Chris Costa, president and CEO of Knapp properties

Managers of some Central Iowa apartment buildings are sharing ideas on how best to operate during the coronavirus outbreak while serving tenants, keeping workers safe and leasing units, said Chris Costa, president and CEO of Knapp properties.

“We’re trying to talk through best practices and challenges that we’re running into,” said Costa (pictured). “There’s been a groupthink solution to things, and that’s been very welcome.”

Among the issues discussed is showing apartments to perspective tenants while current tenants still occupy the unit. Costa said Knapp Properties and others decided not to show units that are occupied.

“You don’t have any idea of the health of people walking through the unit or those who occupy the apartment,” he said. “We’ve discontinued the practice.”

Social distancing is a crucial public health intervention that doctors and other health care experts say can dramatically curb the transmission of COVID-19. Iowa
Gov. Kim Reynolds this week mandated the closure of restaurants, gyms and other places and limited public gatherings to 10 or fewer people.

Costa said managers of apartment buildings and commercial properties are also working to stem the spread of the highly infectious respiratory disease.

Unoccupied units will continue to be shown to prospective tenants, but virtual tours of the apartments will also be offered, he said.

In addition, Knapp Properties will only conduct emergency maintenance at occupied apartments, Costa said.

“We’ve initiated an edict that unless its an emergency situation, we’re not going to enter apartment units for the next 14 to 30 days,” he said. “If there’s a leak of gas or water or there’s a fire safety or life issue, we’ll take the proper precautions before sending people in. If you’ve got a light bulb out, you’re on your own.”

Knapp Properties and other commercial real estate brokers are allowing employees to work at home and conducting virtual meetings. Properties are being shown to clients both in person or virtually, Costa said.

“People are using common sense,” he said.

Kurt Mumm, president and CEO of Cushman & Wakefield Iowa Commercial Advisors, said his firm is taking similar steps.

“We’ve had several meetings scheduled with larger corporate clients that were going to fly in for meetings and tours,” Mumm said. “Those are all being conducted online now with virtual presentations.”

In a statement, Hubbell Realty Co. said it is “moving forward with business while limiting face-to-face interaction by utilizing video conferencing and tours, conference calls and other telecommunication options. Like many local businesses, we’re actively monitoring COVID-19 and have taken the necessary precautions outlined by the CDC and state health departments in order to keep our associates and customers safe.”