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Tips For Safer Property Management During COVID-19

Many people are leery of changes, moves or disruptions to their routines during COVID-19 and with good reason. Information may be difficult to distill from regular news sources, so here are seven tips to help you manage a property during this crisis.

Routine Maintenance
There are many routine maintenance activities that must be taken care of regardless of the current pandemic. Garbage must be removed, landscaping tended, and clogged sinks need attention. All the routine jobs that keep your property in good shape can continue to be done with certain precautions.

Create a schedule and let tenants know when someone will be cutting the grass or cleaning public areas of the building. This way contact can be avoided between personnel and tenants. And if someone is moving into the building, it’s important to communicate very clearly during this time.

Showings
Managing a property requires that you show prospective tenants the various spaces that are available to rent.

The safest method is to use digital tools. Use your smartphone to create a virtual walk-through. If a prospective tenant expresses real interest you can text, email or speak to them and find out specific areas they would like to see virtually or take them on an individual tour using FaceTime.

Seriously interested parties can arrange to visit the property in person. Sanitize all touchpoint areas of the home before and after their visit and if you will be there to guide them continue to wear your personal protective equipment (PPE) and ask them to do the same.

Communicate with Tenants
Whether you’re in a COVID-19 hotspot like some luxurious Chicago neighborhoods or a rural area with very few cases, current and new tenants will want to be notified of any changes regarding their homes. If amenities are closed because they could pose a health risk, make sure to get that information to everyone in clear, concise language.

Work out rooms and swimming pools are two areas that potentially involve close contact and potential viral spread. If you would like to make certain amenities available to your tenants, figure out a schedule and a cleaning system that reduces contact between people and sanitize, sanitize, sanitize. Continuous updates, with good and bad news, should be given to residents on a weekly basis.

This assures them that you are mindful of their health. Include links to sites with more information, like the CDC. Send information to tenants using mail, email, texts, and bulletin boards. Let everyone know what additional precautions and procedures are being used to keep everyone healthy.

Protocols for COVID-19 Emergencies
It is a fact that people can carry and spread COVID-19 and never feel ill themselves. Asymptomatic spread is perhaps the most dangerous method of spread because a person does not realize that they are a threat. In the event someone in a building you manage does become ill there are certain legal guidelines you must follow. Though it may seem like a good idea to notify everyone that the person living in unit 2314 has become sick, legally you cannot do this.

Disclosure of such information is a violation of federal privacy laws and can subject you to liability. While there are no mandatory federal guidelines for protocol in this situation, there are guidelines from the CDC, local and state health departments.

There also may be terms suggested in the lease which require a landlord or property manager to notify all remaining tenants of a health threat. Most landlords follow similar guides and protocols, so communication should be very detailed.

Residents should be warned that a co-tenant, employee, or vendor has become infected and has been encouraged to self-isolate. Follow up with reminders to continue to practice precautionary hygiene procedures and limit contact with other people.

Requests from Tenants
Although you may want to limit contact between staff and tenants there are times when an incident requires immediate attention.

Think plumbing. Not only could a plumbing issue be inconvenient for the resident, but this type of issue can also cause serious damage to one or more units.

When something like this occurs make sure to prepare your staff with all necessary PPE to mitigate possible contamination from close contact with a tenant. Assure the tenant that all safety precautions are being taken and if possible, ask the tenant to leave the apartment while the issue is addressed.

Monitor Personnel
It is incumbent upon you to provide a safe work environment for your employees. Taking temperatures before working, asking questions about employees’ contacts and how they are feeling are completely acceptable if your employees are aware of the procedures. Avoiding becoming a virus hot spot is beneficial to you, your employees, and your tenants.

Be Nice
The old saying, “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar” is always appropriate. Be nice to your employees during these demanding times. You depend on them to keep your buildings running smoothly. Your employees should be your allies in the fight to keep buildings and grounds safe for everyone. Hand out a small bonus periodically. It could be cash or a grocery store gift card — really anything that shows you appreciate the work they do.

With a little kindness and diligent sanitizing, you can easily maintain your properties with safety during COVID-19.

Position Realty
Office: 480-213-5251

Five Ways to Spot Fake Landlord References

One of the most crucial aspects in tenant screening is that of checking your prospective tenant’s landlord references, so here are 5 ways to spot fake landlord references from Keepe the maintenance company.

Unfortunately, some tenants have been known to make up references or list friends or family members as previous landlords. There are even companies that hire themselves out to pose as landlords.

As a property manager, you are bound to receive landlord references day in and day out. Some are beautifully written testaments to the incredible nature of these individuals looking to rent, while others are simply fake, with bogus testimonials about the tenant.

