The projection of COVID-19 and the timeline for reopening businesses across the country remains uncertain. But as restrictions begin to ease, here’s what to know about opening your association to vendors.
Vendors are a crucial part of association operations. During the COVID-19 pandemic, you’ve probably been restricting vendors from entering and exiting the community, including contractors.
As some states allow certain businesses to reopen and relax social distancing restrictions, it seems likely that over the next few months others will do the same. What will it look like to open your community?
It won’t happen all at once
Just as some states are integrating different stages of reopening, your community will benefit most from a phased opening. Pennsylvania leaders, for example, announced they that would be reopening businesses in the state in red, yellow, and green stages.
At the red stage, stay-at-home and social distancing orders remain in place. Yellow means that some businesses can reopen with certain restrictions and practices to limit contact. The green stage allows most businesses to reopen, although citizens are still required to follow guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Of course, phases will look different for associations and will vary depending on your location. But implementing a stage system will help keep all residents on the same page and will help you communicate what is and isn’t allowed in the coming weeks and months.
Perhaps the first stage following strict limits will be to allow only necessary vendors to enter the property.
And of course, immediate issues like plumbing or electricity problems should be handled right away even during a red stage. In these instances, vendors and applicable homeowners should be encouraged to wear protective gear and limit contact with other people.
Whatever plan you decide to implement, remember that a gradual reopening will be much more beneficial than making drastic changes, which can cause confusion in a community.
Stay in regular communication
Regular, clear communication is imperative during this uncertain time. Without hearing from you, residents may make their own decisions about what’s acceptable and what’s not.
Encourage association members to keep up with the latest news, so they know what local officials are recommending. Provide commentary regularly so that it’s clear you’re keeping up with any changes and are addressing issues immediately.
When something does change, make sure you have an effective way to reach everyone within the community. Send out emails and regular mail if necessary, post announcements, or host virtual meetings where people can ask questions.
You and the board have a responsibility to be a resource for community members who may be confused, afraid, and stressed about COVID-19. When you’re in regular communication, residents know what to expect, and they’re never left guessing what the association is doing to respond to guidelines provided by the government.
It’s just as important to stay in contact with vendors throughout the pandemic. Their business may be dependent on working with your association, so they’ll be eager to know if and when you’ll be opening up your community again.
Make sure you keep communications virtual but ongoing. Hold meetings via video or phone calls and provide updates when any governmental guidelines are altered. Let them know that you’re committed to managing your relationship with them but are vigilant in protecting the health and safety of association members.
Now is a good time to read through all your vendor contracts. Make sure you know your responsibilities, though there may not be precise language that governs how to handle this type of situation. Work with an attorney who can help you review the contract language and make sure you’re taking all necessary legal steps.
Create policies for reopening
When you are reopening your property to vendors and third parties, you need to have policies in place that outline what vendors and residents must do to ensure the health of the community. This is still a priority.
COVID-19 is an unprecedented event, so there are likely no policies in place for your community.
Your policies should cover:
- Limits on the number of people who can enter your property at a time, and when
- Encouraging virtual communication when in-person interactions aren’t required
- Establishing a distancing guideline for in-person interactions
- A list of what is considered essential work for the community and what isn’t
- Timelines for opening shared community spaces, such as gyms and any precautions necessary for those spaces
- Disinfecting and cleaning guidelines for applicable areas before and after vendors arrive
- Gear and clothing required of vendors, such as masks and gloves if they don’t have their own
These policies should be clearly communicated to all vendors and residents so that everyone involved in the association is aware of expectations and guidelines.
It’s more important than ever to manage vendor vetting and vendor relationships with the right tools. VendorSmart provides a web-based marketplace where community managers and vendors can connect. We take care of the vendor vetting process, including gathering, verifying, and updating insurance and compliance documents.
Contact VendorSmart today to get started.