The coronavirus pandemic continues to cause problems that most people have never thought to prepare for. Properly handling a situation where one of your tenants is diagnosed with COVID-19 is no exception.
One of the most important things you can do to protect the health and safety of your tenants, as well as your investment, is to be proactive and communicate with them.
Communicate quickly and honestly
The coronavirus seems to spread quickly, so time is of the essence when it comes to notifying your residents of a confirmed case of COVID-19 within the property. It's not just each day that counts when informing tenants but every hour, and even minute, can make a difference in preventing someone else from catching the virus.
You may have concerns about causing panic, but having the virus spread to multiple units will cause an even bigger problem -- especially if tenants find out you knew there was a case of COVID-19 within the complex and didn't notify them.
You also want to be direct and honest. If you know the tenant who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 has been spending time around common areas, don't attempt to downplay the situation and say that it's unlikely anyone else has been put at risk.
Protect tenants' identities
While it's important to communicate with tenants about any known cases of COVID-19 within the property, you also have to protect the privacy of the tenant who has been diagnosed. By not providing any information that could identify them, you are protecting the tenant as well as yourself. Sharing personal medical information about a tenant could open you up to a whole other set of problems.
This is easier to do in a larger apartment complex with several units. If you own a small multifamily property, it can become a lot more difficult to notify tenants of any cases of COVID-19 without the other tenants easily figuring out who it is. This obviously becomes impossible if you own a duplex.
In most areas, you're not required to notify tenants of any confirmed coronavirus cases. Some situations are going to require you to make a judgment call on how it should be handled. If you are unlikely to be able to protect the tenant's identity, you may want to ask them if you can inform other tenants -- and explain why it's important to do so.
Let tenants know what precautions you're taking
You'll want to let tenants know you're being proactive in protecting them. Let them know if you're doing any sort of deep cleaning, providing hand sanitizer in areas of the property, or restricting access to common areas.
People living in an apartment may feel more at risk of coronavirus because it's more difficult to avoid other people. They're going to look to you to limit their exposure when they find out they're at a greater risk of getting COVID-19.
You may not be required to take any steps to protect tenants, but it can make a huge difference in how well your investments make it through the pandemic.
Remind them of CDC guidelines and symptoms
Make sure your tenants know the precautions they should be taking based on the CDC's recommendations. While they are likely already familiar with the recommendations, they may need to be reminded that they also have to be taking extra precautions at home, not just when they're in public.
Remind tenants to wash their hands after using a shared door into the building, touching handrails, or checking their mail. You should also remind them to keep space between themselves and other tenants in hallways or even outside.
The bottom line
Everyone doing their part to reduce the spread of coronavirus will get us all through this as quickly as possible with the lowest possible number of casualties. Helping to limit the number of your tenants who get COVID-19 will not only keep your tenants safe but could also help prevent the virus from spreading to many other people outside of your property.
The best way to communicate with your tenants about a confirmed case of COVID-19 will depend on your exact situation, but hopefully these recommendations will help you make the right choice in how it should be handled.