5 ways to spot fake landlord references

Below, we’ve shared some ways in which you can spot fake references.

No. 1 – Call the references yourself
For starters, on most landlord references, they will provide a phone number.

One of the first things you can do to tell if the reference is a fake is to call the number inquiring about a rental. If it is fake, the number either won’t work or will lead to a completely different person or place.

In rare instances, a fake number does lead to an individual, but they may seem to be either untruthful or not detailed in their answers.

No. 2 – Check up on the reference’s name
Go online and Google the reference’s name and look them up on social-media platforms.

Check to see if this person is tied to the potential tenant through tagged pictures and/or posts. If there is a lot of overlap in the people’s profiles, these individuals may have a personal relationship and not a tenant/landlord relationship.

No. 3- Look at tax records

The tax records for all property owners are in the public domain. All you have to do is look up the records for the address where the applicant claims to have lived.

The name on the tax record should match the name you’ve been given. Double-check that the property hasn’t been sold, but otherwise this is a great way to spot a fake.

No. 4 – Analyze a reference’s answers
It’s best to always fall back on your knowledge as a landlord and analyze the answers that the potentially fake landlord reference has given you.

If their answers are vague and don’t have details then it’s likely that they aren’t a real landlord and are instead a friend or family member of the person who is trying to rent from you.

No. 5 – Ask for advice from the reference
 Landlords tend to have the same frustrations, interests, and problems.

It wouldn’t be at all unusual for you as a property manager to ask for some advice from another landlord while calling for a reference. Ask for their procedure for getting rid of a tenant who doesn’t pay, for instance.

A real landlord will have an actual answer, even if they’re not interested in spending much time on the phone with you. A fake, on the other hand, will likely have nothing specific to say. This can help you further determine whether the person on the other line is a real landlord, or someone just posing as such.

In conclusion
 As a property manager, a significant part of your job involves filling properties with quality, long-term tenants. Including thorough reference verification as part of your tenant screening process, such as the strategies above, can help you avoid costly mistakes and keep you a few steps ahead of the game.

Position Realty
480-213-5251

Seven Legal Details to Know About Evictions During The Coronavirus

On March 13, 2020, President Donald Trump declared a national emergency over the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19), a public health emergency that has affected all 50 states, and in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a 30-day social distancing guideline for the states to follow. In response, most states have issued further directives to their citizens regarding social distancing, closures of nonessential business, limitations on travel, restrictions on evictions and foreclosures, and cleaning and disinfecting procedures. As these recommendations continue to evolve, landlords, condominium associations and property managers (collectively, Property Owners/Managers) have growing concerns over how the health, safety, security and privacy standards recommended by the CDC will affect the management and operations of their buildings. This article will list practical recommendations for Property Owners/Managers to implement during the COVID-19 event.

1. Understand Your Duty
The general rule of law is that Property Owners/Managers owe a duty to exercise due care for their residents’ safety, with condominium associations having the heightened fiduciary duty to act in the best interest of all of their residents. This duty is generally limited to the lines of ownership of the Property Owner/Manager, i.e., the areas under the Property Owner/Manager’s control. As such, it is important that Property Owners/Managers thoroughly read through their respective controlling documents (i.e., the lease, declaration of condominium or property management agreement) to determine what areas or services are under their control (i.e., elevators, pool, janitorial services, security, stairwells) and what obligations they have to their residents in maintaining these areas. Historically, as long as the Property Owner/Manager exercises due care in maintaining the common areas, courts will not impose further duties (unless the controlling documents state otherwise) on the them. In addition, the controlling documents may detail how additional costs for measures implemented in response to the COVID-19 event (such as cleaning and remediation costs) are shared between the Property Owner/Manager and the tenant.

After reviewing the controlling documents, it is important for Property Owners/Managers to be educated on their local laws and statutes to determine whether there are any additional responsibilities imposed or additional powers granted to them under state law. Most states have a landlord-tenant act, condominium act and/or not-for-profit corporations act that proffers guidance on the rights and obligations of Property Owners/Managers under state law. It is important to note that these statutes do not abrogate, but rather ratify, the common law. In addition, the state statutes can also give broader powers to Property Owners/Managers that are not outlined in their respective controlling documents.

Although the some states statutes were drafted with natural disasters creating property damage in mind, many of the emergency powers granted under the statute can apply to the COVID-19 event, again highlighting the importance of understanding the local laws and statutes of your respective states.

