Effect on The Rental Housing Industry

The most pressing issue of the day is the novel coronavirus outbreak, and the Seattle metropolitan area has become ground zero for it in the United States. Besides the obvious human toll, the impact on rental housing is indeterminable because a threat of this magnitude is unprecedented. 

So, as an industry, how should the rental housing industry respond to the crisis? The simple answer is: Be proactive.  Get informed and develop a plan. 

Step up and take action

Let’s not underestimate what’s at stake. A huge infrastructure of public and private interests and resources exists to house nearly 50 million people in close to 25 million rental housing units nationwide.  Included is an army of professionals with a wide range of disciplines to provide and care for this housing and its occupants. As such, the level of human interaction is high on a frequent, if not daily, basis.

This is precisely why the rental housing industry needs to be on the cutting edge when addressing this crisis. We collectively need to hit it head on in order to minimize the human toll and destabilization of the industry.  

Domino effect

Infected tenants can’t work and may struggle to pay rent. In the absence of hospitalization, they would likely self-quarantine at home.  Units infected prior to being vacated may require being disinfected before a turnover can be completed and the unit re-tenanted.  Depending on the severity of the pathogens, it is not unimaginable that remediation teams dressed in hazmat suits may need to be called in. Imagine the cost, which may not be insurable.

These scenarios are not far-fetched and represent a small sampling of possibilities.  It’s easy to envision how consequential it could be to tenants, property owners, property managers, service providers, and possibly even lenders.  

A lot of hands touch rental housing

For example:

  • Renters often have jobs and get exposed to co-workers.  The exposure grows with the number of people in a shared living environment.  A large segment of the population also commutes via public transportation, carpools, or ride hailing services.
  • Shopping is often done in public places, as is dining or grabbing a latte.  People use public restrooms and encounter others while walking and congregating in common corridors and spaces. This is especially true in urban areas.
  • Leasing agents meet prospective residents when showing vacancies, potentially exposing each other to the coronavirus.  The home itself may be infected.  In-house and outsourced maintenance personnel could get exposed when providing maintenance, repair and turnover services for property owners and residents.

These examples demonstrate the myriad of ways people’s lives interweave that could expose them to the coronavirus in ways that would likely affect rental housing. That is why Full Service Property Management took early action to institute distancing measures with staff, tenants, and vendors. Our approach is continually updated on our website.

Coronavirus explained

Here is a clear, understandable overview of the coronavirus presented by Dr. Peter Lin.

What to do

Until there is widespread access to testing and vaccines, we must rely on common sense and a healthy dose of precaution. Here are some practical steps that, when used in combination, should help reduce the level of exposure to the coronavirus:

  • Be aware of what you touch – especially in public and shared places
  • Wash hands often and thoroughly with soap and water. If not available, use hand sanitizer.
  • Provide convenient sanitation stations in high traffic areas of multifamily communities – particularly building and garage entrances.
  • Frequently sanitize high touch surfaces in common areas
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth until after thoroughly washing your hands
  • Avoid people who sneeze or cough
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a sleeve or tissue when coughing or sneezing
  • Avoid gatherings and large crowds whenever possible
  • Avoid close contact (especially handshakes) with others
  • Avoid unnecessary travel – especially when using public or shared transportation
  • Stay rested and well hydrated to help maintain a healthy immunity system
  • Work from home when able
  • Stay home when sick and avoid close contact with others
  • Confirm that the person you are meeting at a property or elsewhere is not sick
  • Wear disposable booties and gloves, and carry sanitary wipes with you when entering a rental unit. High touch surfaces, such as doorknobs, light switches, keys and key boxes, should be wiped clean upon entering and leaving the property. DO NOT throw booties, gloves or sanitary wipes into your vehicle unprotected. Dispose of them in a sealed container, such as a zip lock bag.
  • Don’t bring pathogens into your home. Remove your shoes, wash your hands, and change out of your street clothes the moment you walk in the door.

Remember: An ounce of precaution is worth a pound of cure

Keep clients informed

In closing, notify clients of limitations placed on personal contact with prospective tenants, service providers, and others due to the coronavirus. They in turn may have concerns over your ability to service their property. However, they need to understand that personal health and safety always comes first. Everyone is fighting a common enemy, so we’re all in this together for the greater good of everyone.

– End