As a rental property owner, you still need to be concerned about repairs to your home. There are still people, most of whom are paying rent, living in them. Things will still break. So, how do we go about making necessary repairs while staying safe? All rental housing providers should take a proactive approach and have a plan in place.
Communication is Key
We advised our residents that only essential service problems such as HVAC outages, water issues, and electric and life-safety issues are currently warranting a response. Smaller fixes, like adjusting doors, can be handled later. We’re only limiting maintenance to real habitability issues.
We are also focused on communicating how to prevent maintenance issues. For example, flushed tissues cause drain system blockages; tissues in garbage cans do not. We’ve seen a great problem with this lately.
Responding to Maintenance Requests
Confirm with individual prior to appointment that they are not sick. If sick, reschedule if possible. If your resident has COVID symptoms or is under quarantine, consider delaying the repair. The National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC) recommends suspending routine maintenance, repairs, and inspections when a resident is under quarantine. Advise the tenant that you or your vendor may be coming from other apartments but will do everything you can to take precautions.
Suggested Precautions for Maintenance
If you decide to go, or choose to hire someone to go, to one of your rentals to make repairs, just be aware of how germs spread. Practice proper hand washing techniques. In between hand washing, do not touch your face, as this is the fastest way for nasty little things to get into your body and make you sick. Remember to maintain social distancing while the work is being done, and clean and disinfect work areas afterwards.
We suggest that our maintenance workers wear new gloves and shoe covers when entering any apartment and put those gloves on in front of the resident. We ask our Maintenance staff to wear a face covering when they cannot maintain at least 6 feet of distance between themselves and others. A face covering is any well-secured paper or cloth (like a bandana or scarf) that covers your mouth and nose. Do not hoard face masks. Our health care providers need face masks to stay healthy and to care for the most critically ill. Health care workers cannot keep distance from others, avoid sick people, or avoid contact with others’ bodily fluid, such as saliva. Health care workers are the ones who need masks. It is essential that staff continue to practice social (physical) distancing and good hand hygiene even when wearing a face covering — including keeping 6 feet of distance between themselves and others whenever possible. If they need to be outside or interact with building occupants, they should practice healthy hand hygiene and stay at least 6 feet from others when possible distance is our best defense.
We remind our maintenance staff to clean up the work area and wash their hands regularly. We also remind them that hand sanitizer should be used until they can get to a sink to actually wash their hands. And we recommend that they carry soap and wipes in their tool bag or box. And of course we try to get all of our maintenance staff to stay home when sick.
Both maintenance staff and outside providers who enter a unit should follow CDC guidelines for social distancing and sanitization procedures, as well as Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations.
Considerations for all requests
- Can a phone call suffice?
- Remember there is a greater likelihood of children being home during the day
- Be extra clean and wipe down as you leave
- Reassurance and communication are even more important
- Be aware that you might be working in someones “office”
- And most importantly, smile