How to deal with the impacts of COVID-19 on apartment communities
How a community mobile app can help property managers navigate the impacts of COVID-19 on apartment communities
With COVID-19 getting worse by the day, nearly 16M cases and over to 300,000 deaths, contactless methods of communication are more important than ever. And with stay-at-home orders going back into effect in some parts of the nation, residents’ are relying on their communities to keep them safe and informed. The impacts of COVID-19 on apartment communities are affecting everything from how residents communicate with on-site teams to how they pay their rent.
Multifamily operators are adjusting to meet the needs of their residents because the cost of not adhering to CDC guidelines is too high. Not only is the health of staff and residents at risk, but the health of business also hinges on how apartment communities handle the impacts of COVID-19 on the community. Management companies that are able to effectively communicate with their residents & safely manage the community will keep their residents happy (and renewing) at a time when rent prices are plummeting.
Thankfully, technology has shown up in a big way this year. Whether it’s Zoom yoga or virtual happy hours, we’ve all leveraged technology to find socially distant ways to keep some semblance of our pre-2020 lives and the same goes for property management companies. They are moving at warp speed to implement new technology from touchless work orders and contactless package management to group messaging and real-time chat.
At Zego, we’re working right alongside our clients to help them implement solutions to manage their communities through the pandemic.
Here are 4 ways property management teams are relying on their community mobile app to navigate the impacts of COVID-19 on apartment communities:
- Messaging: communicating about changing COVID-19 public health policies
- Property Maintenance: maintaining properties safely and remotely
- Rent payments: Providing 100% digital, contactless payments
- Amenities: Supporting social distancing for staff & residents for everyday property activities
1. Messaging: Communicating about changing public health policies and the impacts of COVID-19 on apartment communities
With COVID-19 cases surging and changing restrictions, it’s important to ensure your associates can quickly and remotely send messages. And it’s even more important to ensure residents receive critical messages. There are a few ways community mobile apps like Zego EngageTM help to keep the lines of communications open between on-site staff and residents.
Group messaging to communicate urgent information to groups or the whole community: Alert all or a portion of your residents to new safety requirements, such as masks required in common areas, laundry room, etc. You can notify your entire community if there’s a safety issue such as a COVID-19 case within the community.
Community feed for sharing updates: Easily spread the word about community updates like new office hours or amenity closures or reopenings using the community feed.
Real-time chat to reach out to individual residents: For urgent or private communication that only applies to a single resident, real-time in-app chat connects on-site staff with residents directly. This can be especially helpful for contact tracing efforts to keep residents & staff safe. It also gives residents an easy way to get answers to questions so they feel safe and connected to their community.
Improved Message Delivery: Since residents select their preferred method of communication (email, SMS, or in-app), you can have confidence your messages will be received.
2. Property Maintenance: Maintaining Properties Safely and Remotely
Maintenance requests & apartment tours don’t stop because we’re in a pandemic. Leaky faucets and toilets don’t care about COVID-19 or social distancing. As they say in show business, the show must go on! To keep on-site staff and residents safe while still running the business managers are relying on the mobile apps to service work-orders and show units while maintaining social distancing.
Mobile Work Orders: Mobile maintenance requests give residents peace-of-mind knowing their apartment issue has been received and is being processed remotely. By offering residents a way to submit maintenance issues on their mobile device it eliminates the need for residents to come into the office. With Zego EngageTM Work Orders for example, residents are able to include the level of urgency, details about the issue and any photos. Plus they can add instructions for accessing the unit to prevent safety issues.
Mobile work orders also help protect your on-site staff. Maintenance teams can view, track and manage work orders on web or mobile. Associates are notified via email and in-app with all details of the maintenance work order including a photo so they have a clear understanding of the problem before they even enter the unit. Associates can use a chat feature that’s embedded into each order for easy, socially distant communication with residents if needed.
Remotely monitor, control, and show vacant units with Zego Smart: Smart home tech for apartments has been a lifesaver for on-site teams that need to work remotely while still managing the property. Smart locks allow associates to remotely grant access to prospective renters to tour empty units. They can issue temporary vendor or maintenance access codes and handle lock-outs online. Smart thermostats and lighting allow associates to automate and remotely manage utilities so vacant units are ready for tours without wasting utilities.
3. Rent Payments: Providing 100% digital, contactless payments
COVID-19 has impacted apartment communities particularly when it comes to making rent payments. In April of 2020 new resident registrations on the Zego platform increased 25% compared to the previous month. And credit card usage for rent payments was up 30%. The pandemic has accelerated residents’ desire to pay digitally. And during a year of record-high unemployment, residents are turning to new methods of payment. Mobile apps give residents the tools to make these changes with ease from the convenience of their smartphones.
Allow residents to pay from the comfort and safety of their homes: Residents should be able to use their preferred payment method (Debit, eCheck, credit card, PayPal, etc) so that if they need to rely on credit to get them through a difficult month they have that option. They should also be able to pay from a mobile device in addition to their desktop computer. Mobile devices are more prevalent and while under stay-at-home orders residents may not have access to computers that they used to use to pay rent.
Support your cash-strapped residents and those that receive government benefits: As we mentioned earlier, by accepting credit cards and digital wallets you give residents the flexibility to pay their rent with the payment method that works best for them and their financial situation. Debit & ACH are also important methods to offer as the processing fees are significantly lower. Plus, by offering a fixed-fee option for debit card payments you can support residents that are receiving unemployment or stimulus benefits while keeping the fees low.
Digital Support for Unbanked: Cash payments are less than ideal during a pandemic but it doesn’t’ change the fact that some of your residents may be unbanked and cash is their only option. For those residents, it’s critical to offer a way for them to make their cash rent payment remotely so your staff can continue to work from home and still accept rent payments. Solutions like CashPay allow residents to make their rent payment at common retailers (i.e. Walmart), where they are automatically converted to a digital payment and integrated with your software so staff doesn’t need to be in of the office to receive these payments
Automated Reminders: Without the typical interaction, automated payment reminders are crucial for reminding residents when and how to pay to reduce delinquencies and questions for staff. With a mobile app, residents can determine how they want to receive notifications – text, in-app notification, or email.
4. Amenities: Supporting social distancing for staff & residents for everyday property Activities
The impacts of COVID-19 on apartment communities have wreaked havoc on everyday activities. From managing amenities and distributing packages to registering new pets or vehicles, apartment operators are relying on technology to execute daily tasks in a socially distant way. Here are few ways a community mobile app can help transition common manual, in-person activities into digital tasks.
Contactless Package Management: Package management solutions like mobile apps and package lockers allow staff to receive and accept packages through a safe, touchless mobile scan. Residents are automatically notified of a package delivery and can retrieve them at their convenience.
Digital Amenity Management: One of the biggest impacts that COVID-19 has had on apartment living is the use of amenities. In order to comply with social distancing policies, the usage of amenities must be strictly enforced. And they are constantly changing. Our customers have relied on Zego EngageTM to share amenity updates such as closures, safety requirements, and reservation limitations in-app. They are able to limit reservation numbers to abide by safety regulations on the fly.
Digital submission and approval of common registrations: Another area that on-site teams are pushing quickly to digital is the registration of new pets, vehicles, and visitors. By managing this using a mobile app it makes it simple for residents to submit new registrants while managers stay on top of who is coming and going without having to be on-site.
While community mobile apps will never replace the human element that on-site teams provide, they have been a life save for associates during a very challenging time. They have allowed the automation of manual, in-person tasks so that teams could keep the business running and show up for the residents that count on them.