3 ways residential maintenance has changed because of COVID-19

Emily Spicklemire

Property maintenance teams are no strangers to crisis situations, but 2020 brought on challenges that no one ever could have anticipated. Here are three ways that residential maintenance has changed because of the COVID-19 pandemic:

1. Home maintenance needs are increasing

People are spending a lot of time at home this year. The pandemic sent a tidal wave of workers out of the office—many of which continue to work remotely eight months later. Stay-at-home orders across the country also shuttered many non-essential businesses and limited restaurants to take-out only, meaning that leisure time largely moved home as well.

The increased time spent at home can translate to accelerated wear and tear on major and minor assets, including HVAC units and appliances. Additionally, issues that residents may have considered minor and deferrable can quickly seem much more pressing when they have to encounter them 24 hours a day.

The numbers are there to back it up: SMS Assist residential customers have seen a 3 percent increase in work orders from 2019 to 2020 in the six-month period of April through October.

2. A deep provider bench can help keep your properties running

Not all technicians will be able to perform service in a higher-risk situation. Providers may have personal health risks, or they may live with high-risk individuals. It’s important to understand which of your providers are willing and able, equipped with personal protective equipment, to take on essential work in homes where there have been symptoms or a case of COVID-19.

Additionally, many organizations had to make the hard choices to reduce or eliminate their in-house maintenance teams.

However, you know that there is still work to be done. Working with a maintenance partner expands your pool of provider resources and is a way to keep wrenches turning without the overhead of a full-time facilities staff.

If you work with a partner, ensure there is a system to understand what providers have capacity challenges due to COVID-19, so that you can enable load balancing of provider resources. Regularly updating systems with real-time tracking into any COVID symptoms or diagnosed cases also allows for continuation of a normal workflow and completion of business, as you can note which providers to re-engage following a two week window.

3. Processes keep residents and technicians safe

The health of staff, partners, and residents should always be top-of mind. In the months since COVID-19 emerged in the United States, many people have made an effort to limit errands and have drastically limited their social contacts outside of the home.

Letting a provider into their house to repair essential equipment requires a deeper level of trust—from both parties—than it did a year ago. Developing a process ensures you’re doing everything you can to keep everyone healthy after the service.

Some options include implementing pre-service health questionnaires for both residents and technicians, asking residents and requiring technicians to wear masks, maintain as much distance as possible, and wash their hands, as well as sanitizing high-touch surfaces like doorknobs before and after a service visit.

Defining a system for maintenance priority levels also keeps residents and providers safe by limiting contact. You may decide to defer all repairs except essential, quality of life equipment, or bundle smaller repairs together. Establishing and adhering to systems that keep residents and technicians as safe as possible is essential for success in the new normal.