The situation with COVID-19 is advancing rapidly, and more and more people are getting into self-quarantine, more businesses are closing, and more cities are issuing stay at home orders with every passing day. CDC warns that the best way to avoid contracting the virus is to keep distance between yourself and others – about 6 feet. ESGV property management feels that maintaining social distance is easier said than done, given the total number of individuals we come into contact with on a daily basis. Our challenge is keeping our residents, homeowners, our employees, and ourselves safe while still providing exceptional service.
From disinfecting the common areas and closing the amenity spaces to keeping our residents informed about the rapidly changing situation, we have already gone above and beyond to maintain social distancing.
Protecting our residents
From the information we have about COVID-19, our property management team across the country is already taking action to protect our residents and even out the curve. Various authorities, like the CDC and the National Association of Residential Property Managers, are issuing guidance daily. Here are some of the measures we have adopted:
- Shutting down amenity spaces: We are closing down conference rooms, gyms, pools, and other amenity spaces to enhance social distancing and minimize the number of areas that require consistent disinfecting.
- Disinfecting common areas: Our property managers are disinfecting areas that must stay open, such as laundry areas. We are following the CDC guidelines on how to disinfect surfaces properly.
- Examining HVAC systems: Although there is no established connection between the spread of COVID-19 and HVAC systems, we are ensuring that the HVAC systems are cleaned regularly and well maintained in response to the crisis.
- Reducing walk-ins: Residents who routinely pay fees and rent or submit requests physically could be risking contracting COVID-19 by visiting our offices, especially if you are part of a vulnerable group. We have introduced online payments to eliminate your need to go out, reducing the amount of contact you have with other people. You can set up electronic fund transfer or automated card payments through our payment portal.
- Providing residents with the updated information: The state of affairs is changing rapidly – sometimes faster than you can spread the word through email. We are keeping our residents informed through mass text messages and our online resident centers.
- Contacting service providers: At Real Property Management, we are ensuring that we communicate regularly with service providers like plumbers, gardeners, internet servicers, HVAC service providers, and others to be sure of the measures they are taking to protect the residents. We are restricting the amount of work being executed on-site.
- Ensuring that the residents have access to adequate, affordable, and nearby supply of masks, disinfectants, hand sanitizer, soap, showers, toilets, and water: in places where local water supply is limited, boreholes and water tankers are provided. We are ensuring that water and sanitation services are being provided in a way that allows residents to adhere to the strict physical distancing and hygiene measures.
Protecting property owners
There are several opportunities to ensure social distancing with property owners too. Our objective here is to minimize physical contact while keeping owners informed about their property. Here are some of the strategies we are using:
- Doing away with in-person meetings: Like most businesses, our property management agency is using video conferencing software to conduct social events and meetings. Also, we are addressing our issues with property owners through email to minimize movement and physical contact.
- Setting online portals: For work orders, payments, documents, and other daily business activities, we have created online portals to keep things running. We are trying to keep everything online to enhance social distancing.
- Keeping owners updated: We are using text messages, frequent emails, and portals to keep owners informed about issues like the presence of the virus in their property, resident questions, and disinfection schedules.
Adjusting our leasing and sales processes
Real Property Management has changed its sales and rental operations to adhere to social distancing. Here are some of the ways we are doing it:
- Creating self- or virtual-tours: In most of the areas we serve, our agents are still showing properties, but we are limiting the number of individuals on a property at a time. We are also using lockboxes and scheduling software to organize self-tours, although we will have to sanitize and change the lock combinations after every show. However, each state has its guidelines and rules regarding showings and open houses. We ensure that we check with the state officials to know what they recommend as the situation progresses.
- Putting the lease process online: Normally, our agents meet with the property owners or prospective residents in-person to sign documents and discuss terms. We have put this process online using a platform that takes care of all the steps of the leasing process. We are doing everything from accepting online applications, screening potential tenants, and signing contracts electronically. Even if we have a property management software, we are reevaluating it to ensure that we are using its features in every way we can to encourage social distancing throughout this COVID-19 season.
- Increase the vacancy periods: When a tenant moves out, or a new tenant wants to move-in, and anything in between, we ensure that we allow a vacancy period before maintenance or inspection staff enters. Then, we disinfect the units as per the latest CDC recommendations.
We recognize that the residents often depend on the informal economy for their livelihood. So, we will be assisting individuals who are unable to pay their rent in getting the available support by providing them with the latest information concerning COVID-19. That way, they will not suffer from the economic downturn triggered by the epidemic.
As the COVID-19 virus advances, property management firms have to stay updated and remain adaptable in their actions. Getting a balance between serving owners and residents, and keeping them safe needs them to be creative and have the right online tools. However, it can be accomplished, and ESGV property management is stepping up to do our job.
We are pledged to the letter and spirit of U.S. policy for the achievement of equal housing opportunity throughout the Nation. See Equal Housing Opportunity Statement for more information.