10 Property Management Tips for Landlords During COVID-19

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Summary: In this article, you’ll learn the top 10 property management tips for landlords during the COVID-19 pandemic. Find out what other landlords across the country are doing to keep business up and running while keeping themselves and tenants safe. 

Introduction

In the world of COVID-19, everything has changed for landlords and property managers. It seems like every state, county and city has different regulations when it comes to essential services, maintenance and showings. And not all of these rules are laid out in black and white. As a result, it’s incredibly hard to know what’s okay and what isn’t. 

Can you continue to remodel your vacant units? And if you can, does that mean you should? Could doing so put your other tenants at risk? And are you opening yourself up for a potential lawsuit if one of your tenants happens to get sick?

What happens if a tenant won’t allow you in their unit to do essential maintenance on a broken pipe or toilet? Do you put a 24 hours notice on their door and go in anyway? Do you just turn off their water until they cave?

If you’re a landlord, you probably have a million questions like these. And while I won’t be able to answer all of them in this article, I can give you some tips from the experience of RealWealth® property teams around the country and from my husband, who’s an attorney and landlord with properties throughout Los Angeles County. 


Tip #1: Come Up with a “Pandemic Plan”

Nearly 90% of property managers already have or are working on a pandemic plan, according to a recent study by Appfolio. Even if you’re in a region that hasn’t been hit hard by the Coronavirus, it’s still wise to come up with a plan of action so you’re prepared, just in case it reaches you.

Check Out CDC’s Guidelines for Prevention

The CDC has come out with several best practices to help prevent the spread of the Coronavirus. Make sure you’re aware of these prevention guidelines and share them with your tenants as part of your plan to keep everyone safe. More on that below…

Know Your Local Regulations

Just like the federal government has issued national guidelines and regulations in response to COVID-19, so have many states. Know what your states’ local guidelines are and make sure your tenants are aware of them as well.  These guidelines and regulations are meant to help both landlords and renters. 


Tip #2: Communicate!

In a time that feels like everything is out of our control, there are still some things you can do to help minimize potential issues. One of the best things you can do right now as a property manager or landlord is to communicate with your tenants and team (if applicable). 

Set Up a Process

How will you communicate your COVID-19 plans to tenants? Ideally, online. If you already have a portal online to collect rents, this could be an easy and convenient place to keep tenants updated. 

If you don’t currently use any property management software to do business on the web, some good ones include, Buildium and Appfolio. 

Share your plan, encourage questions, solutions, comments and concerns. Open and frequent communication between you and your renters will keep everyone on the same page, along with creating some peace of mind. 

Check out our recent article for more tips on collecting rent during COVID-19.

Tip #3: Safety is Your Top Priority

Staying home and staying safe should be everyone’s top priority during the pandemic. Make sure your tenants and staff know the safety precautions you’re taking and encourage them to do their part. Landlords and tenants should be working together–but from a safe distance. 

Keep Tenants, Staff & Yourself Safe

For multi-family property managers, clean high-traffic areas more often. Review cleaning procedures and expectations with tenants and provide a list of EPA approved disinfectants. It’s also a good idea for non-essential common areas to be temporarily closed to discourage gatherings.

Handle Packages with Care

As property managers, it’s common to get packages in the mail for supplies, tools, etc. Avoid direct contact with the delivery person, disinfect the package with spray and discard any packages outside your residence. 


Tip #4: Perform Emergency Repairs Only

Let your tenants know that in order to keep everyone safe and healthy, suspend all non-essential repairs for now. If there is an emergency repair that must be fixed in a timely manner, follow the CDC’s safety guidelines. 

Wear gloves, masks and keep at least a 6-foot distance from other individuals. If you have to enter a unit, consider asking tenants to go for a walk or stay in a separate room, while doing the emergency repair.

Examples of Emergency Repairs for Landlords

The following would classify as essential repairs:

  • Leaking pipes
  • Broken furnace or air conditioner
  • Broken washing machine or dryer
  • Leaking roof
  • Smells of gas or noxious fumes
  • Growing mold
  • Broken stove or refrigerator
  • Backed up toilet or sewage drain
  • Power outage
  • Broken key to unit
  • Fire or smoke damage
  • Water heater isn’t working–no hot water

Note: Depending on where your properties are located there may be different regulations regarding what repairs are okay, and what crews must do on site to comply with COVID-19 regulations. For example, in Los Angeles you have to post something at the job site informing workers about what they need to do to keep themselves sanitary. Check your local municipality’s website to confirm the rules for your area, and follow them to a tee.


