Maintenance and cleaning are among the core responsibilities of landlords and property managers, and the task list typically includes such projects as post-move out deep cleans, maintaining the grounds, and cleaning pools and common areas. Of course, for short term rentals, residential cleaning tasks may be a bit more extensive than they are in those properties with longer leases, but it’s still not the day-to-day work of washing dishes and doing the laundry, which fall to tenants. At least, that’s what these task lists looked like during more conventional times.
Over the last few months, maintenance teams have taken on much more intensive cleaning demands, as property management teams work to prevent the spread of COVID-19. From sanitizing surfaces to creating markers for social distancing, the entire ecosystem surrounding rental properties has been transformed. So, what do these new efforts look like in practice? It depends on who you ask.
Maintenance And Management
When it comes to deciding what steps to take to combat COVID-19, there are many factors at play, including what types of common spaces the property includes, how many tenants there are, and local regulations, among others. In the majority of cases, though, property managers have significant discretion over deciding how to handle the situation and over enforcing any new rules, such as limiting the number of tenants in the laundry room or closing certain common areas, like gyms. They are also responsible for communicating maintenance changes to staff, and for providing staff members with necessary supplies, like PPE, to do their jobs safely.
Target Key Systems
One area that many property management teams have chosen to focus on as part of COVID-19 prevention are HVAC systems, particularly in multi-family units with shared ventilation. Many tenants are running HVAC systems nonstop, which can drive up energy costs, and others are concerned about issues like filter quality. In response, managers may want to upgrade HVAC systems or filters to ensure proper ventilation and reassure tenants.
The Short Term Tenant Challenge
Landlords hire property management companies for a variety of reasons, and so managers may be in charge of large, multi-family units with minimal turnover or may handle short-term rentals typically listed on sites like AirBnB and VRBO. Though these situations require different management skills, since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, many managers and maintenance teams have also had to reckon with the different risk profile that comes with frequent tenant turnover.
What are property managers doing differently when handling short-term rentals right now? Many are worried about liability issues, and have discussed the possibility of putting stays on hold with property owners. That isn’t always financially feasible or necessary, though, which is why another strategy for such rentals is to evaluate local government guidelines for hotels and restaurants and match the property’s cleaning routine to those requirements. Some are also paying to have maintenance staff undergo cleaning certifications, like those offered for hotels, but overall there’s been a clear consensus that, with general precautions, people feel much safer staying in a short-term rental than in a hotel at this time.
Rising To The Challenge
Though maintenance and management responses to COVID-19 have varied widely across regions and between individual facilities, property managers have consistently stepped up, acting as leaders and working hard to ensure tenants’ safety. And while the pandemic is far from over, their work has paid off. By committing to community safety, property managers solidified relationships, built trust between themselves, tenants, and maintenance staff, and demonstrated their expertise and ability to innovate. At a time when everyone was anxious and trying to find ways to navigate a changing world, property managers changed with it.