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Rental Property

Five Tips For Landlords During The COVID-19 Outbreak

By Anthony SanFilippo
March 2020

There’s no doubt that everyone is a little bit on edge with the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic that has engulfed the world.

If you are either a property owner who rents out their property on either a short-term or long-term basis, then you likely have a lot of questions and very few answers.

Unfortunately, a lot of those answers are unknown at this point, and likely will remain that way for some time. But in the interim there are a handful of things you can do to maintain best practices with your properties and at the same time, try to maintain a level of sanity as everyone does their best to flatten the curve while the situation remains completely fluid.

Here are five things you can do though to try to manage the situation as best you can not only for yourself but for your tenants as well:

Only follow information from official sources

Everyone is talking about Covid-19 and what is happening, and we’re all hearing myriad stories and we don’t know which ones are accurate and which ones aren’t. The spread of misinformation, whether intended or unintentional, is often the biggest hurdle to traverse during a crisis such as this one.

It is important then that the information you use to make decisions for your property comes from the most reliable sources of information.

As such, avoid letting anything you see or read on social media be your guide. That’s not a recommendation to stay off of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat, or any other platform, but rather to not let those posts be what dictates your decisions.

Instead, make sure you get your information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as your state and local health authorities.

The CDC web site not only has the latest updates on recommendations to combat Covid-19 but also provides links to tell you what to do and where to go if you feel sick, how to keep your workplace and your community safe, and the preventative measures you can take to prevent the spread of the virus.

The website also provides contingency planning material for you to follow in case things get worse for you and the community where your property is located.

If your property is one that has a lot of public access or is on a thoroughfare to a place where people tend to gather – shopping centers, supermarkets, gas stations, etc., it is especially important to follow the CDC and to share the latest recommendations with those who can be most impacted in these locations.

Be honest and open in communication

It is important to keep tenants and others who use your property as up to date as possible as to how you are managing the crisis.

Being proactive and providing transparency with tenants and the public is of the utmost importance. Not only should you share with everyone what you know, but also what you are doing, thinking about doing, and potentially what you may need help doing. Creating a hive mind mentality is also productive, as it allows people to not feel alone during a crisis, feel like they can share ideas and be in this predicament with others.

All of this fights the greatest fear – the fear of the unknown.

Establish a protocol

It’s one thing to communicate with everyone, but it’s another to set up the steps needed in case an in-crisis emergency arrives. Who is in charge? Who is on the communication team? Who can respond to a problem in the most efficient, timely and most importantly, safe manner?

Part of that protocol could include a hygienic assessment. Ensure everyone is following the best practices on the property, whether it is regular hand-washing or continuing cleaning of common surfaces.

Know your legal obligations as a manager of your property

This outbreak is likely going to put a stop to construction or repair work needed on certain properties – at least for a short time. It is important to know if this slow down or ultimate stoppage in work impacts a contact in some way.

Also, it’s important to know who might be legally responsible for any delays or exceeding budgets because of coronavirus impacts on the supply chain as well as understanding your insurance coverage.

A property owner is most likely not liable for the virus outbreak occurring and people getting sick because of it, however a property owner could be liable if they tried to hide the fact that the virus was in their property or someone who was exposed to it or they didn’t share information about a potential exposure with tenants or the community.

Don’t be afraid to revise a plan or change course as the virus evolves

Many times, property owners have physical plans in place in case of a natural disaster – whether it’s boarding up windows in anticipation of a hurricane or lining the property with sandbags to prevent flooding. But how to prepare to stop something you can never see coming?

It’s much harder for sure, but a “worst-case-scenario” action plan should be in place. Do you lock down a property? Do you evacuate it? If there’s work being done on your property do you immediately put a halt to it? Having a site-specific plan in place, even if it never comes to fruition, will help ease the anxieties that could arise from a pandemic of this magnitude.

Additionally, there’s nothing wrong with having a continuity plan as well, to have in effect prior to reaching that worst-case scenario.

Maybe you are a short-term renter and you want to know where your renters are coming from before they come onto the property? Maybe you own a small business and one of your employees was travelling and was exposed to the virus. How do you manage them and the rest of your staff? Can others step in and replace this person, who will now likely be quarantined for at least two weeks?

Everything that you have always done has now gone out the window. You need to adjust, and the best way to adjust is to be prepared, for anything, stay informed, communicate honestly and act quickly.

Doing all of these things will not only help stop the spread of the virus, but also help manage a crisis in the midst of the virus spreading throughout your community.

“Guidelines and protocol surrounding COVID-19 are changing quickly. For the most up-to-date information we recommend visiting the CDCWHO, and your local health department websites.”


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