your home, and limiting activities that take you outside are all examples of social distancing.
In addition to taking precautions individually, we have a responsibility to protect those around us. This has presented a multitude of new problems for landlords and property managers who have to work to take action to protect and inform their tenants in the wake of the crisis.
That said, information is one of our greatest weapons against the disease. Staying informed and keeping your tenants up-to-date is a great way to overcome the challenges that COVID-19 has created.
Here are some helpful tips for landlords and property managers who want to ensure that they’re doing all they can to protect themselves and their tenants during the pandemic.
1. Send a Comforting Letter Out to Tenants
If you have not already done so, it’s time to write a letter to your tenants. Send it out to every tenant throughout your properties. The primary goal of this letter should be to alert your tenants to the measures and precautions that you’re taking to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
However, the letter should also work to assuage fears, open the lines of communication, and address any concerns that tenants have already brought up.
This should be a comprehensive letter. So, it may be on the long side, but it’ll contain valuable information. In addition to the topics listed above, you may want to discuss the following in your letter to tenants:
- Steps tenants should take if they have been exposed to the disease or are showing symptoms.
- Event cancellation and common area closures.
- Restriction on maintenance requests to avoid unnecessary contact.
- Digital means of contacting you and your office.
- Social distancing best practices.
- Any enforced quiet hours, especially if more tenants are working from home.
- The precautions that support staff and any third-party service vendors are taking.
- A sign-up list for any tenants that want to volunteer to deliver groceries to the elderly in the community.
Note: Send your letter digitally to encourage social distancing. Consider also posting it in common areas to ensure that it reaches every tenant.
2. Managing Fears & Potential Hysteria
It’s almost impossible not to have heard about the pandemic, as it’s been broadcasted on every news channel for the last few weeks. That said, if the word “pandemic” wasn’t scary enough, misinformation and the uncertainty surrounding the disease has caused a lot of fear.
That’s why it’s important to be proactive about managing fear, so it doesn’t grow into hysteria. The best way to achieve this?
Keep your tenants informed.
Don’t fall prey to misinformation that has spread online and by word of mouth — this information is dangerous. Also, it can potentially increase the spread of the disease. Any information that you convey should come from an accredited institution or news source.
To play it safe, stick with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the World Health Organization (WHO). These two organizations are the best sources of factual information regarding the Coronavirus. They’re constantly providing updates that guide the actions that the government takes to protect its citizens.
Here are some helpful articles to get started with and share with tenants.
- COVID-19 Factsheet — General information about COVID, how to protect yourself, and symptoms.
- Stop the Spread of Germs (COVID-19 Edition) — General tips about how to reduce the risk of getting infected.
- What to Do if You Are Sick — In-depth advice about how to proceed if you are ill, getting tested, and isolation.
As the disease spreads, you may need to update the procedures and preventative measures that you’re taking to protect your tenants. You should communicate any new changes to tenants as quickly as possible. This will serve to ensure that they comply and are reassured that you are taking the matter seriously.
3. If a Tenant is Possibly Infected with COVID-19
Though this situation can be scary, it’s important to ensure that fear is not guiding your actions. If a tenant is possibly infected with COVID-19, it’s crucial for them to know the right steps to take — this can help them avoid infecting others and help them get the proper care.
- Self-Isolation: If your tenant suspects that they may have come into contact with COVID-19 or are displaying any symptoms, they must self-isolate in their homes. Avoid public places and even contact with family members, if applicable. A 14-day isolation period is recommended.
- Seek Medical Attention: Again, if a tenant is showing symptoms or has been in contact with someone who was diagnosed with COVID-19, they should seek medical attention and get tested. Currently, there are limitations on testing in the U.S. Tenants should call their health providers for guidance beforehand. If your tenant gets medical attention but cannot get tested, they should self-isolate.
- Take Preventative Action. Landlords and property managers should take preventative action by informing their tenants that “a tenant” (do not name the tenant) may have the disease and in response, you are working to disinfect all high-touch and traffic areas of the property. Tenants should frequently disinfect high-touch areas of their homes, wear face masks, and avoid contact with others.
- Monitor Your Symptoms. It’s important to monitor your symptoms in self-isolation, even if you haven’t been tested for COVID-19. If your symptoms worsen before your self-isolation period is over, then you should seek medical attention again.
Note: Do not meet in-person with potentially ill tenants. You risk exposing yourself to the disease.
4. Potential Rent and Lease Concerns
As monumentally as the coronavirus has impacted our daily lives, its hit to the economy has been just as significant. Currently, many workers have been impacted by the disease and have either been laid off, have had their hours cut, or are losing work during self-isolation.
It’s important to remember that neither you nor your tenant planned for a pandemic. It may end up having an impact on their ability to pay rent, unfortunately. There’s no single way to go about collecting rent or protecting your income in this situation.
If a tenant is concerned with their ability to pay rent on time, you may be able to work out a payment plan with them. However, this can’t be done on a large scale. You may have to work with local and federal government agencies to help your tenants find aid so they can pay rent.
That said, discuss your options with local housing committees and state housing boards. They’ll be able to advise you on how to move forward and help you to source funding if payments are delayed.
You’ll also have to keep up with the news of your state’s decisions regarding rent. Some states, such as New York, seek to relieve the potential problem of an economic downturn by suspending mortgage payments indefinitely. That can help to reduce the financial strain for landlords.
New York has also announced a 90-day moratorium on evictions for commercial and residential tenants. Look for other states that are hit with the disease to potentially follow suit.
5. Stay Up-to-Date on CDC Information
The most important step in any strategy related to combating the spread of the COVID-19 is ensuring that you’re regularly informed about any major changes, news, or announcements from accredited sources.
The CDC has a COVID-19 website specifically for posting news related to the disease and its spread. To keep up with the news, you can sign up for email updates from the CDC or visit the website regularly.
The key takeaways? Stay safe, communicate with your tenants, stay up-to-date on the news, and practice social distancing. Flatten the curve!