Kyle Crown is the President of Crown Commercial PM. He holds a B.S. in business from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.
If I had to choose one word to encapsulate 2020, I think it would have to be “uncertainty.” Ever since the Covid-19 pandemic first shut down American cities in mid-March, nobody has known for sure what the coming days, weeks or months would hold. If you had told me in March that we’d be in the clear by January 2021, I would’ve bemoaned how far away that was. Now? I’d jump for joy.
It would be silly to give advice based on the assumption that things will right themselves overnight. Returning to normalcy will be a long and gradual process, even after we get a set of working vaccines. But that’s not to say we can’t take what we’ve learned from the pandemic so far and apply it to the near future of our industry. So with that said, let’s talk about what we can expect under certain circumstances.
Los Angeles County’s moratorium on evictions, which applies to commercial tenants as well as residential ones, was extended to the end of January 2021 as of this writing. (However, as of October 2020, the moratorium no longer applied to “to residential tenants facing eviction for nonpayment of rent due to COVID-19 related financial hardship.”) With the courts open again, the end of that moratorium may result in mass evictions of businesses that have found themselves unable to stay afloat during the crisis. It would follow that commercial property managers should prepare to advertise for a significantly higher number of vacancies than usual during this time, and be ready to facilitate a lot of move-outs and move-ins over a short period.
If any of your commercial clients have remained shut down by the pandemic, I recommend trying to find innovative ways to help them reopen safely and gradually so that they can avoid getting too far behind on their rent. As always, safety should still be the No. 1 priority, but we’ve learned that a lot of the businesses that shut down with the initial stay-at-home order can operate in some capacity without putting their staff or patrons in harm’s way. The virus has become our national reality, and it may not be going anywhere anytime soon. Working with your clients to find creative ways for them to remain in business will benefit them, you and the owners of the buildings they rent.
Ever since the onset of the pandemic, there’s been talk of a second wave. Now, a resurgence in cases is a clear and daunting reality. The truth is we didn’t ever effectively stop the first wave, but it does seem likely that the coming winter months (with cold and flu season, with more gatherings held indoors) will exacerbate the current surge in cases, making it even more important for commercial tenants to be able to run their businesses under the current circumstances.
So it’s hard to predict the future, but if we pay close attention to all these factors, we’ll be as prepared as anyone can be. The rest of 2020 and through at least the first full quarter of 2021 will remain shrouded in uncertainty. Let’s continue to act cautiously and responsibly, and work with our tenants to get through this together.
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