2. Stay Informed
With the ever-changing landscape on the federal, state and local levels, it is vitally important that Property Owners/Managers keep abreast of the directives and orders being issued that may affect day-to-day operations at their properties. Not only are these directives and orders important in helping Property Owners/Managers make informed decisions about next steps during the COVID- 19 crisis, such as whether to close the common areas or limit visitor access, they may also give additional powers to Property Owners/Managers to help protect their residents and their properties during the COVID-19 event.

Staying informed on the Property Owner/Manager level also allows the Property Owner/Manager to make faster decisions, disseminate information to its residents in a timely and effective manner, and ensure that they are complying with local laws. For example, most states impose requirements on Property Owners/Managers to comply with applicable building, housing and health codes.

Lastly, there may be restrictions on Property Owners/Managers related to evictions and foreclosures during the COVID-19 event. Understanding what those restrictions are and how they apply during and after the COVID-19 event will allow Property Owners/Managers to effectively assess the economic impact to their business and the appropriate measures to take to mitigate those risks. In addition, there may be federal, state and local financial relief efforts that Property Owners/Managers may be able to take advantage of to help soften the financial impact of the COVID-19 event.

3. Be Proactive
During these uncertain times, residents may look to Property Owners/Managers for guidance on how to maintain the property during the COVID-19 event. Informing residents that the Property Owner/Manager is aware of the COVID-19 event and is taking the necessary precautions to stop the potential spread of the virus throughout the building offers reassurance to residents and also prepares them for eventual closures of common areas or other emergency procedures that may need to be implemented. Other ways to be proactive include, but are not limited to:

  • Closing down common areas such as pools, clubhouses, tot lots, workout areas or any areas within the control of the Property Owner/Manager that may attract large gatherings.
  • Postponing community events until the spread of the COVID-19 virus is contained.
  • Communicate changes to building maintenance schedules, such as limiting requests to emergency repairs only or delaying nonemergency building maintenance for a reasonable amount of time.
  • Posting the CDC recommended guidelines and materials to educate tenants, employees and visitors about all suggested and mandated “social distancing” and “shelter in place” measures.
  • Thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting common areas to help stop the community spread of the virus.
  • Preparing an emergency response plan for the property.

Another way Property Owners/Managers can be proactive during the COVID-19 event is by being supportive of their residents. The COVID-19 event has been stressful on numerous parties, and emotions may be at an all-time high within the property. Maintaining an open dialogue with your residents and setting reasonable expectations about procedures and the Property Owner/Manager’s general ability to provide guidance during this time are essential to preserving the relationship between the Property Owner/Manager and tenants. In addition, open dialogue with tenants may allow Property Owners/Managers to be better informed about cases of COVID-19 on the premises.

It is important to remember that each state has privacy laws and regulations that must be adhered to, and protecting the privacy of each resident is paramount. Personal information regarding an infected individual should not be shared with other residents within the building, unless prior written consent is obtained. Property Owners/Managers may, however, provide residents in the building with a general statement that an individual on the premises tested positive for COVID-19 and include information on the procedures the Property Owner/Manager plans to implement to clean and sanitize the common areas of the building.

In all, following these three steps – understanding your duty, staying informed and being proactive – during the COVID-19 event may help Property Owners/Managers best address their concerns regarding managing and operating their properties in a safe manner.

4. Federal eviction moratoriums
A portion of the CARES Act that expired on July 25th, 2020 did require some landlords to observe a 120-day eviction moratorium. In other words, even if a tenant didn’t pay rent for 120 days, they could not be evicted legally if their apartment fell under certain conditions—one of which was if your property had been financed by a federally backed mortgage.

5. Local eviction moratoriums
Arizona, has extended its local eviction ban until October 31st, so regardless of any lapse in federal protection, Arizona tenants cannot legally be evicted, nor can their nonexempt property be seized. Therefore, it is very important to check with your local government to see what eviction protections are still in place.

6. Rent is not forgiven
Eventually, these eviction prohibitions will be lifted, and at that time tenants behind in rent payments will have to figure out how they are going to make payments going forward while at the same time taking steps to pay back rent. COVID-19 eviction prohibitions do not usually wipe out past-due rent balances, although local governments may introduce new regulations covering the handling of past due rent when the evictions bans do expire.

7. There is help available
The Arizona Department of Housing has set up a site with a self-assessment questionnaire. Certain persons can qualify for COVID-19 rental assistance by completing the questions and continuing with the assistance process. Check your state’s resources if you think your tenant might qualify for help.

While the CARES Act does offer some protection against negative credit reporting for certain late payments, late rent payments can affect a tenant’s credit score. Many landlords—especially those with only one or two units—generally do not report late rent to credit bureaus and most follow the typical landlord guide on the majority of issues with tenants.

Position Realty
Office: 480-213-5251

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