With three COVID-19 vaccines now in distribution, the end of the pandemic is finally in sight, and we can transition toward planning for a post-COVID world. The novel coronavirus has impacted virtually every industry, and property management is no exception. Though the pandemic has brought tragedy and difficulty with it, we can at least salvage something positive by learning from it. So, in this article I want to focus on how property managers should apply the lessons they’ve learned from the pandemic to their post-pandemic operations.
Back in March of 2020, I was concerned about the possibility that property managers and tenants might turn against one another in an ugly way. And though I don’t doubt isolated instances like that have occurred in the time since, that largely hasn’t been the case. I’ve seen smart property managers show compassion for their tenants by hearing them out and listening to the details of their hardships rather than setting a precedent of zero tolerance. I’ve seen understanding tenants meet them as best they could. It all starts with both parties being able to speak freely to one another. At our company, we’re on better terms with our tenants than ever before, and I know we’re not the only ones. That’s why we don’t plan to simply revert to the way we did business before all of this; we’re going to maintain the level of communication we’ve achieved with our tenants. If you’re a manager, I recommend you do the same.
Keep Vetting Thoroughly
Another way I’ve seen a lot of managers step their game up during the pandemic is in their processes for vetting prospective tenants. Since eviction hasn’t been an option, the margin for error in accepting tenant applications has grown even thinner. Accepting a tenant who eventually gave you no choice but to evict them was a bleak prospect before. During the pandemic, managers have learned the far worse repercussions of accepting a problem tenant who couldn’t be evicted. As such, the smart ones started working harder at applicant analysis, in part to make sure their tenants wouldn’t skip out on balances owed. They’re doing more thorough and widespread background checks, calling more of a tenant’s previous landlords and doing a better job of verifying reliable income. These are all things we should carry forward with us into a post-pandemic landscape.
Don’t Expect Pre-COVID Reality
Things will never go back to exactly the way they were before the virus hit, and that’s a fact we all need to come to terms with on our own. A phenomenon that stops the world spinning on its axis like this is inevitably going to have permanent residual effects. As with any great hardship, the best we can do with this one is to learn from it and let it prepare us for anything that might come in the future.
In property management, we’ve learned that improved communication benefits both landlords and tenants in all situations — whether the issue is maintenance, financial hardship or other concerns. I’m confident that the industry will adapt, learn and improve as a result, making 2021 a better year than 2020.
David Crown is the C.E.O. of Los Angeles Property Management Group, and has over twenty-five years of experience managing all types of income properties. A hands-on leader who has managed properties in 16 states, Mr. Crown has been asked to serve as an expert witness in property management matters, and currently serves on the Forbes Real Estate Council. He can be reached directly at 323-433-5254.