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If you own a commercial real estate building, like a retail space or office building, odds are that you were forced to shut down during the spread of COVID-19. Now that many states are relaxing stay-at-home measures, many property owners are wondering how to go about helping their CRE tenants reopen.
If you're one of them, keep reading. We'll tell you what your responsibilities are as the building's owner and what you can do to keep yourself and your tenants safe while still remaining open for business.
Recommission the building
Whenever commercial buildings are shut down for more than a few days, they need to be recommissioned. Recommissioning is essentially the process of running and performing maintenance on all of the building's systems to ensure they're in working order before you allow for occupancy.
Since, as a commercial landlord, you likely employ a property management company, it may be best to have your property manager handle the physical operations, but here's an overview of what needs to be done:
- Do a dampness assessment to check for mold risk.
- Run the HVAC system for at least 48 to 72 hours and change all of the filters.
- Flush water through all points of use.
- Clean any water-using devices like water fountains or hot tubs.
- Test the electrical system from all points.
- Check the security system.
- Have the whole building properly cleaned.
Make any necessary changes to the property
The reality is that even though buildings can reopen, spending time in a workplace is going to look very different than it did before the virus started to spread. You may need to make some changes to your office building or retail space to make it more conducive to observing health and safety measures.
For example, if you own office space, you could install hand sanitizer dispensers in the common areas, opt for single-serving packages of food in the cafeteria, and mandate that your tenant asks their employees to sit at least six feet apart.
If, on the other hand, you own retail properties that are a collection of small businesses, you could ask your tenants to spread out their merchandise in the store layout, provide plexiglass barriers for all cash registers, and also put sanitation stations in any common areas.
Open the lines of communication with your tenants
Finally, as the landlord, you want to be sure to keep the lines of communication open with your tenants. On the one hand, social distancing measures are new to everyone. Your tenants and their employees may have questions about the new equipment and mandates that you've put in place.
On the other hand, be aware that some of your tenants may have trouble making rent until they have a chance to get up and running. Even though the CARES Act was supposed to provide relief for small businesses, many did not get the help they needed. You may be asked to provide a rent reduction until they can get some business in the door.
The bottom line
Retail landlords and those who have office tenants are both considered commercial landlords. As such, no matter which type of tenants you have, it's your responsibility to keep safety in mind when reopening during COVID-19. To that end, follow the tips above to ensure that you can reopen and restart your building operations as safely as possible.
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