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[COVID 19] Property Management: how to manage a building on stand-by?

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The first announcement for a country wide lockdown in Europe came on 9th March in Italy. Countries across the continent followed suit, with Spain, France, Belgium and the UK being amongst many to ask people to stay indoors. Whilst many businesses are at a full standstill or are having to rely on remote working, others have had to carry on working on their premises.

Linking landlord and tenant, the Property Manager occupies a central place at the heart of the crisis. How then can we ensure the technical, day-to-day and financial management of buildings during this period? How to decide on what kind of minimum service is set up in buildings during the crisis? And above all, how do we maintain our relationship with stakeholders?

Magali Michel

All players within the Property Management field, whether tenants or landlords, have naturally converged towards the Property Manager, as a way to manage the crisis

Magali Michel
Managing Director at BNP Paribas Real Estate Property Management
France

Property Management at the heart of crisis management

Faced with an unprecedented situation, Property Management had to react quickly in order to ensure work was able to continue. Work that was moulded to a different set of circumstances. 

During the first phase before lockdown measures were officially outlined, this meant prioritising the safeguarding of our buildings. During this period, it was vital to form new processes within our buildings and consider how to manage cases of Covid-19. How to clean the buildings, extend and strengthen the routines already in place? How to communicate with occupiers? Supporting landlords and advising them on their communication and health related procedures measures was vital, ensuring that they set-up barriers and established the safety of their buildings. 

With the implementation of lockdown, the Property Manager had to adapt their daily life to various government regulations and announcements, including rent management. This is a colossal task in terms of inventory and communication with tenants and landlords. Above all, each case has its own particularities. "The managers have customised a general process that was fine-tuned to respond to the measures taken by the French government," says Magali Michel, Managing Director at BNP Paribas Real Estate Property Management. Other major issues for the Property Manager included company restaurants. The complexity lies in complying with what has been ordered by the government. "In the case of company canteens, the French government ordered the closure of restaurants but our catering service providers questioned the application of this decision to their business and not all of them had the same interpretation. We must therefore constantly adapt to these new situations, while applying the government directives and recommendations," adds Magali Michel. 

More generally, we have to establish different ways of working depending on a building’s capacity. A building that is 100% occupied will be treated differently to one that is 50% or 10% occupied. It was therefore necessary to move from overseeing an established model to introducing a tailor-made one, relevant to each building and its occupiers. To provide the best possible support when it comes to the reopening of workplaces, BNP Paribas Real Estate is publishing a Guide to Risk Prevention in Buildings for the benefit of all its clients.

Maintaining the link with all stakeholders

While the Property Manager's activity is based on three areas of expertise: rental management, accounting and technical management, the physical presence at a building level has understandably been limited throughout the confinement. However, the link with the various stakeholders has never been broken, quite the contrary. "All players within the Property Management field, whether tenants or landlords, have naturally converged towards the Property Manager, as a way to manage the crisis," confirms Magali Michel. 

Whether it's to do with rent reduction, health measures or expense budgets, the Property Manager's advice is a valuable resource. Naturally landlords, who are worried about the impact of the crisis on their investments, have been the ones who are most in contact. Being a sturdy anchor during the crisis demonstrates the central role of the Property Manager, and perhaps highlights that this role could grow to become even more important in the future. 
 

BNP-Paribas-Real-Estate-Direction-Committee-csongor-csukas

We have to be able to value each of these efforts and demonstrate that we have been able, as consultants, to provide real support and beneficial advice

Csongor Csukas
Head of Property Management France and Deputy Head of International Property Management at BNP Paribas Real Estate
Europe

Providing a return-to-work action plan

With many European countries starting to go back to work or making announcements of the sort, preparations for the return to offices are in place. The context requires a more methodological approach because of the different types of buildings, whether that is in terms of architecture, services, or occupancy (multi-tenant, single-tenant, etc.). Having assessed each building it is important to decide on the sanitary measures that will be applied (e.g. cleaning at a higher frequency). "Then comes the application of this methodology when putting these measure in place in the building. We have to be able to value each of these efforts and demonstrate that we have been able, as consultants, to provide real support and beneficial advice," explains Csongor Csukas, Head of Property Management France and Deputy Head of International Property Management at BNP Paribas Real Estate. What are the solutions and additional support that Property Management can provide, focusing particularly on the health and safety issues in buildings? This will be the challenge for a sector which, beyond its role as a task manager, will have to support and advise companies as they negotiate a return to the office.