The global COVID-19 pandemic has changed life as we know it, and almost every industry has been forced to adapt in one way or another. The rental space is no exception – property management businesses, landlords and tenants have discovered new best practices and ways to ensure health and safety while continuing to provide essential housing services.
Between the onset of the pandemic and now, best practices and safety guidelines have already changed multiple times. Many landlords and property managers have found themselves implementing online, virtual practices to keep their businesses running and tenants safe during nationwide shutdowns.
Today, as states across the country seem to be in flux between reopening, reclosing, and all of the phases in between, many property managers are beginning to re-engage with the public and return to some sense of normalcy at work.
As we continue to transition back to “normal” life – however long that may take – which practices implemented during these remote times will stick around, and which will be left behind?
Needs to Stay: Tenant Portals
If you are a landlord or property manager and don’t already have an online tenant portal set up, hopefully, these past several months were a wake-up call. For the most part, property managers who already had services in place to communicate and interact with tenants online faced less business disruption than those who did not.
Most importantly, tenant portals allow property managers to actively ensure the health and safety of their tenants, employees, and themselves by avoiding unnecessary in-person interactions. Tenant portals allow renters to do things like pay rent online, track payment history, place detailed maintenance requests, and easily communicate any other questions or concerns.
Throughout the pandemic, data has shown that renters with online rent payment options were more likely to pay their rent on time than those without online payment options.
Leave it Behind: Limited Maintenance
Stay-at-home orders and social distancing guidelines meant many property managers were prioritizing maintenance requests and only addressing the most important issues that required immediate attention. While they may not have had much choice in the matter during the height of the pandemic, the future will be a different story. When illness transmission is less of a concern, property managers should go back to considering every maintenance request as essential and performing regular, seasonal maintenance tasks.
Regular maintenance is one of the most important jobs of a landlord or property manager to keep tenants safe and your investment protected. Just a couple of the common tasks that may have slipped over the past few months include checking to ensure that safety devices like smoke alarms are in good working order, inspecting for mold or moisture buildup that may have occurred as a result of winter and spring interior humidity, or trimming back bushes or trees that may be comprising the exterior of the home or property.
Needs to Stay: Virtual Property Tours
In today’s on-demand world, being able to view or tour a property virtually is becoming increasingly important for property managers to stay competitive and limit vacancy time. Vacancies can make or break the profitability of your investment, so it’s important to be able to advertise your property to tenants no matter what is going on in the world.
There are several ways to utilize virtual tours, including online video tours, 3-D tours, or scheduling FaceTime or Zoom walkthroughs of a property. Tenants generally want to see the space they’ll call home before making a financial commitment, and offering them the ability to do so online at their own convenience will help you ensure your property is rented as quickly as possible. As relocation trends continue to rise, many people moving to new areas will appreciate this easy way to view a potential new home.
Leave it Behind: Virtual Inspections
Whether it’s a global pandemic or you’re simply on vacation at the time, there are many scenarios when mobile inspection applications can come in handy. These programs generally allow tenants to complete inspections on their own while collecting the required information outlined by the property manager.
While these are great to use once in a while or even for routine inspections, it’s probably best to complete move-in/move-out inspections in person when the time comes. Missing a critical issue or repair or not charging a tenant for the damage they’ve caused could prove to be detrimental to your business.
Needs to Stay: Online Application and Leasing Process
While it makes sense to meet your potential tenants in person at least once before entering a contract with them, there’s no reason the application and official lease signing process can’t continue to take place digitally. Using a property management software to manage applications, review information from prospective tenants, and send out acceptance letters will streamline the process for you and your tenants. Some programs even allow you to set certain parameters that will automatically weed out unqualified tenants.
After accepting an application and agreeing on a move-in date, a lease can be created and sent out for e-signature from both parties. Many tenants prefer the ease and convenience of online applications and won’t take the time to fill out a paper application, which is important if you’re operating in a competitive marketplace.
Leave it Behind: Eviction Moratoriums
Whether we like it or not, federal and state eviction moratoriums put in place due to the pandemic are beginning to expire. While landlords should absolutely continue to show compassion and understanding when possible, and continue to honor any sort of payment plan arrangements with existing tenants, the laws surrounding evictions will go back to business as usual when the pandemic passes.
Experts are predicting a spike in eviction cases as moratoriums expire across the country. Property managers should take this time to educate themselves on the process, which is costly for everyone involved and can take much longer with an overwhelmed court system.
Needs to Stay: Open Communication and Empathy
Whether tenants have lost their job, are facing financial hardship, are sick and unable to work, or are experiencing another difficulty, it’s much better that you know about it upfront and work with them to come up with a solution.
The alternative is you not being able to prepare for a situation until your renter comes up short on their monthly payment. Encouraging open and honest communication with tenants will improve the relationship for everyone involved. Property managers should make it clear that tenants can and should contact them at any time, and provide multiple methods of communication. In addition, property managers should reach out to tenants frequently to provide important updates, news, and other information.
The health and safety of property managers, tenants, and employees is the top priority as we all continue to navigate these unprecedented times. Some of the limitations put in place to ensure public safety are beginning to lift, but it may be a good idea to continue with safe practices wherever possible until the crisis has passed. Keep lines of communication open with your employees and tenants to make sure everyone is on the same page.