The National Apartment Association is implementing protocols for property owners and managers to follow in response to the spread of the coronavirus.
As cases of COVID-19 escalate in the United States and more cities declare a state of emergency, there is a growing concern for containment, not just in public spaces, but in homes — particularly in high-density apartment communities where the risk of spread could be greater.
To stem the spread of the disease, the National Apartment Association has provided the following guidance for property managers: “If a resident is confirmed to have or is believed to have 2019-nCoV, do not direct facilities management or maintenance staff to the apartment. Immediately notify the local health department and contact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for guidance regarding appropriate measures to take.”
The compact nature of apartments and high-rise developments shines a spotlight on the potential risks of contracting the coronavirus and spreading it from person to person in close proximity, similar to other respiratory illnesses such as the flu.
Amy Groff, senior vice president of industry operations at the National Apartment Association, said the biggest concern for the rental housing industry is that more residents will be staying inside their apartments.
“When more residents are home, the need for service and work orders escalate,” she said. “Owners and managers will need the staff to accommodate the service level increase, and this will be challenging as staff levels will be impacted by the virus.”
Groff said owners and managers of rental housing will need to brace for this outcome and over-communicate their plan to residents.
“The plan may be that only emergency work orders are performed until the staffing levels are such that they can manage a normal work day,” she explained. “They may need to use staff from nearby communities to help. Communities should consider cross-training team members to perform essential functions so the workplace can operate when essential staff are out. Lastly, owners and managers should consider using vendors and contractors to help with repairs if needed.”
The trade association is encouraging property owners and staff members to do their part in mitigating the spread. “We’re stressing the importance of following the CDC’s guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus,” said Groff. “Most importantly, stay home if you are sick and practice proper hand hygiene.”
She added that if a resident tests positive for the coronavirus and notifies the property owner or manager, “then the owner or manager should follow the CDC’s guidance and work with local health officials, especially in the case of a quarantine.”
Groff said, “As information is updated daily for COVID-19, recommendations are changing accordingly. Precautions should be taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by following guidance provided by the CDC, including disinfecting surfaces such as doorknobs, tables, desks and handrails regularly. The Environmental Protection Agency has issued a list of effective disinfectant products to reference.”
Property owners and managers can use their discretion in deciding whether to cancel upcoming resident events. “They may find alternative ways to engage residents through social media to keep the community connected,” said Groff.
Residents should be provided with the CDC’s guidelines for safe hygiene practices and self-monitoring information. “Should a resident become sick, they should be asked to refrain from using the community amenities and common spaces,” warned Groff.
Although the potential business impact will be increased service requests and lower staffing levels, Groff said the bottom line is “we believe that residents who may have considered moving may put these plans on hold, resulting in fewer move-outs and less turning of apartments. The flip side of this is that fewer people will be touring and applying to move in. Hopefully, this will balance and keep vacancy rates stable.”
Authored by: Brenda Richardson,