Multifamily Operations & COVID-19 - Measures to Consider

Posted By: Jim Fowler Industry News ,
3/18/20 Multifamily Operations & COVID-19 - Measures to Consider
 
The following measures have been compiled over the past few days from various multifamily operators throughout the region, and are not recommendations from the Atlanta Apartment Association or any of its affiliates. Of note, measures applicable this week will likely change in the coming days in this rapidly changing environment.
 
WORK ATTENDANCE
- Follow the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) social distancing recommendation by reducing direct contact among employees.
- Use remote and flexible work options wherever possible.
- For staff who must report to work, maintain a minimum distance of 6 feet between yourself and other employees. Work in separate enclosed office spaces whenever possible.
- Respond to inquiries through phone call or email. Use social distancing if leasing offices remain open.
- Determine office hours and closures as the situation continues to develop.
 
COMMUNICATION
- More communication is better than less for residents and employees to remain informed.
- Communication regarding CODIV-19 should ideally be sent from one point of contact. For example, all communication in a corporate office could come from human resources. For residents and supplier partners, communication could be from a marketing contact or through a portal.
- Consistency of messaging will mitigate confusion and reduce potential liability. Refer to the CDC’s website for COVID-19 related verbiage such as self-quarantined isolation, testing positive, social distancing, etc. It is important that all employees use all terms correctly.
- Hold regular senior leadership meetings (daily if warranted) to discuss the latest developments, determine any course of action, then disseminate updates to staff members and residents.
 
INFECTION
- If an employee or resident tests positive, they are under the purview of the CDC and their doctor’s care, reporting solely to those entities.
- Residents are not required to inform housing providers of a COVID-19 diagnosis. However, if a resident notifies management, ask for and follow the advice of the local health agency as to whether to report the situation to the whole community (or not). 
- Employers cannot directly ask an employee if they have been exposed to or contracted the virus. If an employee volunteers the information, management should keep the information confidential among other staff members.
- If an employee reports they have been exposed, allow for the individual and any direct team members to be tested.
 
SERVICE REQUESTS
- Consider only responding to emergency service requests (e.g. flooding, fire, refrigerator malfunction or toilet failure) to ensure everyone’s safety. If performing normal service requests, follow the next step prior to responding to the request.
- Ask health-related questions before responding to a service request or entering a unit (e.g., “are you sick or feeling ill”). Handle initial service requests online or over the phone, and be consistent in all messaging.  
- When fulfilling work orders, ensure hand washing before entering and after exiting every unit. Depending on the location and specific community situation, consider wearing masks and gloves. 
- Put a temporary hold on inspections except in “life-safety” situations.  
 
AMENITIES
- Close community spaces such as break rooms, gyms, and coffee areas. Regularly sanitize all areas which remain open such as elevators, lobbies and stairwells.
- Avoid package pick up in community offices. Encourage direct delivery to resident units. For package locker systems, it is imperative they be regularly sanitized.
- Provide online resources and FAQ’s related to tenant services that are temporarily suspended.
- Consider slowing or stopping non-essential unit and building renovations.
 
MARKETING, RENEWALS & RENT PAYMENT
- Offer virtual touring options whenever possible. For all in-person tours, avoid handshakes and maintain 6-foot social distancing.
- Consider rent-leniency options if documentation of reduced income or unemployment due to COVID-19 measures can be provided.
- Consider providing “early-bird specials” or other rental deals to incentivize new and existing residents to pay rent ahead of time.
- Consider reducing planned rent increases or price adjustments for the remainder of 2020.