The new coronavirus pandemic is affecting landlords and their renters in several ways. Every day we are faced with new guidelines, suggestions and orders to stay at home, to wear a mask and to social distance from one another. In the past several weeks many clients have asked questions as to what steps landlords should be taking to mitigate the pandemic’s effects on their property and what safeguards to establish.
A first step is to understand what type of property you are leasing out, the type of lease agreement you have with your tenant and your responsibilities under that agreement. Keep in mind how proper notice should be given to the tenant and although you may have relied on an informal method of text or email, it may be prudent to send out all communications both as a formal legal notice alongside informal electronic messages.
Communicate with your tenants about coronavirus health. It’s in every landlord’s interest to have healthy tenants, and all landlords, from multi-unit property managers to single dwelling owners, should check in with their tenants specifically about coronavirus. Knowledge and information are the best defenses against the spread of the illness. Remind them that they should be disinfecting surfaces in their units as frequently as possible, especially in common areas of multi-tenant rentals. For those who share bathrooms and kitchens, it is vital that they know not to share towels, including hand and dishtowels, and to wash their hands thoroughly after every single use of common areas and devices such as remote controls, game controllers, light switches, etc.
Work with tenants to create or update emergency contact lists with contact information of two to five people in case of illness or other emergency. Stay in touch with tenants and let them know to contact you or a property manager if they become ill or are diagnosed with or suspect they have coronavirus.
Maintenance. As a landlord, the best approach is the fewer people who need to enter rental units, the better and therefore all non-essential maintenance should be deferred. Daily maintenance programs should continue or be established such as trash removal and the thorough cleaning of common areas. It is also essential to introduce a written Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) and clearly communicate that to all maintenance staff and contractors entering the building. The SOP should clearly outline procedures for entering the building and any unit or apartment such as washing hands before entering, the wearing of latex gloves and masks, disinfecting any touched surfaces and remaining six feet away from residents and others on the property.
Can I show a rented unit? Although you may legally do so, our recommendation is not to show rented units and as we mentioned above, the fewer people who need to enter a unit, the better. This is an area where a landlord could create liability afterwards if anyone were to become ill. It is best to list the unit virtually by using pictures or video that can be supplied by the current tenant if you do not have any. Finally, should you find a prospective tenant, we suggest that you delay the occupancy for at least 90 days as move-in dates remain uncertain.
Other issues may arise. We are available to assist you with any other questions or concerns you may have as a landlord. Please call Peter Covo at 781-235-5500.