QUALICO PROPERTIES TAKES A PROACTIVE APPROACH TO TENANT RELATIONS DURING COVID-19
Winnipeg, MB – In response to the financial challenges faced by small business tenants caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Qualico’s Properties vertical decided to take a proactive and transparent approach to working with its commercial tenants to ensure they could ride out the COVID-related challenges they faced.
“Before the Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS) program came out, which was the first government tenant subsidy program for commercial tenants, Rancho and Qualico had already sat down and developed a deferral strategy for a number of our tenants,” said Mike in’tVeld, Vice-President, Rancho Property Management Services.
This involved grouping tenants into categories and determining which ones would require the most assistance. Businesses deemed ‘essential’, such as banks and grocery stores, were less affected by the pandemic, while other businesses like clothing stores and small restaurants experienced greater challenges.
The early deferral strategy Qualico Properties put together gave tenants much-needed relief from their concerns about rent payments until government funding was available, and although the Properties team then helped move tenants to the government programs, their initial proactive approach will likely have lasting benefits.
“I think we’ve strengthened our relationships with our tenants,” Mike in’tVeld said. “We've been able to have really frank discussions with them during a time where they're most vulnerable and tailor a policy or work out a plan that works best for them. When it comes to lease renewal time, hopefully they’ll remember that their property manager stepped up to help them and that we would do the same thing if it happened again.”
Having a consistent, national approach was a major factor in ensuring the deferral strategy was successful, according to Mike Saunders, Senior Vice-President, Qualico Properties.
“Prior to the Properties vertical being established in early 2020, there was more of a regional approach than a national one,” Mike Saunders explained. “Rolling out the Properties vertical when we did was perfect timing because when COVID hit, we quickly grouped with our internal resources and came up with a consistent response on how to deal with those tenants early in the process, and that proved to be very successful.”
Mike Saunders noted that looking at things in the long-term and being flexible with tenants’ needs has been and will be beneficial for everyone involved.
“Tenant retention and customer service have been the hallmarks of how we try to conduct ourselves with our tenants,” he said. “Ultimately, we want what's best for our tenants and their success, because if they can succeed, that helps us with the resiliency of our portfolio. We have a long-term perspective that I think really resonates with our tenant base.”
Another important aspect of helping tenants get through COVID-related challenges was keeping up with cleaning and sanitizing.
“We worked with our cleaning contractors to make sure that they were staffed appropriately and ensured we understood what cleaning and sanitizing products they were using,” said Mike in’tVeld. “We reduced our in-house service calls and tried to limit contact between tenants and staff. We also treated things on a case-by-case basis if someone did test positive for COVID, and took the appropriate measures to sanitize and communicate what the plan was.”
Having cleared a number of hurdles so far during the pandemic, Mike Saunders noted that the Qualico Properties team is continuing to look for opportunities for improvement.
“A lot of survey work has been conducted with our tenants on how we can improve and there's been a lot of candid feedback that's been really helpful in us doing better and being a better landlord,” he said. “We're always looking to innovate and continuously improve our processes and how we help our tenants.”
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