All businesses are impacted by the COVID-19 virus, but rental-housing providers play a unique and critical role in the battle to mitigate the spread of this highly communicable disease.
As several Canadian provinces declare a state of emergency and the federal government imposes new and extreme measures to contain the virus, apartment building owners are facing unknown futures with tenants and frontlines staff not only at risk, but potentially headed for quarantine as the virus continues to spread.
In the face of this unprecedented health crisis, how are rental property managers coping? What are the current best practices for keeping people safe? According to multiple industry sources, much of it comes down to preparedness, communication and engaging in hyper-vigilant cleaning practices.
“At Greenwin, we care deeply about our employees, our communities and our residents, and take the COVID-19 situation very seriously,” said Kris Boyce, CEO of Greenwin. “Right now, our focus is on ensuring they have the information, resources and support they need to stay healthy and safe. At this point we are fortunate in that there has not yet been a confirmed case of COVID-19 in any of our buildings, but in the event that this happens we are confident in our level of preparedness.”
In addition to bolstering its cleaning protocols, Boyce said Greenwin has enacted several measures to limit exposure, including the distribution of first-line-of-defense health tips, the temporary closure of amenity spaces, restricting access to management and leasing offices, and deferring all non-essential maintenance across all of its properties.
“From the onset of the outbreak, we’ve strived to be proactive and flexible with our response,” she said. “With circumstances changing on a day-to-day basis, we are committed to closely monitoring the situation and putting protocols in place that align to the best practices recommended by Canadian health authorities.”
Proactive, preventive measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19
At this point, it goes without saying that maintaining a clean, sanitized building will only help to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Common areas, communal surfaces, lobby door handles and elevator buttons should all be cleaned regularly to prevent transmission of the illness.
Some experts suggest that cleaning supplies and tools be distributed to all employees, and not just the cleaning staff, to better ensure surfaces are continually disinfected. Residents should also be reminded to keep a safe distance from one another and limit their touch points as they pass through the building and throughout the apartment grounds.
In addition to these measures, BOMA Canada advises property managers to update their communications protocol in order to relay best hygiene practices, as well as the steps to follow should someone become infected. It also recommends conducting preparedness tests to anticipate challenges and implement any lessons learned.
Meanwhile, as the number of cases continues to escalate across Canada, governments are rapidly putting in place new measures that are precautionary to minimize the risk of exposure and spread. Instances of individuals being instructed to “self-isolate” are rising, with many fearing an imposed lock-down might be in our future.
According to the Federation of Rental Housing Providers of Ontario (FRPO), rental property owners should keep tenants well-apprised and informed of any new developments as soon as possible. “Notices should be posted at building entrances, on tenant notification boards and in common areas providing the latest updates on the situation, including guidance from local public health authorities,” it advises.
If there is a presumed or confirmed case of COVID-19 in any rental property, local public health authorities should be immediately notified, and any medical directions they provide should be followed diligently. But due to privacy laws, FRPO stresses that landlords should not identify by name anyone in the building who’s been infected, reminding housing providers that it’s the role of public health authorities to reach out to any other tenants who may have come into contact with that individual.
As the COVID-19 health crisis worsens putting vulnerable citizens at risk, it is critical that landlords exercise extreme caution and do everything necessary to prevent the spread of infection, no matter how great an inconvenience it might be for tenants. “We realize that we may never know if these measures were an overreaction, but we would rather overreact in the interest of protecting our residents and employees than underreact,” Boyce said.