This article originally appeared on Inman. See it here.
High-touch or low-touch, communications between landlords and residents are most valuable when there’s a solid relationship backing them
The rental market has been particularly hard hit by the pandemic, with renters more likely to have high-contact jobs that have seen some of the worst of the pandemic’s economic fallout.
During this uncertain time, many renters have relied on CARES Act relief measures or flexibility from property managers, making communication between property managers and their residents paramount as residents navigate the uncertainty of how to pay their next month of rent, among other new worries.
“We intentionally went lower tech in the last year, and we went higher touch,” Tony Julianelle, CEO of Atlas Real Estate, told Inman during a phone conversation. “If you think about it, someone who’s experiencing job loss and the distress that comes from that, the opportunity to feel cared for by their property manager is very real.”
In response to the pandemic, Atlas Real Estate, which operates an investment brokerage and property management company, decided to create a new position on its team called the “Resident Resource Manager.”
That individual was essentially dedicated to helping residents get access to relevant resources during the pandemic, including help on applying for unemployment and finding local nonprofits that provide housing assistance. They also sent notifications about actively hiring industries, explanations about the eviction moratorium and generally offered a listening ear.
“Honestly, it just gives us an opportunity,” Julianelle said. “A lot of stories came out of that of challenges that people were facing and their ability to just talk through them with someone.
“Think about it, you probably have someone in your life that you call when you just want to talk through [something], and that’s hard to do when you’re facing financial distress or a job loss. You need kind of a safe place to go and have that conversation. We intentionally made that not their property manager so that they weren’t talking about renegotiating leases and things like that.”
Julianelle explained that Atlas made the resident resource manager available to make on-demand phone appointments through a scheduling tool called Calendly and made sure residents knew about the new resource through regular texting and email newsletter communications.
But, Julianelle said, once a few residents started connecting with the resident resource manager, word traveled fast.
“What we found was, a lot of people were telling other residents in the building,” he said. “Like, ‘hey, I had a call with this person, it was amazing. You should call [or] you should email them and get the help you need.’ We found that to work well for us, and it fit our company culture and ethos really well.”