Property Management Challenges in the COVID-19 Pandemic
While the Corona Virus pandemic continues, so do property manager or landlord challenges and questions.
We’ve covered other pressing issues recently including lease management, evictions, and maintenance. Today we’re discussing property management related questions in this unusual time, such as rent collection policy, daily operations best practices etc.
The following are some of the concerns raised and our recommended approaches:
Can residents defer their rent payment due to the pandemic?
In California, if residents have COVID-19 related hardships to make rent payment, it is recommended that they contact their landlords as soon as possible to discuss options such as rent repayment plan.
As a landlord or property manager, you should also discuss the rights under the emergency ordinances. For instance, there will be no late fee assessed during the pandemic while no eviction will be proceeded if the resident is unable to pay rent due to a loss of income related to COVID-19.
In addition, rent increases will not be implemented. For instance, the city of Los Angeles prohibits rent increases in rent-controlled units, ceases no-fault evictions and gives tenants 12 months to repay unpaid rent.
Call Matters data shows Rent Payments Will Test Landlords
Conditions in California are tough, but may be much tougher in New York and New Jersey.
Can You Require Tenants to Pay Online?
Since we are required to practice social distancing, you may be concerned if you accept payment in person. Does it mean that you can mandate your residents to pay rent online or by mail?
First, you must carefully look into the lease agreement. For instance, your lease agreement may state that rent could be paid in person or by mail. Thus, even in a pandemic situation, you cannot mandate your residents to pay rent online. However, you may encourage your residents to electronically deposit/transfer rent payment.
To encourage your residents to pay rent online, you should also consider utilizing property management software that incorporates an online payment platform and covering bank charges if any. The other alternative is to install a rent drop box outside the property management office to minimize contacts with residents.
What safety measures are recommended to enforce at the property during Coronavirus outbreak?
If residents must enter the property management office, you may limit only 1 resident in the office each time. Recommend your residents to communicate with management by phone or email.
To practice social distancing, management may temporarily discontinue to receive packages on behalf of the residents to restrict direct interaction with residents and delivery drivers. Other recommended practices include posting Coronavirus information and health/safety guideline from CDC in common areas, posting it via your online property management system, having hand sanitizer for residents to use near entrance or in lobby areas, etc.
It’s also essential that you develop and enforce a preventive cleaning protocol for janitorial and maintenance worker to follow.
For instance, you may require janitorial and maintenance staff to wear personal protective equipment such as mask (or other face coverings) and gloves when they work at the property. They must sanitize all door handles, elevator buttons, windows and other facilities in common areas at least twice per day.
What else property managers or landlords do to support residents at this difficult moment?
We encourage property managers to practice patience and compassion for residents who are unable to pay rent.
Direct residents to resources such as unemployment benefit from EDD, tax filing and payment deadline extension from IRS, temporary relief on federal student loan payment, Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) for small business owners, information from food bank and other community based organizations, etc.
Last but not least, maintain regular communications by listening to resident’s concerns. Document all conversations or any agreements signed. Show them you are supportive to overcome these struggles together.
Check out Gordon’s other posts on building safety for landlords, controlling property management expenses, creating a resident handbook, managing tenant evictions professionally, and your maintenance inspection checklist.
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