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March 18, 2020

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Best Practices for Residential Property Managers – Before, During, and After a Tenancy

IREM ® headlines

IREM Updates on Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)

We continue to monitor the situation surrounding the Coronavirus and its impact on property managers, and have developed resources for members and property managers around the world to use as necessary in supporting tenants and residents in these uncertain times. For continued updates from IREM, bookmark the Coronavirus updates page for IREM’s official statement and new information about COVID-19.

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IREM Members Focus on NFIP, SAFE Act during Capitol Hill Visits

When IREM members went to Capitol Hill last week to advocate on behalf of the property management industry, their attention was on two key issues: reauthorization and reform of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and passage of the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act.

The SAFE Banking Act would create a safe harbor for federally insurance financial institutions to provide banking services for legitimate cannabis-related businesses. As long as cannabis remains a controlled substance under federal law, legitimate cannabis businesses in the 33 states that have legalized it or businesses that derive any income from them–including real estate–cannot work with federally-insured financial institutions due to anti-money laundering laws. This means many such businesses have to operate on a cash-only basis, creating difficulty in collecting taxes and enforcing regulations, and increasing safety risks to their communities. The SAFE Banking Act would resolve these issues.

With the House having passed the SAFE Act last September, IREM members focused their attention on the Senate, where the bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs.

Turning to NFIP, support for reauthorization and reform of this program is not new to IREM’s list of public policy priorities. To date, NFIP has been extended 17 times, even as IREM over a number of years has urged Congress toward its long-term reform and reauthorization. If not reauthorized, NFIP is set to expire September 30, 2020.

As they met with their Congressmen, IREM members advocated for backing of H.R. 3167, which would reauthorize the NFIP for five years, increase the program's mitigation tools and update its mapping scope and technology. IREM urged support for that bill with the long-term goal of eliminating the uncertainty that has surrounded the program for years and continuing to provide critical protections to homes and businesses throughout the country.

In an orientation the day before the Capitol Hill visits, IREM President-Elect Chip Watts, CPM®, CCIM, thanked the more than 50 IREM members who made the trip to Washington, DC, and conducted over 90 meetings with legislators and staff. He reminded them that “conducting face-to-face meetings with your members of Congress, or their staff, is the most effective way to educate and influence legislators on issues important to our industry.”

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Maneuvering Through Resident Lifecycles

A day in the life of a property manager is never the same as the one before or after it. Duties—negotiating a lease, fielding tenant requests (and, sometimes, complaints), juggling move-outs with move-ins—change, and along with them, the potential for problems that need solving. On March 25, join William Cannon, JD, Chair of Offit Kurman’s Landlord Representation Practice Group, for the webinar Best Practices for Residential Property Managers – Before, During and After a Tenancy, where he’ll provide tips to help property managers efficiently navigate tenant residencies, and help them address challenges they could face along the way.

Webinar objectives include:

  • Identify strategies for streamlining the leasing process, including touring, the application process, preparing and signing the lease, and the move in/move out form
  • Recognize opportunities to enhance resident relations, including collecting rent (filing suits for unpaid rent), reasonable accommodations, preventative maintenance, making repairs, dealing with an angry tenant, and correcting your mistakes
  • Determine guidelines for working with residents as tenancy ends, including early lease terminations, final walk-through inspection, security deposit return, and collection efforts

This webinar is free for IREM members and $99 for non-members. Find out more and register here.

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Industry headlines

Experiential Retail Was Brick and Mortar's Big Bet on the Future. Coronavirus Has Put That on Hold.
Forbes (03/15/20) Verdon, Joan

The coronavirus pandemic has impacted virtually every sector, most especially retail. For brick-and-mortar shopping malls, the pandemic has ushered in a fresh crisis to contend with on top of the rise of e-commerce. For the past 10 years, malls have leaned heavily on the theory that they can keep shoppers coming to stores by providing a unique experience unavailable online. In other words, malls transformed themselves into destinations, providing a unique social experience within a community. But Covid-19 has upended that, as public health officials urge -- and, in a growing number of cases, order -- people to stay home and avoid large public gatherings.

