The COVID-19 crisis has changed the way we live, and for many people, that means upholding the practice of social distancing -- something that's fairly easy to do in a standalone house but much less so in an apartment building.
If you own an apartment building, it's your duty as a landlord to keep your tenants safe, and while you can't forbid them from using shared spaces like elevators or accessing their mailboxes, you can take certain steps to enforce social distancing on the premises -- namely, by closing off amenities that aren't essential. These include, but may not be limited to, things like onsite gyms, swimming pools, hot tubs, playgrounds, or rooftop decks.
The question is: Should you compensate your tenants because these amenities aren't available right now? And if so, how?
Do your tenants deserve to be compensated?
When certain building amenities aren't available for periods of time because they're undergoing repairs, some degree of compensation may be in order. After all, if your tenants agreed to pay a premium to live in a building with swimming pool access, and that pool isn't available for a solid month, they certainly have a right to complain and demand some level of compensation.
But that's not the situation we're in. Right now, closing off amenities isn't something you're doing as a landlord because you don't want to spring for repairs or are dragging your feet. Rather, you're following the advice of public health officials who are urging people to stay away from each other, and since you probably can't trust your tenants to take turns using the gym or pool, closing off these features is a matter of safety and the smart thing to do. As such, it'll be hard for your tenants to make the argument that they deserve compensation for absent amenities.
How might you compensate them?
That said, you may choose to compensate them as a gesture of goodwill, and the easiest way to do so is to offer a temporary reduction in rent, if that's something you can absorb financially.
Other options? Add amenities to make up for the ones that have temporarily been taken away. For example, you could sign up for building-wide internet service that you manage and give your tenants free access. That way, they won't have to pay for internet service out of pocket. You could also stick a gift card in each tenant's mailbox for a local eatery that delivers as a thank-you for bearing with the changes you feel compelled to implement.
At a time like this, a little kindness on your part, if you can afford it, could go a long way -- and help you secure a reputation as a trusted landlord who actually cares about his or her tenants.
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