The month of May is a time of reopening for the state of Kentucky. The Governor has announced several re-openings over the next month.
- May 11 – Manufacturing, construction, car/boat dealerships, professional services, horse racing, and pet grooming/boarding
- May 20 – Churches and retail stores
- May 22 - Restaurants, indoors at 33%, unlimited outdoors
- May 25 – Barber shops and salons, social gatherings of up to 10 people
- June 1 - Gyms and movie theaters
- June 11 - Campgrounds
- June 15 - Day cares and youth sports
So, May 11 is the restart date for the first wave of reopenings, and it’s also the start date for certain new requirements for business that are re-opening AND those that have been open. The Governor has outlined certain Minimum Requirements that ALL businesses must meet in order to remain open. To read the requirements in their entirety, click here - but I've listed them almost verbatim below.
Most property management offices have remained open to some degree, as they were deemed to be essential businesses by the Governor’s March 25 Executive Order. Still, if you are to remain open, these are the requirements the Governor has set forth:
- Continue telework where possible. Businesses should operate via phone or Internet to the greatest extent practicable. Employees who are able to perform their job duties via telework (phone or Internet) must continue to telework.
- Phased return to work. Businesses are encouraged to implement a phased return to work, including generous telework, sick leave, and family leave policies for those employees who are not able to come into work due to illness, taking care of a family member(s), or lack of childcare options. Businesses must ensure that no more than 50% of employees are physically present in the office on any given day. UPDATE: The Governor's Office has confirmed that the 50% staffing requirement does NOT apply to property management offices.
- Enforce social distancing. Businesses must ensure that employees who are not able to telework and must be physically present at the office remain a minimum of six (6) feet away from all other employees and customers unless closer interaction is absolutely required to perform their job duties (e.g., health care examinations).
- Limit face-to-face interaction. Businesses must ensure that employees minimize face-to-face contact with one another and with customers to the greatest extent practicable. Meetings should be conducted via telephone or Internet if possible. Businesses should ensure that employees use digital files rather than paper formats (e.g., documentation, invoices, inspections, forms, agendas) to the greatest extent practicable.
For apartment folks, that means that you still want to use electronic signatures as much as possible on documents.
- Universal masks and any other necessary PPE.
Universal Employee Masks: Businesses must ensure, to the greatest extent practicable, that their employees wear a cloth mask (a surgical or N95 mask is not required) for any interactions between co-workers or while in common travel areas of the office (e.g., hallways, conference rooms, bathrooms, entries and exits). Employees are not required to wear face masks while alone in personal offices or if doing so would pose a serious threat to their health or safety.
Employers shall provide PPE at no cost to employees. A business should offer instruction on proper use of masks and PPE. CDC guidelines on proper use of PPE can be found at this link.
Encourage Customers to Mask: Businesses should encourage customers to wear masks, which the business may provide. A business may refuse to serve any customer who is not wearing a mask.
Access to Gloves: Businesses must ensure that employees whose job duties include touching items often touched by others (e.g., credit cards/cash, paper, computers) wear gloves that are regularly replaced.
- Adequate Hand Sanitizer and Encouraging Hand Washing. Businesses must supply adequate hand sanitizer (60% alcohol content or higher) for both employees and customers and ensure that it is made available near high-traffic and high-touch areas (e.g., doors or door handles). Businesses must also encourage routine and consistent hand washing for employees and customers.
- Restrict Common Areas. Businesses must, to the greatest extent practicable, restrict common areas such as lobbies, waiting rooms, break rooms, smoking areas, lunch rooms, and concession areas to maximize social distancing and reduce congregating. Businesses should, to the greatest extent practicable, modify the office’s traffic flow to minimize contacts between employees.
- Proper sanitation. Businesses must sanitize frequently touched surfaces and areas a minimum of twice daily (e.g., door knobs, credit card machines, shared computers). Businesses should ensure that offices and workstations are properly cleaned and ventilated. When they have identified an employee who has COVID-19 or the associated symptoms, businesses must further ensure that they immediately restrict access to contaminated areas and post signage and adequately clean impacted areas. Any contaminated area should be off-limits to all but essential personnel for a minimum of 24 hours if practicable.
- Conduct daily temperature/health checks. Businesses must require employees to undergo daily temperature and health checks. These checks may be either self-administered or administered by the business prior to workplace entry. Self-administered temperature and health checks may performed at home. The CDC states that a fever for COVID-19 purposes is any temperature at 100.4 degrees or higher.
If one of your employees is sick, instruct them to get tested and to quarantine at home if any illness is detected. This includes employees that passed a temperature and health check prior to reporting to work but got sick during the the day.