The first major shockwaves rippled across retail earlier this month, when the American Dream mall in New Jersey announced it would shut down at least through the end of March. American Dream is the first mall in the country to devote more square feet to experience than retail. It had several major events planned for this month, including an opening party for its Dreamworks-themed indoor water park and the official unveiling of its retail wing's first section. But it is not the only mall closing down because of the pandemic, and it won't be the last. Hudson Yards in New York City closed its sky-high glass observation deck only two days after its official opening. Meanwhile, Apple closed most of its stores worldwide.

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5 Things to Consider Before Starting a Lighting Upgrade
Buildings (03/12/20) Penny, Janelle

Property managers looking to complete a lighting overhaul do not have to be lighting experts, but they should keep several considerations in mind before embarking on their project. New lighting projects are usually driven by energy codes, wellness considerations, available daylight, and advances in lighting technology. But with the constantly evolving package of lighting options, it can be difficult to determine the right time to make an upgrade. If the LEDs are old, the existing lighting has some sort of deficiency. Or if the building is about to be renovated, it can be a good time to make the plunge and commit to a lighting upgrade.

There are five important considerations when making a lighting upgrade. First, property managers should choose the right infrastructure, selecting systems with software that is easy to upgrade so that the new project will not be outdated in a year. Second, building operators should double-check compatibility to guarantee that all pieces of the lighting system will work well together. Third, property managers should steel themselves to dole out whatever money is necessary and not cut corners. Fourth, property managers would be wise to embrace automation, which boosts convenience and reduces workloads. And fifth, building management should choose a customer-friendly manufacturer so that any problems down the road will be promptly dealt with.

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Redesigning Buildings to Halt Sickness' Spread
Banker & Tradesman (03/08/20) Adams, Steve

The Healthcare-Associated Infections Organization (HAIO), a Boston-based group, recently challenged teams of architects to design the perfect hospital room to reduce the risk that a patient recuperating there will contract an infection. Though there are obvious implications for future hospital design, the methods used by the architects could be expanded to office buildings, apartments, and more as the coronavirus continues to spread worldwide. The objective of the HAIO challenge was to eliminate places where pathogens can grow or germs can be spread. Participating architects introduced elements like automated self-opening and self-closing doors. They replaced curtains with tinted e-glass and pathogen-collecting carpets with solid floors. Cathleen Lange, a principal at the Boston-based architectural firm Shepley Bulfinch, said these elements could easily be replicated in commercial and residential settings, not just at hospitals. Lange said one of their strongest selling points is they making the building cleaning process easier.

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TFLiving Raises $4.8 Million in Bid to Provide Amenities for Apartment Complexes
Pymnts.com (03/09/20)

TFLiving has reportedly raised $4.8 million in its latest round of funding to bring amenities to commercial and residential spaces. Camber Creek and Courtside Ventures are two of the investors that reportedly participated in this latest round. TFLiving leverages technology to bring everything from massage therapy to yoga classes to dog-walking services to apartment managers and their residents. Its business model is similar to Uber's, in that apartment residents can sign up for classes or request services via an app. The company signs partnerships with apartment complexes that do not have amenities or want to supplement their existing amenities. If a building manager expresses interest, TFLiving visits the property and determines whether there is unused space that can be used to provide the amenities. The company also surveys residents to get an idea of what amenities are most desired there. In most cases, the apartment owner foots the bill for communal amenities, while residents pay for individual services like dog walking.

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Coronavirus Response: How Will Real Estate Markets Respond?
REJournals.com (03/13/20) Baker, Matt

With the ongoing coronavirus causing much uncertainty, a special Marcus & Millichap report points to recent history as an indicator for how long and how far reaching this market correction might be and its implications for commercial real estate. H1N1, SARS, and other recent pandemics also generated short-term market volatility, but the markets subsequently stabilized within three to six months on average. Entering this crisis, real estate supply and demand were largely in balance. Barring a devolution into a far worse worldwide health emergency, this should support real estate fundamentals and result in a fairly stable outlook for the sector in the second half of the year.

