Over the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has completely upended the real estate market, having forced landlords and property managers to quickly adapt to a rapidly changing industry. Forced to deal with the fallout of state lockdowns and the extended federal eviction moratorium,1 real estate professionals have adopted a wide range of new technologies in an effort to stay active, competitive, and versatile. They might not be able to address all of the challenges that property managers are facing at the moment, but the various technologies that are being adopted across the industry can go a long way towards mitigating the pandemic’s negative impact and helping industry pros adjust to shifting regulatory requirements.2
There are three primary ways for property managers to use technology to better navigate their current situation:
- Facilitating safe and effective communication
- Ensuring adherence to safety mandates and guidelines
- Adapting to the digitalization of the real estate market
Over the next few posts, we’ll go over each of these functions and how property managers are using technology to enhance them during these difficult times. Let’s start with the first!
Keeping Tenants Informed
Maintaining regular communications with tenants is always important, but when we’re in the midst of a major public health crisis, it is also morally and legally necessary. After all, constant communication with tenants is the best way to mitigate potential risk, especially with regard to contact tracing, maintaining social distancing, and notifying people when there are positive COVID-19 cases.3 Technology isn’t just helpful here: it is basically required in order to ensure that these communications are conveyed both safely and efficiently.
In most cases, face-to-face communication won’t be possible, as any notice sent by property managers to tenants and occupants must follow strict CDC guidelines.4 As such, other methods will be required: property managers can and should post notices on the property, along with sending emails, holding meetings through video conferencing, and other forms of digital communications to stay in touch with tenants and occupants. This includes recommendations that they follow health and safety guidelines, plus postings altering them if someone on the property could have been infected.
That said, while they are obligated to keep everyone informed about infections or our safety hazards, property managers must also assess the potential impact that these notices could have as well. These are scary times for a lot of people, so one must be cautious of how they word their messages, otherwise they could cause someone to panic. With this risk in mind, property managers should recognize that, since they will be communicating primarily through technology, there is more room for miscommunication or misinterpretation. Any message going out to tenants should be made with these considerations in mind.
The Necessity of Negotiation
But communication is not a one-way street. There is always a degree of negotiation or back-and-forth between property managers and their tenants, even during more stable times. Right now, with so much being up in the air due to COVID-19, it is vital that landlords and other real estate professionals utilize technology not just to send more communications to their occupants, but to talk with them and address their concerns. Considering the tremendous financial strain some of them are likely to be under, communicating and negotiating with tenants at this time is the best route for property managers to take.5 This not only helps keep tenant relationships high, it also better positions you to work with them to follow CDC/federal, state, county, and city guidelines for addressing the virus.6
The most important thing to remember is that these are difficult times for everyone involved, so it makes the most sense to work together rather than get confrontational. When tenants see that you are empathetic and understanding, they are more willing to hear what you have to say and communicate with you. In turn, maintaining effective communications mitigates potential risks, dulls some of the anxiety brought on by the pandemic, and fulfills the property manager’s obligations to keep occupants safe.
Of course, there are other ways to promote safety in your property as well. In our next blog, we’ll look at how real estate professionals can use technology to encourage safe behaviors and monitor the spread of the virus.
1. To learn about the eviction moratorium and how real estate managers have adapted, see our earlier series of blogs on the topic, starting with “COVID-19 and the Eviction Moratorium: Part One – Stimulus Bills.” https://ccsklaw.com/2020/09/covid-19-and-the-eviction-moratorium-part-one-stimulus-bills/
2. Smith, P. W. (2020, May 6). COVID-19: The Role of PropTech in Assisting Owners, Managers, and Occupiers of Real Estate Safely Return to Work. National Law Review. Retrieved from https://www.natlawreview.com/article/covid-19-role-proptech-assisting-owners-managers-and-occupiers-real-estate-safely.
3. Altman, E. L., Benson, C. R., Eppley, L. C., & Westhoff, P. L. (2020, March 16). Commercial Real Estate Tips of the Week: Practical Answers from Sheppard Mullin’s Coronavirus Task Force. National Law Review. https://www.natlawreview.com/article/commercial-real-estate-tips-week-practical-answers-sheppard-mullin-s-coronavirus.
4. Altman, E. L., Benson, C. R., Eppley, L. C., & Westhoff, P. L. (2020, March 16).
5. For more on the importance of understanding and communicating with tenants during the pandemic, read our earlier blogs: Millennial Renters & COVID-19 – Part One: Understanding Millennial Renters and Millennial Renters & COVID-19 – Part Two: How Property Managers Can Work With Millennial Renters.
6. Lazzarotti, J. J., & Gavejian, J. C. (2020, May 11). Examples of COVID-19 Screening, Social Distancing, and Contact Tracing Technologies and Related Legal and Practical Issues. National Law Review. https://www.natlawreview.com/article/examples-covid-19-screening-social-distancing-and-contact-tracing-technologies-and.