What does it mean to keep tenants happy during COVID-19?

For a company like Culmen, known for keeping tenants happy, helping businesses in the time of COVID-19, is essential work, to help companies stay afloat throughout uncertain time. 

The role of property managers in keeping properties clean and safe has become even more essential in this time.

Culmen Real Estate Services, classified as an essential business, has been working throughout the global pandemic to ensure properties are open and functioning for businesses that need to stay open and optimistic and that for properties where the majority of tenants are working from home or not at all right now, that the property is prepared to welcome them back and support operations when they are. 

“It’s times like these when our property management plus philosophy is really put to the test,” said CEO Ed Blake. “We have a real opportunity to show our clients the difference here and support them all through this process the best we know how.”

Blake said the Culmen team has been spending a lot of time on the phone during COVID-19, talking to tenants, other landlords, professional organizations and doing substantial additional research to understand how best to work with tenants in this environment. The group is also making a lot of calls to lenders and legislators.

And while nobody can see into the future, as a property and asset manager, it is a portion of Culmen’s role to try to.

Tenants are asking landlords for free rent, but the decisions are not as cut and dry as that and giving free rent across the table can be devastating for owners and investors, given that they still need to provide services and pay their bills.

“There’s a big difference for our owners between forgiveness and delay, and our work is to help them navigate the choices and still be supportive to tenants facing extremely uncertain times,” Blake said, adding that the Paycheck Protection Program added substantial relief for those businesses who received the funds, because some of that money is forgivable for rent repayment.

Culmen’s portfolio of properties is spread between office, medical and retail, all of which have their own unique challenges right now. For some, it has meant navigating the nuances of negotiations and providing financial relief and security, while for others it has meant using the time when properties are vacant to save money on needed repairs, renovations and maintenance. It all has meant navigating a plan no one saw coming a few months ago.

The biggest struggle, Blake said, is retail, where for their property on Brown Street, for example, restaurateurs and retail shop owners, still don’t know when and how they are going to reopen and what their business might look like when it does. 

For medical properties, some of which have remained essential and some have been essentially vacant, during the pandemic crisis, that work looks a little different, ensuring properties are not just business as usual but also prepared for influx of patients, or making sure the building is exquisitely clean, sanitized and well kept to eliminate further complications. 

Office users still offer another mixed bag for Culmen. Many have gone to a work-from-home model, but Culmen is working to make sure offices are ready for when people start returning to work. Making sure there are industrial sanitizers at buildings, superior clean offices and enough room for floorplans that allow for social distancing. 

Keeping tenants happy right now means something different than it did for Culmen a few months ago, but it is a challenge that the group is up for. Their combined experience and decades of finding solutions has prepared the team for an open-minded approach to navigating businesses through this in a way that leaves everyone feeling optimistic for the future.