Reopening Amenities: What to Know

By Alyssa Laffitte on June 24, 2020

As local governments start to take control of the COVID-19 health situation, you might be considering reopening your rental property’s amenities. After all, your tenants have probably not been able to use them for months! But before you reopen your building’s amenities, you need to make sure they are safe and meet the recommendations. In this article, we will discuss how to safely reopen amenities.

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Research the situation in your area

The health situation is rapidly changing and is different in different areas. For this reason, it’s important that you educate yourself on the situation in your area. Research will also show you what you need to do to make your amenities safe for your tenants. It’s a good place to start forming your reopening plans.

Your local government’s website

The first resource you should visit is your state government’s or city government’s website. There, you will likely find information about the status of the current health situation, such as the number of cases and death rates. This will help you gauge whether it is a good idea to reopen now or later. (For example, if cases are rising in your area, it might not be the appropriate time to reopen the amenities; you should wait a little bit longer. However, if cases are dropping, you can proceed with the reopening, as long as you take appropriate precautions.) On these websites, there should be helpful information about where and how to get tested as well. You will also find information about the legal guidelines your local government requires you, as a landlord, to follow (surely, you want your business to follow your local government’s rules!). For example, your local government might not allow indoor dining. If any of your amenities involve indoor dining, you will need to modify it to outdoor dining. Visiting both your state’s and city’s official websites will show you the measures you need to take to reopen your amenities.

The CDC website

Another good resource for health information is the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website. The CDC website will also list suggestions for ways to keep your business and amenities safe. It will also educate you on COVID-19 itself. For example, it has a detailed list of symptoms of COVID-19 and on how to get tested for it. It even has guidelines to prevent you from getting sick and what to do if you do get sick. The CDC website is another helpful resource to help you gauge the health situation in your area and to guide you on how to reopen your amenities.

Promote social distancing and eliminating contact

When you reopen your amenities, you will need to set it up to promote social distancing and discourage people from having close contact with each other. You could do that by reducing the capacity of your amenities, adding social distancing markers on the floor, and modifying services so they occur with no personal contact.

Reducing capacity

To promote social distancing, you need to give people space. More specifically, people should not come within six feet of each other. This means you might need to limit the number of people using the amenities at one time (more on that later in the article!). It would also be a good idea to remove every other chair or to close off every other piece of gym equipment. This will encourage people to stay away from each other. Reducing the capacity of your building’s amenities will promote less contact with people, and thus, help reduce the spread of COVID-19 as you reopen the amenities.

Have an appointment system for people to use the amenities

To ensure that many people are not trying to use the amenities at the same time, you could set up an appointment system. For example, you can set up one-hour time blocks that people can reserve online. An appointment system will ensure that only a certain number of people are using the amenities at any given time. It’s also a good way for you to know how many people are using the amenities and when. You can take advantage of the off-peak hours and do some extra cleaning and disinfecting. An appointment system is a good way to promote social distancing as you consider reopening your building’s amenities to the tenants.

Add social distancing markers on the floor

Another way to promote social distancing is to put social distancing markers on the floor every six feet. These markers will help people stay away from each other. Direction markers, like arrows on the floor, could also be a good idea if your amenities have aisles and you don’t want people crossing each other.

Eliminate or reduce contact between people

Finally, if your amenities require people to have contact with each other, you need to find a way to eliminate or reduce that contact as much as you can. This goes for contact between employees and tenants, and between tenants. For example, use virtual options whenever you can, leave items at a tenant’s door (rather than knocking on the door and handing the items to them directly). Also, discourage things like handshaking. Promoting social distancing and eliminating contact in your amenities will help you have a safe reopening.

Have everyone wear PPE

One way to slow down the spread of COVID-19 and keep your amenities safe as you reopen is to have everyone wear PPE. PPE, or personal protective equipment, includes items like masks and face shields that protect people from exposure to infection. Many local governments are requiring people to wear face coverings when they go out. To follow the rules of your local governments and the CDC, you should require everyone using your amenities to wear a mask. If everyone wears a mask, the amenities will be much safer.

Clean and disinfect high traffic areas often

In your amenities, it is likely that there are many “high traffic” and “high touch” areas where many people go through. For example, doorknobs, lockers, railings, entryways, and surfaces. To prevent the spread of COVID-19, you should have these areas in the amenities cleaned often. If you are using the appointment system I mentioned previously, you should also have these areas cleaned in between appointment times. Cleaning and disinfecting these areas will make your amenities safer.