While the biggest real estate impact from the coronavirus will be in the hospitality sector, the retail sector is one asset class that definitely stands to see poor performance in the short term, too. According to the article's author, "the trend for more experiential retail that has buoyed restaurants, entertainment venues, fitness centers, and similar facilities may boomerang as the public avoids busy public spaces." In the short term, the pandemic will likely do little to drive down housing demand, resulting in a continued favorable rental environment. The office property sector should perform similarly over the next two to three quarters, with the still-healthy labor market likely to keep office demand stable.

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Strip Retail Centers Are Booming in Baton Rouge
Baton Rouge Business Report (03/11/20) Burkes, Caitie

Baton Rouge, La., is experiencing a strip shopping center boom, with many such properties offering an array of food, fitness, and retail for local residents. On Airline Highway, there are multiple strip centers in close proximity, attracting shoppers looking for a sit-down meal, quick food to go, or a good workout. But Airline Highway is not the only stretch of road in the greater Baton Rouge area to experience a boom in strip malls. Across the city, investors are embracing such centers, once an afterthought but now a premium retail opportunity as the popularity of larger malls continues to wane.

According to FactSet, share prices of strip-center real estate investment trusts (REITs) have increased by 8.6 percent over the past year. Strip shopping centers have persisted for a number of reasons. Online grocery shopping has become popular in some cities, but is not a widespread service nationally. Consequently, grocery stores anchoring strip malls have continued to perform well. Meanwhile, strip malls are attractive to retailers because there is a sense of convenience given that they are prominent and visible on major roads.

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Coronavirus: Thermal Scanners Installed in UAE Shopping Malls to Detect High Temperatures
Arabian Business (03/12/20) Gibbon, Gavin

The United Arab Emirates has installed airport-style thermal scanners at shopping malls and supermarkets as the coronavirus continues to disrupt everyday life. The scanners are designed to protect healthy shoppers and identify shoppers with fevers who may not know they need to seek medical care. If a thermal scanner flags a shopper as having a high temperature, mall staff will refuse entry to that shopper and redirect him/her to the nearest hospital. Malls have also stepped up their cleaning efforts, completing deep cleans of shopping carts, hand rails, elevator buttons, chairs, and elevators. Ahmed Al Khaja, CEO of Dubai Festivals and Retail Establishment, said the cleaning and temperature-scanning measures were put in place after meetings with business leaders and government officials. Al Khaja said the goal of these actions is to boost public security and keep malls, grocery stores, and retailers safe for shoppers.

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How to Build Sustainable, Healthy, and Profitable Office Buildings in 10 Simple Steps
ArchDaily (03/15/20) Niczki, Tamás

Architects and designers have in recent times approached new office building construction with three main focuses: occupant health and wellness, emissions and carbon footprints, and profitability. These designers have balanced the desire to erect environmentally sustainable buildings while keeping profitability in mind and minimizing the need for costly renovations or add-ons a few years down the road. Meanwhile, architects and designers have prioritized elements that boost wellness, as office buildings can have a big impact on occupants' health. There are 10 steps for architects and designers to ensure they're considering each factor and designing the optimal building. The first is optimizing a structural grid, which in turn will reduce the amount of structural materials in the building and help reduce the building's environmental footprint. Second, architects and designers should reduce construction materials by floor height selection, which also reduces waste and resource use.

Third, buildings should be designed with flexibility so that resources can be further minimized in the future. The fourth step, architects and designers should reduce operational energy by using a sustainable building envelope. Fifth, parking garages should be designed so they can be adapted for alternate uses. Sixth, areas that do not primarily serve as normal building operations should be minimized. Seventh, staircases should be differentiated and located towards the facade of the building. Eighth, layouts should be planned to encourage occupant motion, from one floor to another or across one floor, thus promoting activity. Ninth, there should be more communal areas, and these spaces should be clearly differentiated from working zones. Finally, biophilic elements should be incorporated into the building.

