On May 5, 2020, we hosted a virtual office and amenity reopening discussion for our members to address, strategize, engage and exchange ideas, thoughts, and best practices as we enter phase 1 of our state's reopening process. Below, we have outlined a few discussion highlights, as well as, frequently asked questions from our discussion attendees.
As the state reopens, the looming question of when and how community offices and outdoor amenities can or should reopen is top-of-mind for many. One of our discussion polls highlighted some of the uncertainty that the industry is facing during this challenging time.
Poll Question- When do you plan to reopen some or all community amenities?
Of our poll respondents,
- 3% indicated they have already opened some or all of their amenities.
- 23% indicated they plan to open some or all their amenities in mid-May.
- 6% indicated they plan to open some or all of their amenities late-May.
- 67% indicated they are still trying to figure out the best, most strategic approach to doing so.
Covering a variety of topics, our discussions were centered around the "soft" reopening of community leasing offices, sanitization, service requests, gym/indoor amenities, as well as pool/outdoor amenities. We've outlined some FAQs broken down by discussion topic.
FAQs re: Office Reopening
(Q)- Does anyone have their offices open?
- Many communities have yet to reopen their leasing offices and continue to operate using an A/B team schedule to limit team, person-to-person contact.
(Q)- What plans do communities have in place to allow residents/prospects into their offices again?
- Many communities will not be allowing residents/prospects into the offices for the foreseeable future.
- Those opting have plans for a "soft" reopening mid-May and have taken the following measures to ensure resident/team safety:
- Requesting individuals entering the office to wash (or if available, sanitize) their hands upon entering the office;
- Placing markings on the floor to maintain a six (6) feet's distance;
- Requiring employees and individuals entering the office to wear masks; and
- Limiting the number of individuals allowed in the office at a time.
(Q)- Is anyone conducting in-person tours yet? Will you adjust touring procedures as reopening continues?
- Many communities continue to offer virtual tours and meetings, but those offering in-person tours are conducting them by appointment only.
FAQS re: Pool Reopening and Outdoor Amenities
(Q)- Have communities reopened any of their outdoor amenities? Or have an idea when they intend to do so?
- Many residents have begun calling their offices asking when the community plans to reopen their pool, dog parks, etc., however, with the shortage of proper sanitization supplies, many communities have candidly communicated to their residents that as soon as they can open their outdoor amenities, they will.
(Q)- Recommendations on spacing or removing furniture? Ideas for sanitizing, scheduling, capacity requirement limitations? Best practice to limit groups from gathering and for “policing” the pools. How many are waiting to reopen?
- Under the Governor's Executive Order 20-112, outdoor amenities where proper social distancing guidelines can be met, are allowed to reopen. The Florida Department of Health released broad guidelines outlining the opening of public swimming pools. Stating that "The COVID-19 virus is deactivated quickly using Florida rule-compliant chlorine or bromine concentrations in pools and spas, and there is no evidence it can be spread by treated water per the World Health Organization and the CDC"
- Communities that have chosen to move forward with reopening have put measures in place to ensure social distancing and proper sanitization continue to be met.
- Restricting pool and pool area use to current residents of the community only.
- Creating a virtual sign-in sheet for residents wishing to use the pool, limiting capacity to 25% of maximum pool enclosure occupancy.
- The hiring of a community resource officer to monitor the pool area to ensure residents do not move chairs and maintain social distancing;
- Adjusting pool hours to correlate with office hours;
- Making the use of the pool by appointment only; and
- Giving residents "identification" bands/bracelets that must be worn as proof of residency to access the pool area.
FAQS re: Gyms and Indoor Amenities
Although gyms and fitness centers included at residential properties are exempt from the Governor's EO that keep gyms closed during Phase 1, many communities are choosing to keep their gyms closed until stand-alone gyms are given the green light to open up.
(Q)- How are you sanitizing? Where are you finding the right cleaning equipment and supplies?
- Communities opting to reopen their gyms/indoor amenities are sanitizing hourly and putting sanitizing stations in place for resident use.
- AAGO has compiled a list of our supplier partners that have supplies and services available for communal purchase/use.
(Q)- How are you ensuring social distancing?
- Communities who have chosen to reopen their gyms have mitigated some of the risk by covering every other piece of equipment to ensure social distancing
(Q)- Are you using a scheduling system to set appointments? How? Anyone using a full-time monitor (person)?
- Some communities have opened their gym for use by appointment only. Using a variety of online platforms to allow residents to book appointments to use the gym. (i.e., reservations-appointlet.com)
FAQs re: Overall Cleaning/Sanitization
(Q)- Has anyone increased cleaning or implemented sanitizing procedures for common areas and frequently trafficked areas?
- Many communities have put together checklists for updated cleaning procedures that are to be completed every hour and prior to any shift changes.
- Many communities stated that they continue to keep common or heavy trafficked areas closed due to the lack of availability of needed sanitization supplies. In light of this, AAGO has compiled a list of our supplier partners that have supplies and services available for communal purchase/use.
FAQs re: Service Requests
With more and more residents home, many have begun noticing "little things" around their apartment that need attending to. Maybe a lightbulb that needs replacing or an air filter, many communities have been trying to find ways to deal with their growing backlog of non-emergency work orders. Some of the best practice solutions we have heard include-
- Creating "how-to" videos for work orders that can be completed once the needed replacements/supplies have been delivered to the unit. Communities have created a video treasure-trove of frequented "routine" work order requests.
- When a routine work order appears in the queue, the resident portal sends an automated message to the resident explaining the currently in place emergency work order protocol.
- Then, once the work order has been reviewed, the resident will receive a link to the video that walks them through a step-by-step process of how to complete this work order themselves.
Example- The Addison at Clermont, Maintenance Tips
(Q)- Have communities switched from only emergency service requests to allow for the completion of regular service requests? What, if any, new safety procedures have communities put in place for maintenance professionals entering units?
- Some communities have begun accepting non-emergency work orders but have taken additional protocols to protect their maintenance professionals and residents.
- Example of additional protocols include-
- Prior to letting maintenance enter the unit, office teams call and ask the resident a set of questions relating to their health, any recent travel, and pinpoint the area within the unit that requires maintenance.
- Example of additional protocols include-
(Q)- How are you handling residents that don't want to allow entry into their unit?
- Depending on the severity/urgency of the work order, office teams have received additional training from maintenance teams on how to troubleshoot, and have taken up "Maintenance on Demand" or DIY procedures to give residents the ability to address the work order themselves (with help from maintenance).
Even during the most challenging of times, our industry continues to rise above, taking this time to become more engaged and connected with their residents than ever before! For example, The Village at Baldwin Park made a video doing a spin-off of the show, Friends, to let their residents know how much they miss them.