Move things outdoors

It is known that COVID-19 spreads much less outdoors (as compared to indoors). Because of this, outdoor amenities will be safer than indoor ones. You can take advantage of this in a few ways. First, you can choose to open outdoor amenities before indoor ones (we’ll discuss the “phased reopening” approach later on in the article). For example, an outdoor basketball court or a grilling area can open before an indoor gym. Second, if you can, you should move amenities outdoors. Moving things outdoors will make amenities safer.

Close off areas where people tend to congregate

There are likely many areas in your amenities where people tend to congregate. For example, meeting rooms, business centers, eating areas, or anywhere there is abundant seating. To make your amenities safer, you should close off these areas. Closing off these areas will prevent people from congregating there, and thus, will reduce the spread of COVID-19 in your amenities.

Set up hand sanitizing stations in convenient locations

Frequent hand sanitizing and washing prevents the spread of COVID-19. To keep your amenities safe, you can set up hand sanitizing or handwashing stations throughout the building. Many cities have even set up outdoor hand washing and sanitizing stations. People will use them if you set them up in convenient locations. For example, at an entrance or exit. Promoting frequent hand washing and sanitizing will keep your amenities safe.

Set up health screenings

Keeping your amenities safe will require you to prevent sick people from entering them and encourage them to stay home instead. But before you can do this, you need to figure out who is sick. To detect someone who is sick, you will need to set up a health screening station before the entrance to your amenities. This station should have temperature checks and maybe a short questionnaire to ensure no one has been coughing or feeling short of breath. These health screenings will encourage people who are exhibiting symptoms to stay home.

Set a limit for the number of people in a single room

Continuing with the theme of social distancing, you should set a limit for the number of people that can be in a single room at one time. This limit will prevent large amounts of people from interacting with each other, and thus, will slow the spread of infection among people using the amenities.

Consider the “phased” approach

Many places are reopening using a “phased” approach. This means they are reopening only certain places, or allowing only safer alternatives until they see the health situation improving. You can consider doing the same thing. As I said before, you can start with only opening outdoor amenities with social distancing, health screenings, PPE, extra cleaning, and hand sanitizing stations. As the health situation improves, you start reopening certain indoor amenities with the same social distancing and health precautions. Eventually, you will be able to reopen all the amenities. A “phased” approach will make reopening your amenities safer.

Encourage your staff and tenants to monitor their health

As I said before, it’s important to identify those who are sick and encourage them to stay home. To help with this, you should encourage your staff and tenants to monitor their health every day. This way, they will not come to the amenities if they are exhibiting symptoms. Having everyone monitor their health will prevent sick people from entering the amenities and getting others sick.

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Clearly communicate the rules

Definitely, the amenities will look a little different when they reopen. You will need to help your tenants adjust to the changes. As you plan for the reopening of your amenities, you will need to clearly communicate the rules to your tenants. How will they know the rules if you don’t communicate with them? Here are some ways to communicate your new rules to your tenants.

Have a virtual meeting

You can hold a virtual meeting to discuss the reopening rules with your tenants. A simple PowerPoint presentation that outlines the rules will be sufficient. This option is good for giving people the chance to ask questions. However, if you have many people, some people might not be able to make it due to scheduling issues.

Send a detailed email

Instead of a virtual meeting, you can send a detailed email. The advantage of an email is that everyone will receive it and they can open it at their own convenience. Also, they will have the rules in writing that they can refer back to if they are confused. Having it in writing is beneficial for you, too, since you will have proof that you clearly notified the tenants of the new rules. The disadvantage of emails is that someone might think it’s spam and not look at it.

For the best results, you can consider doing both: hosting a virtual meeting and sending a detailed email discussing the reopening rules.

Set up signage in a prominent place

Once you have held a virtual meeting or sent a detailed email, you can also set up signs spelling out the rules. You should set up many signs around the reopened amenities to remind people what the rules are. It will be good for them to constantly be looking at signs about the rules. If you set up signs in prominent places in the amenities, people will be more likely to follow the rules.

Clearly, reopening amenities to the tenants will be a process that requires much planning and new procedures. You will likely need to implement many protective measures to keep the tenants safe as they come back to the amenities. Still, it will be worth it when the tenants can use the amenities safely.

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