- Create a testing plan. Businesses must ensure that any employee with COVID-19 symptoms is tested by a health care provider immediately. Businesses must ensure that employees are trained on how to isolate individuals with suspected or confirmed COVID19 and how to report possible cases. If an employee tests positive, the business must immediately notify the local public health department and provide the employee’s information along with the information of other employees or customers with whom the COVID-19 positive employee came in contact.
- Make special accommodations. Businesses must, to the greatest extent practicable, make special accommodations for employees and customers at higher risk for severe illness. Individuals in these high-risk categories have been identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – further information is available by clicking here.
- Designate a “Healthy at Work” Officer. Businesses must ensure that an employee is designated as its Healthy at Work Officer. This individual will be responsible for the business’s compliance with this guidance and any other guidance provided. Businesses should allow for employees to identify and communicate potential improvements and/or concerns to the Healthy at Work designated Officer or management.
- Educate and Train Employees. Businesses must educate and train all individuals, including employees, temporary employees, contractors, vendors, customers, etc., regarding the Healthy at Work protocols. This training must be offered during scheduled work times at no cost to the employee. Businesses should ensure that appropriate signage is posted throughout the office space to inform employees and customers about good hygiene and new office practices
- Contact Tracing. Businesses must ensure that managers and employees participate in contact tracing if an employee tests positive. This includes answering questions from public health officials and completing the Contact Tracing Form. Businesses must ensure that managers and employees have access to this form and are trained how to accurately complete it.
So, these are the steps we need to implement in order to keep our offices open. What’s this mean for our amenities and other common areas?
- Fitness Centers – as businesses, commercial gyms are not allowed to open this month. So, it’s probably wise to follow the Governor’s guidelines and hold off on opening your fitness centers until June 1.
- Business centers – I think you could open these back up under the same Guidelines as your leasing office. Make sure you only allow enough people at one time as can safely maintain social distancing guidelines. Make sure you’re using your cleaning and disinfectant protocols on the surfaces at least twice a day.
- Playgrounds – This is the one that I have the most trouble with. Playgrounds are outdoors and are primarily used by the least vulnerable segment of the population: kids. While metal surfaces may contain the virus for a longer period of time, wood surfaces do not seem to. So, it really seems to me that playgrounds should be open and people should be given the option of using them.
But that doesn’t seem to be the Governor's thinking on the issue. Campgrounds and most public playgrounds remain closed by city order in most places. So, it’s probably the safest play to keep your playgrounds closed right now. But with warm weather at our doors and most youth activities being cancelled, that’s a tough ask for parents at rental properties.
- Basketball courts – It’s pretty hard to play basketball while maintain social distancing, so these probably need to stay closed.
- Tennis courts – This is another tough one, as it’s an outdoor activity that allows for social distancing and minimal contact of the same surface. Most cities have extended their closures of these areas publicly, so it’s probably best to follow their guidance.
- Pools – Public pools, including those at apartment communities, are not allowed to be opened yet, per the Governor’s instructions. Public pools in Lexington, Covington, and Paducah will not open at all this summer. It is not yet clear whether that order will apply to apartment communities. So, there’s a possibility that your apartment community pool could open later in the summer, but it’s doubtful at this point.
So, for the month of May, we can keep our offices open if we follow the new Minimum Requirements, and I think we can probably open our business centers or computer rooms. Beyond that, I don’t think many of our amenities can be reopened until June. As with most things thus far, it's a fluid situation. I'll give further guidance as it is received.
I can tell you that a Task Force has been created to create a plan for opening the courts, so I’m extremely hopeful that things will open up as scheduled on June 1. That task force is meeting today. This morning I spoke with a member of the Task Force and corresponded with our local judges to voice our concerns on getting the courts opened back up and the issues related to evictions.
I’ll have a new video and post next week on one very important thing you need to be doing right now to make sure you’re ready to file an eviction as soon as possible, so be on the lookout for that.
Domestic Violence Webinar
On May 19 I’m doing a webinar on Kentucky’s Domestic Violence Law. A couple of years ago the state of Kentucky basically designated certain victims of Domestic Violence as a new protected class under Fair Housing law. The law gave these victims certain new rights, but it also created a few new remedies for landlords. I’m going to discuss all the details in the webinar, so get signed up. It will be an excellent value. Click here or here for information or to register.
Notice for Difficult Tenants
Also, if you have tenants who think they don't have to pay their rent, you need one of my COVID-19 Rent Notices that clarifies their obligations under the Governor's Executive Order. They're a great value at $100.00. Shoot me an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org if you're interested.
That’s it for today. May’s initial rent numbers will come out tomorrow, so we’ll know a bit more about how things are looking. If you need help with any of this stuff, reach out to your friendly neighborhood attorney.