As the world begins the process (and it will be a process!) of getting back to some semblance of normalcy after COVID-19, property managers are facing a unique and complex set of hurdles.
We’re not doctors – but as a team of CPA’s, expert property accountants, and growth specialists, we know that how you handle reopening your business will have a massive impact on your bottom line in the months to come.
To support property managers in navigating this confusing time, we’ve gathered some important resources and tips to keep in mind for safely reopening after COVID closures.
1. Stay up to date on the status of your state’s reopening
- Find out about your state’s reopening status by looking at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce State-by-State Business Reopening Guide. It includes timelines, guidance, and other reopening info.
- Find your state’s official government website at usa.gov or irs.gov and check it regularly for updates.
- Follow your state officials on social media, and make sure they have a blue “verified” checkmark next to the account name.
- Coronavirus.gov is where you can find all official government resources on coronavirus.
- The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has also shared guides for returning to work.
2. Remember that reopening will happen in phases
Once restrictions have been lifted, many folks may still take a while to feel comfortable getting back to their pre-Corona lifestyles and that’s okay – this will be true for both your tenants and your team. Enter into this time knowing that it will not be like flicking a switch.
It’s also important to remember that property management offices would be particularly good at spreading COVID – the number of people that come in and out, then go into people’s homes, handling items that need to be passed, signed, reviewed, etc. For this reason, it’s important that you ease into reopening, keeping one foot in the world of quarantine until your community has stronger safety guarantees.
3. Create a reopening plan
Once you gain an understanding of your legal obligations, you can start making plans for reopening in a way that adheres to mandated safety guidelines.
As you sit down and create a schedule for reopening your business in phases, get input from your team (what are their thoughts or concerns?), then plan out a schedule of pre-opening tasks (everything you’ll need to do to get ready).
Then reach out to your vendors and re-establish your working relationship. If you’ve been working in a limited capacity, plan for how your needs will increase as you begin reopening your business.
4. Communicate your reopening plan
Your staff, tenants, and vendors are all critical to your success, so it’s important to let them know you take their safety seriously. Tenants may require a mailed letter, posted signs, as well as notices shared in any online portals. Employees will need letters, emails, and likely meetings. Vendors will need clear emailed communication, and likely a phone call or two – you may even need to rework your contracts.
Tailor each message, take time to answer any questions and concerns, and use multiple methods of communication to ensure your message is widely received.
If residents or tenants ask what new policies you’ll be implementing, limit it to cleaning. Posting signs about keeping your distance and hand-washing is helpful, but you do not want to be in the business of being the social distancing police and monitoring traffic in and out of other people’s homes and businesses.
5. Support and protect your employees
If you shifted employees to remote working, consider if you can continue to offer this option. With school closures and childcare options still limited, many people still need the flexibility of working from home, even after mandatory business shutdowns have lifted.
When it comes to apartment viewings, this is another one where it’s important to check with your state. Some activity is allowed to resume but with restrictions – for example, some states will only allow two visitors at a time, where others are not yet allowing showings. Or, in some states you can give showings as normal, except the occupant cannot be present. Bottom line – check with your state to find out the latest!
6. Develop a plan for monitoring employee health
This is a touchy but important one. Remind your staff of sick leave and paid time off policies, and discourage them from coming in if they feel sick, or have a fever. Most importantly, decide how you will handle a positive case of COVID-19 in your office after you reopen. OSHA’s guidelines (linked above) can help you make a plan in the case that someone comes in contact with the virus, or tests positive for it. Maybe it’s quarantine for 14 days, or having a cleaning company come in and professionally clean their area and the common areas of the office.
While it may be upsetting to think about, it’s important to have a plan in place before you reopen.
7. Keep up social distancing practices at the office
Social distancing will still be a factor even after businesses reopen, and you may need to adjust your physical office space to accommodate.
If folks are coming into the office, see if you can stagger their office hours. You could have some people come in earlier or work every other day with longer shifts. You can also quite literally move desks around the office so they are further away (at least 6 feet) from each other.
8. Minimize physical interactions with staff
Many of our clients are also thinking about ways to keep their supervisors separate from the rest of their teams (i.e. accounting, marketing, leasing, management). As these folks will still come in contact with many people, it’s a good idea to try to limit contact with other members of your company.
Finally, to minimize the number of people coming into the office, post details about your current safety operations on your website, and offer folks a chance to fill out any paperwork online instead of in-person.
9. Create a cleanliness checklist for reopening office spaces
You will need to take added measures regarding the cleanliness of your physical office space, particularly any community spaces.
- Install hand sanitizer dispensers near highly trafficked places like elevators, doorways, printers, or shared equipment.
- Frequently touched surfaces like doorknobs, buttons, and handrails should be regularly cleaned and disinfected.
- Post signs to remind people about handwashing and proper etiquette for coughing and sneezing.
- Consider investing in easily accessible disinfectants, cleansing wipes, face masks and gloves, and hands-free soap dispensers.
10. Make sure your bookkeeping and accounting is in order
You call your doctor when you’re wondering about your health, but you call your accountant when you’re wondering about your portfolio — and our phone has been ringing!
We handle bookkeeping and accounting for property managers all over the country, and we’ve been here to support them (remotely) throughout everything. Whether you’re a property manager with 200 units or a property manager with 4,000 units, having a thorough understanding of the financial health of your portfolio is the first step in preparing to navigate this new, post-COVID world.
We’re here to provide exceptional accounting and bookkeeping services, save you money on accounting costs, and help you weather any storm you might be facing.
Give us a call today, and let’s get you ready for whatever tomorrow may bring.