As we near the end of the year, the Coronavirus pandemic is still very much in the forefront, impacting every aspect of our lives. Multifamily property managers are (pardon the pun) not immune from these impacts. For property managers and maintenance teams, operating during a pandemic means getting creative. Often, that requires handling maintenance requests safely without endangering the health of the management staff or the tenants.
How can multifamily property managers fulfill maintenance requests safely during the pandemic?
The Risks of Multifamily Properties in a Pandemic
For nearly a year, we have lived under the shadow of an unprecedented health crisis. According to the most recent findings by the World Health Organization, the novel Coronavirus is spread through respiratory droplets. It is the most transmissible in small, crowded indoor spaces with poor ventilation. The virus can also be transmitted through surface contact, though this appears to be less frequent than aerosol transmission. The challenge is preventing the disease from spreading, particularly in highly-populated communities such as nursing homes, schools, offices, and yes, multifamily properties. Densely-populated, multi-level apartment buildings can increase transmission risk. However, even amid a pandemic, maintenance requests are a way of life. Tenants need repairs, the property needs updates, and the service calls don’t stop just because the world seems to have stopped.
Property managers can mitigate these risks for both tenants and maintenance staff in several ways.
5 Ways to Handle Maintenance Requests Safely:
1. Update HVAC Systems
Because the virus spreads through the air, there was initially some concern about transmission via air ducts in multifamily properties. However, most research has discredited this theory and even shows that HVAC systems can be preventative in spreading COVID-19. From a maintenance perspective, property managers must ensure that the HVAC system is working correctly. Adding updated filtration systems or UV filters can also help eliminate the virus from the air. Proper ventilation is key to keeping multifamily properties safe, so addressing any HVAC issues should be a top priority.
2. Rely on Technology and Virtual Conferencing
Whenever possible, property managers should utilize technology and virtual tools to minimize in-person contact. Such tools might include virtual tours for prospective tenants, online maintenance request tools, and virtual conferencing with tenants and staff when necessary. In addition, consider asking tenants to send photos or videos attached to maintenance requests. If maintenance workers have a more detailed understanding of the issue initially, this could eliminate the need for multiple in-person exchanges inside the unit.
3. Mask Up
When dealing with multifamily property maintenance, in-person contact is almost impossible to avoid. Therefore, when completing a maintenance call inside a multifamily unit, both the worker and the tenant should wear face coverings. All parties should also maintain social distance of at least six feet whenever possible. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) asserts that masks significantly reduce the spread of the virus. We know that COVID-19 can spread even if an infected person doesn’t feel sick, making it highly contagious. Wearing a mask protects everyone in the room. Property managers should require maintenance workers and other staff wear a mask whenever possible.
4. Communicate Clear Health and Safety Guidelines for Staff and Tenants
Property managers are responsible for the health and safety of the tenants and the property’s staff. Therefore, property managers should clearly communicate the expectations to residents, office staff, and maintenance officials. Maintenance teams should understand these expectations and follow all required guidelines to prevent virus spread. Such policies might include limiting in-person contact, daily health screenings or temperature checks for staff, increased cleaning protocols, or other protective measures. It’s also wise to educate tenants and community members about ways to slow the spread of COVID-19. Consider posting reminders about social distancing, mask usage, hand washing, and any local guidelines outlined by your jurisdiction.
5. Follow National, State, and Local COVID-19 Prevention Efforts
Finally, make sure the property management team, maintenance staff, and tenants know and follow all national, state, and local guidelines regarding COVID-19. Some cities and states have enacted mask mandates, occupancy restrictions, curfews, and other policies based on community spread. Following these recommendations and requirements will keep everyone on the property safe. Maintenance crews should continue to practice good hand hygiene and social distancing whenever possible.
Property managers must continue accepting and addressing maintenance issues in multifamily properties. However, there are ways to keep both tenants and property staff healthy as we navigate this unprecedented health crisis.
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