Smaller Multifamily Vendors Adapt to the New Normal A Tale of Two Companies

The COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing it necessitates have compelled the managing agents and boards of condo and co-op properties to adapt to a “new normal,” changing the way many ordinary tasks are executed, from package delivery to common area cleaning to holding meetings. As the situation has unfolded and evolved, The Cooperator has spoken with and written about how small buildings and associations are handling these everyday issues in self-managed and minimally-managed properties. But how are the small vendors who provide these services -- many of which are the kinds of small businesses most challenged and endangered by COVID-19 -- adapting and staying afloat? We spoke to the owners of two cleaning companies specializing in multifamily properties to see what has changed for them, what has stayed the same, and how they're faring in this profoundly altered business landscape. 

It's Up to You, New York

Rolando Velazco is the principal of Clean Habitat, a company based in Upper Manhattan that provides cleaning and light maintenance to residential co-op and condominium communities in New York City. He says that “While Clean Habitat has always strived to provide a clean environment for the people who live in our contracted properties, we have done two things specifically to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak: First and foremost, we’ve been focusing on cleaning spaces with high-touch surface areas -- such as handrails, mailboxes, intercoms, and laundry rooms -- with more frequency. All high-frequency touch point areas are now cleaned each time a Clean Habitat associate is on premises -- even if the associate is there just for trash removal.”

Secondly, Velazco says that the company has always used top quality cleaners and disinfectants, but now, “We are acutely attentive to CDC recommended products that are highly effective in killing coronaviruses. To that end, we are using more products that are of hospital grade.” He says that since his staff are the first line of defense, the company is also taking additional steps to protect them as well.

“We have always provided our ssociates with reusable gloves and a uniform consisting of T-shirts, long sleeved shirts, sweatshirts, and canvas bottoms. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, all staff have switched exclusively to disposable gloves. Once gloves are properly removed to minimize risk, they are promptly discarded. We have also provided all staff with eye protection in the form of goggles, as well as 3M P100 face masks for two reasons: to maintain a better level of protection from chemical odors that may be harmful when breathed in for prolonged periods of time, and to protect them and the residents of our properties from any airborne COVID-19 infection -- especially considering the time they are now spending indoors. And although any soap is effective against coronaviruses, we are now ensuring that antimicrobial hand soap is available to our staff in all of our maintenance rooms.”

Velazco says he is also in daily contact with his staff members to ensure that everyone is in good health. He advises employees to call the office immediately if they are experiencing any symptoms so that the company can do their best to assist them -- including connecting them to medical care, if necessary. They have also provided staff members with disposable thermometers to monitor themselves for fever in the event they feel unwell during the day. “We have been very fortunate that none of our staff have reported any illness,” says Velazco. “We value our staff tremendously, and know that when they perform optimally, we perform optimally.”

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