Prior to 2020, growth, efficiency, and profitability held strong as the top three priorities for property managers. This year, COVID-19 has reshaped these priorities with ‘residents’ accelerating to their second most important—a 29-point leap in just one year. So how do property managers prioritize residents? By ensuring the functionality and operation of the buildings we live in.
As the tens of millions of Americans living in multifamily housing are facing these stay at home orders and transitioning to working remotely for the foreseeable future, a new group of essential workers are coming into the spotlight: the individuals who manage, maintain, and fix the places we’ve been forced to retreat to.
The maintenance technician who fixes a broken stove, the housekeeper patrolling the common areas armed with disinfectant, and the groundskeeper who spots a backed-up drainage system are all vitally important to ensuring the health and safety of tenants.
“When more residents are home, the need for service and work orders escalate,” according to Amy Groff, senior vice president of industry operations at the National Apartment Association.
And maintenance tasks aren’t something that can be put on lockdown for months on end.
Pandemic or not, a property manager is obligated to ensure tenants’ units are habitable, and essential repairs pertaining to life safety and security must be addressed.
Property Maintenance Deemed Essential
- Leaking pipes
- Broken air conditioner
- Broken washing machine or dryer
- Leaking roof
- Presence of gas and/or other toxic fumes
- Broken stove or refrigerator
- Backed up toilet or sewage drain
- Power outage
- Fire or smoke damage
- Broken water heater
- Broken or lost keys
- Presence of mold
- Non-functioning door locks
- Broken windows/doors (if they present a security issue)
- Check-in and check-out inspections
- End of tenancy cleaning
In addition to this list, a property manager may find that it is necessary to perform preventative maintenance or fix problems that if left untreated, could lead to deterioration of the building. Classified as essential work, these items should not be pushed aside as doing so can lead to larger, more expensive problems later on.
They also must keep abreast of any renovations necessary for stopping the spread of the virus and be able to mobilize quickly to implement them. Research conducted by ASHRAE emphasizes the major role that air quality can play in containing the spread of the COVID-19 contagion and increased attention must be given to maintenance, repairs and upgrades to a building’s HVAC systems. The CDC suggests, “conducting ventilation system upgrades or other steps to increase the delivery of clean air and dilute potential contaminants in the building. Obtain consultation from experienced Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) professionals when making changes to HVAC systems and equipment.” Installing physical barriers, such as sneeze guards and partitions, particularly in areas where it is difficult for individuals to remain at least 6 feet apart are a must.
Increased Protocols Add Time & Cost
The added time and cost associated with performing essential building maintenance while following proper cleaning and social distancing procedures, plus the increase in the number of requests received are overwhelming maintenance staff in apartment buildings around the country. Add on the potential for one of these key staff members to become sick and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.
So, how are property management teams keeping their heads above water? One way is by hiring an outside company to perform tasks that can be taken care of more efficiently and cost-effectively than by their in house maintenance team.
Even if your maintenance director is a jack of all trades the well-meaning DIY repairs without the right expertise and licensing could cost the property owners big bucks down the road. Having a clear understanding of your onsite team’s capabilities and knowing when to outsource a task to a licensed, seasoned professional is a crucial element of being a successful property manager.
If workers are sick, fewer repairs will receive service within a single day. This can cause things to pile up. As a property manager it is imperative you have an outside team who has already been vetted and onboarded ready to jump in immediately and help. Not only do you save yourself the stress from dealing with a crisis, you can also rest assured that your residents will receive prompt, professional maintenance services from vendors who are well versed in the latest CDC construction site safety guidelines. When property owners have a confident approach to handling maintenance during a crisis, residents have confidence in you.
Select a Quality Maintenance Partner
When selecting a company to partner with for your building maintenance needs be sure you choose one that:
- Is equipped with a 24-hour on-call emergency services team who can handle maintenance calls day or night and year-round
- Are specialists at what they do, with the experience and certifications to match
- Can scale their skills and employee availability to meet your needs as a property owner
- Is licensed, insured, and vetted
- Is COVID-19 Safety and Awareness Certified
- Is experienced in the increased PPE necessary for COVID-19 safety
- Has a program in place for their employees with ongoing training and education on COVID-19 best practices
- Has a contact tracing system in place
To learn more about what to expect from a professional construction company and to see how we are ensuring a safe work environment for our clients and our employees, check out our recent article on Construction Site PPE: Types & Tips for Increased COVID-19 Safety.
As property managers and building owners look toward the future, they will need to prioritize larger renovations to remain competitive in the COVID-19 era. In order to retain tenants and attract new ones, units and common spaces must be adapted to meet the changing needs of their occupants.
Apartment Upgrades in the COVID-19 Era
Such upgrades include:
- Renovating common area facilities to include touchless doors, sinks, soap and sanitizer dispensers, trash cans, water fountains, lighting and thermostat controls, and elevator and call buttons
- Increasing outdoor amenities such as dog parks, gardens, rooftop lounges, tennis courts, food truck lots, etc.
- Renovating/upgrading units to include porch or patio areas, high ceilings, and large windows for better air circulation and a more pleasurable working environment
- Renovating/updating units to include flex spaces or dual-purpose rooms and built-in and fold down workstations that allow tenants to adapt their home to operate as a place to work and to work out
- Updating internet capabilities & increasing access to technology within units
- Updating all units to have washers and dryers to reduce the need for common laundry facilities
- Updating/renovating units & shared spaces with finishes that are virus-resistant
- Updating/adding package rooms & mail centers to be larger & more secure
In the FEAR of uncertainty, you can Forget Everything And Run or Face Everything And Rise. We prefer the latter and we are here to help! With over 5 decades of combined industry experience, Global Construction is equipped to handle everything from maintenance emergencies and repairs to capital improvements and COVID-19 renovations.
We are specialized, we are reasonably priced, we get there on time, and we deliver what we say we will. We are here to build a plan based on the priorities of your building and your budget and are excited to customize our services to meet your needs, both now and in the future.