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How Covid-19 is Affecting Apartment Turns' Timetables and PPE Maintenance Supply Inventories

How Covid-19 is Affecting Apartment Turns' Timetables and PPE Maintenance Supply Inventories

How Covid-19 is Affecting Apartment Turns' Timetables and PPE Maintenance Supply Inventories

The lines were blurring for some apartment communities when it came to defining “emergency” maintenance work orders based on Covid-19 safety protocols. But with more and more states relaxing some of their rules, apartment communities have expanded their own policies.

“Initially, we only performed emergency work orders based on the definition in our emergency SOPs, but those SOPs are being adjusted,” says Chris Lincoln, Regional Maintenance Manager, Greystar, East. “Given that our residents are pretty much staying home all day, every day, things like the clogged toilet in the second bathroom now rises in the level of importance.

“We’ve expanded our definition to include all bathrooms -- regardless of how many there are -- as well as clogged sinks, etc. We’ve established procedures for providing residents with routine replacement items such as air filters, water filters, light bulbs, etc., and will walk them through replacement over a voice phone call or Facetime. We’ve created a number of resident-facing YouTube-style videos for basic repairs such as breaker reset and drain clearing through use of a ‘Zip-it’-type tool.”

Pinnacle’s COO Larry Goodman says, at Covid-19’s onset and the constantly evolving information, his vacancy turn policy was to wait six days prior to entering an apartment home, given the limited PPEs available and our team members’ well-being.

“Without knowing the health status of residents vacating the units, we created a metric wherein we multiplied three days by a 2x safety factor to arrive at six days prior to entering. If the virus has been present in the unit, it should no longer be viable after that time.”

About a week ago, Goodman said, “In some parts of the country where pandemic levels allow for re-openings with caution, our vacancy turn wait has been lowered to four days. This is still one day longer than the virus could potentially live on a surface, according to the study.”

Terrence Kelley, Executive Vice President for Edgewood and Vantage Properties, says Covid-19 has not significantly impacted the timetable for unit turns at his communities.

“This is due to our expert dedicated maintenance teams and longstanding relationships with our vendor partners, that are able to provide turn services, while adhering to CDC guidance and best practices.

Taking Turns

“At Edgewood, we have implemented strategies to best protect our residents and staff. We utilize tools such as mobile facilities, which allow maintenance teams to receive service requests for essential work and unit turns directly to a mobile device, as well as other practices to minimize person to person interactions.

“All of our vendor partners, prior to performing any work at our communities, are required to certify that they have and continue to screen their employees, ensure use of PPE and adhere to continuous disinfecting protocols.”

Kelley says each community has been provided with touchless thermometers to be used in concert with Covid-19 exposure screening questions to screen team members prior to them beginning work at the site each day.

Lincoln says that at Greystar, the majority of his properties still utilize vendor cleaning services for vacant turns.

“Without suspicion of a positive infection, it’s been business as usual,” he says. “If we have confirmation -- or cause to believe – that there is infection present, we notify our vendor partners and have them work within their internal protocols. Realistically, CDC guidelines do not require a significant adjustment to typical procedures, provided the appropriate chemicals are used.”

Lincoln says wearing PPEs are a given for his team. “We are wearing basic face coverings,” he says. “As for gloves, that is being left up to the individual communities. The important thing, for fair housing, is that whatever you do or wear for one unit, you have to apply consistently for all of your units.”

PPE Supply Costs Stabilizing

Lincoln says that “early on, we were able to leverage a relationship with one of our international investment partners to obtain a number of simple paper-style masks to distribute to all of our properties across the country.

“N95 masks have been impossible to obtain since the initial outbreak, but with the CDC guideline that they aren’t necessary for any outside of close proximity health care workers, it hasn’t been something we’ve actively pursued. Our corporate teams have worked diligently to source sanitizers and disinfectants from unconventional sources; local distilleries, local chemical manufacturers, etc.

He says he’s not had difficulty acquiring gloves, and some products have become easier to obtain in the last week or two, but others -- such as hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes – are expected to remain scarce for the foreseeable future.

Kelley says his operational leadership conducts daily calls with their teams to assess staffing needs and supply burn rates. This compiled information includes a list of supplies in stock and projected needs.

Lincoln says he’s noticed some higher levels of anxiety among his maintenance techs.

“There’s a lot of ‘noise’ out there on the Internet and social media, and many of them get their news that way. It can be unnerving.

“When the Covid-19 situation first started, we’d have weekly conference calls with our teams to see how they are doing. Now, we’re having them less frequently, as major updates to protocols are being made less often. Additional efforts are being made to contact Supervisors 1-on-1 through Facetime or Voice calls, as time allows, to gauge team member status and help improve morale.”

Paul Bergeron is a freelance reporter who covers property management. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or check out his Thought Leadership Today posts on LinkedIn.


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