Next Phase

As of Aug. 13, 86.9 percent of apartment residents had paid all or part of their rent, according to the National Multifamily Housing Council’s Rent Payment Tracker.
Editorial Director Suzann D. Silverman
Editorial Director Suzann D. Silverman

As of Aug. 13, 86.9 percent of apartment residents had paid all or part of their rent, according to the National Multifamily Housing Council’s Rent Payment Tracker. That was down only slightly from the 87.6 percent that had paid by July 13. So far, so good, though the August payment probably benefited from the last of the relief funding Congress approved in March. The September response may be telling, since payments resulting from the executive order President Donald Trump signed in early August in most cases won’t arrive for weeks or even months, and will only provide as much as six weeks of benefits, with Congress still to agree on a longer-term solution.

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But working out payment plans is not the only new role for property managers. As this country closes in on six months since the pandemic changed the way we do just about everything, scientific study of the lingering virus is pointing to longer-term shifts required to keep both residents and employees safe and healthy.

New protocols are emerging for the sanitation of both common areas and apartments upon move-out. Continued high volumes of online orders mean package delivery strategies have become a necessity, requiring a rethinking of storage arrangements, increased attention on hands-free building access and new coordination of retrieval traffic. Reopening amenities also requires scheduling and coordination to maintain social distancing and to ensure time for cleaning between uses, while smart locks have also contributed to a growing use of virtual tour services to attract prospective renters regardless of personnel availability. Meanwhile, there’s been a significant increase in automated rent payments.

In short, necessity is giving birth to invention, as it generally does—with some help from a slew of technological advances. Effective application requires a willingness to try new strategies. In many cases it will also necessitate increased investment for the longer term, which may be challenging to pencil out against nearer-term reduced rent payments. But positive results are already emerging, including greater flexibility, increased capabilities and growing possibilities for attracting and retaining residents.

As we advance into fall, there’s a good chance of encountering further challenges—from the economy’s uncertain performance to extreme weather issues to the specter of a second pandemic wave, perhaps worsened by the advent of the flu season. Implementation of new strategies is critical; expansion of those strategies and development of additional ones will be necessary.