No one needs to tell you that the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States is an ever-evolving situation. Some states are reopening, while others remain in lockdown. Some cities and states that did reopen are locking down yet again.
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Through all of this, property managers have to stay on top of the situation and understand how to maintain their community associations and HOA properties in a way that keeps all of their residents, staff, and owners safe.
One part of that is figuring out which amenities are okay to reopen and which are not. You may find some spaces are impossible to open under CDC guidelines, while others are easier to manage.
You’ll also have to determine which will be in more demand and which will probably fade in popularity. Residents may not find common work spaces or indoor playrooms as appealing anymore, but they may request more outdoor spaces.
Finally, how will you reopen amenities in a way that maintains requirements for social distancing and sanitizing?
If your properties are in an area where things are opening up again, there are steps you should take with each of your amenities to ensure everyone’s safety.
#1: Monitor the COVID-19 Status in Your Area
First of all, keep a running list of what’s opening up when and the state guidelines to follow. Denver, for example, opened up dog parks in June following CDC guidelines. (There actually is a small risk of infection among dogs.) Meanwhile, Minnesota offers residents guidance on opening community gardens.
This is of particular concern if you manage properties in more than one city or state. Let’s say you have properties in both Massachusetts and Oregon. You’ll need to know that Massachusetts now allows gatherings of up to 25 people, while Oregon has restricted it to 10 amid a recent spike in cases.
#2: Determine Which Amenities You Can Reopen Safely
Once you’ve figured out which of your amenities are allowed to open, there are two steps you should take. First, look at the guidelines for reopening and ask yourself if you and your staff can meet them without adding too much cost, or risking anyone’s safety. Indoor playrooms may be allowed to open with social distancing measures, but is it realistic to think that small children will stay six feet away from each other?
Second, ask your residents about the amenities that you can reopen following your state’s guidelines. Would they even feel comfortable using those amenities? Every collective of residents is different. If no one’s going to use that indoor pool, there’s no sense in going through the trouble of reopening it. Survey your residents regularly as the situation changes to make sure they’re getting the amenities they want.
#3: Create a COVID-19 Reopening Plan
You’ve got your list of what you’re going to open. Now comes the how. How will you open safely and meet the guidelines required by your city or state, most often the CDC guidelines?
It’s time to make a plan. Make sure that it includes the following.
- Implement a Communication Plan: Use push notifications and an online community message board to announce reopenings, remind residents of guidelines, and alert everyone if someone who tested positive used a common area. Communicate all of the steps you’re taking to ensure people’s safety, as well. Let them know how and when you will be cleaning facilities and training staff, as well as the equipment you will be putting in place. More frequent communication will help to put their minds at ease.
- Use a Scheduling App: Requiring reservations that residents make through an app is a convenient way to keep numbers low. And it helps you keep track of who is using facilities and at what time.
- Install Safety Equipment: Space out equipment or add plastic paneling in between. Set up stations with sanitizing wipes and hand sanitizer in convenient locations, as well as signage encouraging residents to wipe down equipment after use. If you can move some fitness equipment and classes outdoors, even better.
- Create a Regular Cleaning Schedule: Hire a professional cleaning service to sanitize your amenity spaces on a regular basis. Between deep cleanings, create a cleaning schedule for your staff that meets CDC guidelines.
- Train Your Staff: Make sure staff members (as well as vendors) who deal with the amenity spaces are aware of the new guidelines and cleaning procedures. Your staff should become familiar with the communication plan and know how to prioritize maintenance requests.
#4: Document and Distribute Your Reopening Plan
Create a page on your site and send a notice via email with your reopening plan that includes dates of reopening, procedures that residents and staff must follow, and instructions on how to download and use any scheduling software you adopt. Send it out to all staff, residents, owners, and vendors and make sure you include an easy way for them to respond with questions.
#5: Keep Assessing Your Amenity Spaces
Over time, you may find that residents aren’t using a particular space as much as they used to. Or they may be all flocking to use an amenity that wasn’t as popular in the past. Using your scheduling app, keep track of usage, as well as peak times so that you can respond to demand accordingly.
And, of course, keep an eye on your area’s infection numbers and government response. There are, after all, certain cities, and even entire states, that find they have to lock down once more to control infection numbers. That may mean ending certain amenities until the second lockdown is over.
As property managers, residents, and owners come to terms with the new normal amid the COVID-19 pandemic, everyone has to readjust to how they think about renting. Where once owners and property managers found themselves in the midst of an amenities war to attract new residents, they now have to think about how practical once-popular amenities will be in the future.
Will residents still want to book the clubhouse for gatherings? Will offering fitness classes be a possibility among restrictions? How do I keep my residents safe while they enjoy the pool or even get their mail? Should I install a package area or lockers to accommodate the spike in online shopping?
These are all very good questions property managers are asking themselves. Take a hard look at your own amenities and imagine a scenario in which they are open to your residents once again. What does that look like and how can you maintain the same level of service without risk to your staff, your owners, and your residents?Read more on Associations