The below list of considerations and practices for multi-family operators has been developed based on a survey of protocols and procedures provided to us by clients and other sources, including the publicly available public resources listed below. It is intended to be a source of information as to how multi-family operators in various jurisdictions are responding to COVID-19.
Federal, state and local laws and regulations are not addressed below, but should be considered when developing COVID-19 response plans, including continued compliance with fair housing and ADA.
- Develop and adhere to a COVID-19 plan consistent with U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations. Such recommendations may be found here.
- To the extent existing protocols may be interpreted to cover COVID-19, ensure such protocols are being met.
- Document adherence to the COVID-19 plan.
- Provide tenants and staff with regular updates regarding the COVID-19 plan and its implementation, including appropriate contact information.
- Identify websites where state, local and federal health departments and officials are providing public updates on current recommendations and orders on COVID-19. At least on a daily basis, monitor such websites for revised public policy recommendations and obligations. Update the COVID-19 plan based on evolving guidance.
- Monitor and adhere to local and state instructions regarding evictions. Cities including Seattle, San Francisco, and New York have temporarily suspended evictions to support tenants who have been impacted by COVID-19 and cannot pay rent.
- Develop a plan for potential staffing shortages as a result of employee unavailability or government restrictions. Relevant considerations may be implementing online leasing and prioritizing online rent payment or planning in advance how to operate a facility with limited staff, e.g., reassigning staff to critical functions, suspending non-critical building services, and involving tenants on a volunteer basis with package distribution, trash collection and other essential functions. Consider setting up remote work systems for staff with a skeleton staff on-site for necessary in-person tasks.
- Modify existing protocols regarding package collection and distribution to enable social distancing. A variety of options are being utilized, including stopping any direct delivery to apartments by staff or outside delivery personnel, staggering when tenants can collect packages, altering where packages are kept, requiring tenants to call ahead to collect packages, and placing packages outside of staff offices for collection.
- Suspend non-emergency, non-critical repair work to support social distancing policy objectives.
- Increase cleaning and disinfection of common areas and entryways, including commonly touched elements such as door handles, elevator buttons, turnstiles, and ensure staff are properly instructed on how to conduct such cleaning and disinfection.
- Ensure sufficiency of supply of cleaning materials and other essential maintenance products and anticipate interruption. Identify alternative suppliers and consider placing supply orders in advance. Manage cleaning protocols based on the availability of cleaning supplies.
- Close or limit access by tenants and visitors to common areas, including gyms, pools, playgrounds and lounge facilities. Cancel and refund, as applicable, any private rentals of common areas.
- Provide hand sanitizer dispensers or sanitizing wipes for tenant use at entryways, and consider providing such items in common areas, hallways, or by elevators.
- Post guidance to tenants and staff on proper handwashing, basic hygiene and respiratory etiquette, particularly in any open gym facilities. The CDC has provided printable guidance: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/communication/factsheets.html.
- Request tenants are conscious of noise, as their neighbors may be working from home and to avoid common areas/remain in their units as much as possible if they are exhibiting any signs of illness.
- Review and adhere to U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards and directives related to worker exposure to COVID-19, available here.
- Instruct staff that if they are ill or are caring for a sick family member, they should remain at home.
- Consider modifying any staff travel commitments to reduce staff exposure. Advise staff who are traveling to notify management of such plans and to avoid travel to high risk areas, including China and Europe.
- Request tenants limit invitations to visitors and consider the health status of visitors prior to inviting them to the building.
- Consider modifying the number of entryways available or limiting access to only tenants. Consider modifying methods of entry to reduce touch areas, i.e., keeping internal doors open during the day.
- Cancel or modify open houses of apartments for rent or sale. Limit showings to appointment-only to avoid large groups of people.
- Consider creating a list of elderly tenants and other tenants with limited assistance in order to arrange wellness checks and ongoing outreach to offer assistance.
- If staff learns of a confirmed COVID-19 case, consult with local department of health and counsel with regard to next steps and compliance with medical and other privacy laws. Consider actions that can support self-quarantine, e.g., facilitating providing basic supplies to a quarantined individual to prevent any breaches of the quarantine.
- For senior living, limit social gatherings to groups of no more than 10 people. For nursing homes, long-term care facilities, independent and assisted living, recommend the avoidance of visitation and consider curtailing such visitation except in cases of critical assistance and end of life.
Please note that this is a list of market responses, based on a survey of clients and industry web sites, and not legal advice. We also note that, depending on evolving public policy, these considerations may change in the coming days.
- Ropes & Gray LLP:
- Institute of Real Estate Management:
- National Multifamily Housing Council:
- National Apartment Association:
- Washington Multi-Family Housing Association:
- NYC Health Department:
- California Department of Public Health:
- Society for Human Resource Management:
Stay Up To Date with Ropes & Gray
Ropes & Gray attorneys provide timely analysis on legal developments, court decisions and changes in legislation and regulations.
Stay in the loop with all things Ropes & Gray, and find out more about our people, culture, initiatives and everything that’s happening.
We regularly notify our clients and contacts of significant legal developments, news, webinars and teleconferences that affect their industries.