In our last blog post, we talked about how COVID-19 has impacted property management and how technology is being used to mitigate risks and provide options to safely communicate with tenants. We are in the midst of one of the greatest health-related crises of recent history, so safety is an ever-present concern for landlords and other property managers. Not only must they maintain regular communications with tenants despite the expectations of social distancing, but they must also make sure that their property is as much of a safe haven as possible, taking extra precautions to keep their locations virus-free and work with the occupants to avoid infections.
An Obligation to Maintain Safety
As mentioned in the previous blog post, landlords have an obligation to notify all other tenants and occupants when a person who has entered or resides in the building has tested positive for COVID-19 (though their name should not be revealed in order to protect their privacy).1 On top of this, property managers should also inform tenants and other occupants about what steps are being taken as a result of the finding. After all, building ownership and property management has a general duty of care and to safeguard its tenants and occupants.2
Though it won’t be easy, there are several methods that property managers can take to maintain a safe environment for themselves and their tenants amid the pandemic. Along modeling good behavior such as social distancing and wearing masks, managers can also take steps to screen for COVID-19 symptoms, perform contact tracing, and communicate with tenants to ensure they are following official guidelines for addressing the virus.3 All of this can be facilitated by various new technologies.
Recent Innovations in Safety Tech
The COVID-19 pandemic has spurred a wave of digital transformation and innovation across nearly every major industry, as such we’ve seen a number of new and emerging technologies come to the forefront that have been used to keep properties safe. This ranges from wearable tech and smartphone apps to thermal cameras and scanning kiosks.4 Here are few notable examples of developing technologies that property managers should look into or at least be aware of when considering their own COVID-19 protection plans.
- Halo by Proxxi: A wrist-worn device that vibrates to notify wearers that another band is within six feet of them. Used to maintain records of interactions, facilitating the use of positive COVID-19 diagnoses to trace which users might need testing or to quarantine.
- Estimote – “Working Safety Wearable”: A social distancing and contract tracing option that comes in multiple forms, including a lanyard clip, a wrist-worn device, and a security card. Includes manual controls to note the wearer’s health status, recording states like “certified healthy,” “symptomatic,” and “verified infected.”
- PWC’s “Check-In”: An app which provides proximity information with no incremental hardware or infrastructure. Provides real-time information about whether employees may be at risk of exposure.
- COVID-19 Remote Early Warning System (CREW): A wearable digital thermometer that uses a cloud-based system to monitor incoming data. Sets off an alarm if temperature thresholds are breached. Monitors various biometrics and can include tags for things like “Cold”, “Flu”, and “Confirmed COVID-19.”
- Social Distancer Technologies – The Social Distancer: Wearable personal protective equipment (PPE) that utilizes a combination of sound, vibration, and LEDs to alert users when they are at an unsafe distance from their colleagues
- Realtime Networks: A temperature screening solution and no-touch biometric reader that uses thermal cameras. Checks users for high temperatures and mask compliance when someone enters a build or other defined area.
Of course, this is only a selection of the tools that have been developed to address the realities of COVID-19. There are numerous tools on the market that handle temperature and symptom screening, contract tracing, social distancing, and user authentication, so be sure to consider what options fall within your needs and budget.
Challenges Going Forward
Monitoring the COVID-19 situation will be a tremendous effort for landlords, as they will need to compile, document, and enforce an extensive (or sometimes contradictory) list of federal, state, and local mandates or guidelines for things like screening, social distancing, contact tracing, and mask requirements.5 All of the aforementioned technologies, as well as others, may prove helpful in this process. However, before spending money on new technology, property managers should always consider their specific needs, along with whether or not the tech can be implemented in a way that is both compliant with federal requirements and poses minimal legal risk.6
There are several factors that should be considered when implementing new technology: what is the intended goal of the tech and does it accomplish it? Will the technology require your employees to incur additional expenses that need to be reimbursed?7 Perhaps most importantly: how does the technology collect people’s data? How and where this data is collected, shared, secured, and returned could have major legal implications, from data laws like CCPA and GDPR to medical/nondiscrimination laws like GINA or ADA. When deciding on a solution, only work with reputable companies, and be sure to go over any contracts or agreements to check issues of confidentiality and data security.8
Until the COVID-19 crisis is finally over, property managers must leverage whatever technology that they access to in order keep themselves and their tenants safe. Yet there are some technologies that are going to stick around long after the pandemic ends. In our last blog post in this series, we’ll see how new technologies can help landlords and other real estate professionals adapt to a changing industry.
1. 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.
2. Altman, E. L., Benson, C. R., Eppley, L. C., & Westhoff, P. L. (2020, March 16).
3. 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.
4. Lazzarotti, J. J., & Gavejian, J. C. (2020, May 11).
5. Lazzarotti, J. J., & Gavejian, J. C. (2020, May 11).
6. Lazzarotti, J. J., & Gavejian, J. C. (2020, May 11).
7. Lazzarotti, J. J., & Gavejian, J. C. (2020, May 11).
8. Lazzarotti, J. J., & Gavejian, J. C. (2020, May 11).