Rising Realty Q&A: Collaboratively Responding to a Global Pandemic
By Dennis Kaiser
Property operations have taken center stage as the commercial real estate industry shifts into reopening mode following the stay-at-home orders that have kept workers away from buildings. Owners and managers of buildings are assembling plans and teams to meet the challenges presented by the COVID-19 outbreak. To find out more about what that effort entails, Connect Media spoke with Rising Realty Partners’ SVP of Property Services, Kayce Hawk, who manages operations, strategic planning, impact initiatives, and business development of the firm’s property management assignments and teams.
Q: What are the biggest challenges facing properties and landlords right now?
A: Responding to a global pandemic of a novel virus is uncharted territory for our industry. We have halted our economy for public health reasons and every industry is feeling the impacts. The biggest challenges we face are: 1) Managing relief requests from our tenants; 2) Developing individualized plans for each building to welcome tenants back when restrictions end; 3) and maintaining a safe and healthy environment for our building personnel at this time. All of these factors — and of course securing rent payments — will impact cash flow in the short and long-term and must be managed.
Q: What are the first steps landlords can take to overcome these challenges?
A: There is no easy fix. But we can get ahead and start planning to successfully navigate these uncharted waters. At our firm, we immediately created an internal property task force to brainstorm solutions and methods of resolution, especially managing property operations and reducing the risk of viral spread when tenants return to work.
When planning to update building layouts and space, landlords and property teams must look at how tenants and visitors interact with their property and how those interactions will need to shift, at least temporarily. Obviously, evaluating common areas and reducing and/or eliminating the risk on high-touch zones, like elevator buttons, door handles or sign-in screens, is important. Reducing the amount of people that are in each elevator is another area to take into consideration.
At Rising, we have worked closely with our partners to create a streamlined approach to handle requests to defer rent payments. It’s very important for landlords and property managers to be empathetic. As landlords, we have to find the balance between empathizing and working with our tenants, while also documenting and reserving landlord rights per the lease. It’s a fine line to walk, but we are aiming to strike the balance between the two. Our goal is to always remain calm, and speak with partners and lenders to build individualized and creative solutions to ensure that all parties’ are satisfied with the outcome. We have a responsibility to our partners, but want to put our tenants in a position to succeed.
Finally, landlords need to work together, and I have honestly seen a lot of that happening. The amount of collaboration and information sharing between property owners right now is amazing. There is a collective desire to mitigate the impact of this pandemic, and we are sharing and strategizing together.
Q: Rising is willing to partner with and help any commercial property owner who needs it at this time. What does that entail?
A: As I mentioned, we are collaborating with many landlords on best practices. By reaching out to our friends in the industry and our fellow team members, we are compiling best in practice strategies and processes to prepare for a returning workforce.
It’s important to ensure that we not only maintain our own assets but the assets around us. Whether it’s a simple question about value-add strategies in the midst of a pandemic, property technology, or how to handle rent relief requests. We understand that each asset is unique and requires a unique approach and strategy to be successful.
For many landlords, making updates that require investing in temporary or permanent modifications to mitigate risk of viral spread, are time-consuming and require substantial research. We can share the tactics and strategies that we have created which should help our colleagues within the industry to better tackle these difficult decisions. Solutions can range from low or no cost operational changes to full scale installations, such as plexiglass protective guards at security consoles. We are able to evaluate each building’s individual operations and make impactful and sensible recommendations.
We welcome inquiries from other property owners where we can share some of our strategies to approach these uncertain times.
*Pictured Rising Realty’s CalEdison Building in Downtown Los Angeles
For comments, questions or concerns, please contact Dennis Kaiser