How Property Managers are Handling Maintenance in the Age of COVID
||This article has been updated 4.16.2020 as improved practices and information have become available||
As the world scrambles to contain COVID-19, businesses are being faced with a momentous challenge: adapt to a rapidly changing environment rife with panic without any idea of what tomorrow may bring. With so many fundamental questions unanswered, we thought we would provide insight into how some property management firms are dealing with this brave new world.
Communicate without fear of “over-communication”
The best piece of advice we can offer is to be proactive with your communication with residents. This means notifying every one of office closures as soon as possible. It also means communicating any new rules and procedures for the handling of maintenance issues, landlord-resident interactions, and resident-resident interactions as people stay home and self-quarantine.
“One easy way to provide information and notifications to residents is to use Property Meld’s new notification feature, where critical information will pop up on resident’s screens when they sign in and submit a service issue. But don’t just focus on the act of communication,” says Tim Wehner of Dodson Property Management.
“The way you communicate is important because there is so much uncertainty,” Wehner says. “If you can give answers to people on some questions in a calm and positive manner that aren’t panic-based answers…it will give a sense of normalcy and calmness to the situation.”
Delay non-essential repairs – while respecting privacy rules ||Updated 4.16.2020||
Part of your proactive communication should be asking residents to delay their requests for non-essential repairs. Emergency repairs are a fact of property management and must be addressed as soon as possible. But for something like a creaky door or leaky faucet, ask that residents hold off on such requests until more is known about the transmission of COVID and who is affected.
We also recommend communicating to residents that if someone in the household requesting the repair is or has experienced flu-like symptoms in the past 14 days, that they reconsider the request and submit it at a later date.
“If it’s an emergency, we’ll take care of it,” Whitaker says of his message to residents.
It’s important to encourage renters to submit all service issues so your team can determine what is an emergency, and what is not.
Every smart business owner understands that their company is only as good as the people who comprise it. In the age of COVID, that means that protecting your business necessitates protecting your employees. This is especially true of your technicians, who likely enter multiple homes each day to address maintenance issues.
Ensure your technicians are very aware of their hygiene practices. This may mean an in-person meeting or company-wide memo reminding them of the importance of washing their hands, avoiding touching their face, avoiding direct contact with residents, and potentially wearing rubber gloves and face masks when in a resident’s home.
“My concern is not that they [technicians] will overreact, but I don’t want them to under-react,” Whitaker says. “I don’t want them to be flippant.”
It may also mean empowering technicians to shut a repair job down if they feel uncomfortable about the situation or their perception of the resident’s health.
On the flip side, don’t forget that this is a scary time for residents to let someone into their home, too. Be sure to communicate to residents how the technician will arrive and any new protocols you have enacted to limit the chances of transmission. Maybe the technicians will arrive in gloves and a mask. Perhaps you want to prohibit technician-resident contact, or request a ten-foot distance between technicians and residents. Or perhaps you prefer residents aren’t home when technicians stop by to complete the job. Whatever the preference, this needs to be communicated beforehand to ensure it is followed. And in the spirit of calm communication, assure them that whatever you’re doing is merely done in the spirit of abundant caution to protect technicians and residents alike.
From the Property Meld team to yours, we wish you the best during this challenging time. Let us know if we can help with your Meld communication tools.