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Norwegian Cruise Line Headquarters in Miami-Dade County Taking Coronavirus Precautions
Local10.com (Fla.) (03/11/20) Anwer, Saira

Norwegian Cruise Line is taking precautions at its corporate headquarters in Northwest Miami-Dade County over coronavirus outbreak concerns. At the South Florida facility, the company has instituted a new protocol in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19. Starting this past week, headquarters employees have had their temperature checked and have been asked to clean up at a hand washing station or take a generous pump of hand sanitizer. Anyone with a high temperature has been asked not to enter the workplace. Journalist Saira Anwer watched as staffers in medical garb scanned foreheads and placed green wristbands on those building occupants who had already been checked and cleared for re-entry into the complex.

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Shopping Centers Get Their Share of Medical Tenants
Commercial Property Executive (02/27/20) Kalinoski, Gail

Medical and healthcare providers are increasingly setting up shop in unconventional locations, trying to meet patients where they live, work, and play. Christopher Bodnar, vice chairman of investment properties for U.S. healthcare capital markets at CBRE, said medical office buildings are moving to where population growth is occurring. "Ten years ago, the thought was the patient will come to us. Now that has reversed and we’re going to the patient," he remarked. In recent times, healthcare offices have opened up at the Mall of America in Minnesota and at Patriot Place and Life Time Center, both in Massachusetts. Bodnar said the embrace of retail settings makes financial sense for healthcare firms, pointing out that repurposing existing space can be half the cost of opening a new facility.

George Kimmerle, founding president & partner of Kimmerle Group, said healthcare centers are more often located in two or three-story buildings. They typically span 25,000 to 30,000 square feet per floor, Kimmerle noted, and could include over a dozen affiliated practices. Other industry experts said they expect to see healthcare continue to change in the months and years ahead. Danny Prosky, founding principal of American Healthcare Investors, predicted there will be more procedures performed at medical office buildings. Prosky acknowledged the rise of retail-based healthcare, but said he did not think such settings would ever top traditional medical office buildings.

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Sarasota Is a Top Destination for Renters With Pets
Sarasota Herald-Tribune (03/10/20) Finaldi, Laura

New data from Homes.com suggests that Sarasota, Fla., is a top destination for renters looking for pet-friendly apartments. The real estate listing website analyzed data from 75 cities across the country to determine whether they were pet-friendly. Sarasota ranked at No. 16 on the list. Homes.com reported that 44.91 percent of Sarasota apartments, condominiums, townhouses, and more are pet-friendly. Louisville, Ky., which ranked in at No. 1, boasted a 68.53 percent pet-friendly rate. Louisville's main advantage is its high number of pet resorts, boutiques, and retreats for canines and felines.

Homes.com said any of the cities on its list would be good destinations for pet owners, but asserted that cities with pet-friendly rates above 50 percent would be especially appealing. Tampa and Orlando joined Sarasota as Florida cities making the grade, with a 59.54 percent and 50.93 percent pet-friendly rate, respectively. The three cities on the list of pet-unfriendly destinations were Houston; New York City; and Worcester, Mass.

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Will Seattle at Last Take Action on Buildings That Can Kill When Earthquakes Hit? A New Push Is Afoot
Seattle Times (WA) (03/09/20) Beekman, Daniel; Gilbert, Daniel

Public officials in Seattle have for decades failed to follow through on promises to make it easier for old, brick buildings in the city to update and upgrade. These structures are a major cause for concern because of the likelihood they will sustain serious damage in the event of an earthquake. But some advocates now believe Seattle officials are getting closer to fulfilling the promise. Washington State is close to passing a state bill that would help building owners finance retrofits, and a coalition of architects, designers, conservationists, affordable-housing operators, and building owners are lobbying Seattle to make renovations mandated by law.

In many old Seattle buildings, the walls are not bolted to floors and ceilings, jeopardizing the safety and security of building occupants and the structural integrity of the building if a major earthquake should occur. City Council member Lisa Herbold and Mayor Jenny Durkan are working together to pass a city resolution mandating seismic retrofits, and Durkin's spokeswoman said there would be an update on those efforts "in the coming weeks." Previous attempts to mandate retrofits have failed. But Herbold said the city is "in a different place now" because officials have a good idea of how to help finance the retrofits. That could include some public funding or special loans.

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