Tip #5: Provide Online Resources for Non-Emergency Repairs

There are tons of ways landlords can help tenants virtually with non-essential repairs. In fact, property managers around the country are sharing their ideas for assisting renters via technology.

Online property management ideas for landlords during COVID-19…

  • How-to videos with step-by-step instructions
  • Video calls: i.e. FaceTime, Skype, etc. You or a technician can talk to a tenant through repairs.
  • Ask for pictures or videos of maintenance issues and assist tenants virtually and/or give access to any necessary tools. 

This site offers tons of free resources and guides for property managers on how to keep operations rolling remotely. 

Tenants with No Internet?

What if one or more of my tenants don’t have access to the Internet? There may be instances where, say an elderly person doesn’t have a computer or smartphone. Chances are they still have a landline, so it’s time to go “old-school” and call them up on the phone. Make sure they’re taken care of and not left out of the loop.


Tip #6: Do Lease Renewals Remotely

For multi-family properties, discourage residents from physically visiting the leasing office. Appfolio (mentioned above) is a good app for resident and leasing management. You can have tenants who are renewing leases complete and sign agreements online with Docusign, for example. 


Tip #7: Make Property Tours Virtual

Most real estate agents have stopped all in-person property tours and replaced them with virtual tours. Video conferencing services like Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype, and FaceTime have come to the rescue as we continue to practice social distancing. 

Instead of doing individual virtual walk-throughs, you can streamline the process. Record a video on your phone as you walk through a rental property or unit. It’s also helpful to take pictures of amenities you wish to highlight. Then, post it online to both advertise the property and replace the need for in-person tours. 


Tip #8: Update Your Eviction Policies

Temporary Suspension of Evictions

The president has encouraged rental property owners to put a pause on all evictions during COVID-19. Additionally, the CARES Act states that anyone living in federally-backed housing cannot be evicted for up to 120 days. 

As such, several cities and states have gone ahead and issued a temporary ban. For example, the city of Los Angeles has placed a temporary ban on evictions of residential tenants during this time of emergency.   

Many landlords have also decided to stop charging late fees for rent. This takes even more pressure off of tenants and shows that you’re willing to work with them to provide some relief. You may also want to consider allowing renters to break their lease, if necessary. 

Check out what’s happening with eviction moratoriums in your state

Rent Relief Options for Tenants

If you make less than $75,000 a year, there are relief options out there. If you haven’t received a check already, you should get it soon. The government has begun issuing relief checks (essentially free money) to individuals and families during the COVID-19 pandemic. Individuals will get $1,200, plus $500 per child under the age of 16. 

Mortgage Relief Options for Landlords

Wondering how you’re going to pay your rental property mortgage and expenses during the COVID-19 pandemic? You’re not alone. 

There are relief options available to owners of rental property under the CARES Act. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have also issued a mortgage forbearance on single-family and multi-family homes. With the stipulation that tenants cannot pay rent due to the impact of the Coronavirus.


Tip #9: Go Digital

Even though “stay-at-home” orders and social distancing have been extremely difficult, we have the technology to keep essential business running. Online applications, online payments, and screening tools make life a whole lot easier for landlords, even after the pandemic is over. If you haven’t already, take your operations and processes online and efficiently keep tenants up-to-date. 


Tip #10: Keep Calm–We’re in this together!

If your renters know that you have their backs and are doing everything you can to help and support them during these crazy times, chances are they’ll do the same in return. The world is basically in a holding pattern, with so much uncertainty and stress. Self-isolating can be just that…isolating. Now is the time to stay calm, come together (figuratively speaking) and fight this global pandemic together. Be kind to each other. Right now, that’s one thing we do have control over. 


Conclusion

Follow these 10 property management tips for landlords during the COVID-19 pandemic. Find unique ways to keep business operations rolling. Utilize your resources and technology. Look to others for help and do your best to make this time of crisis an opportunity to come together and relieve some stress that we’re all feeling.

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